23 May 2011
I am once again in the back yard of Top Maropea gazing down the valley and mist shrouded peaks above it. This time, however, I will be venturing further into those alluring views. The next five days will be spent roaming about with my oldest son, who returns here after almost a two year absence from the hills. And judging by the fact that he, like Charlie a few months back, immediately crawled into the very same down sleeping bag and fell fast asleep upon arrival, indicates a lack of bush fitness and carrying a large pack. At 17 Taylor no longer warrants my back bearing the entire load, and it is good to see him sleep out of physical tiredness and the mountain air rather that tiredness of his more hedonistic pursuits.
We both need this trip, for many reasons, some our own, some to find each other. I have no real expectations, nor fatherly advice to give, except to simply be together in the mountains for the next five days. I am leaving the past where it is out in the world, and resolve to simply be present and in each moment with my son. It feels real here in the Ruahine.
It was a cold windy crossing of the saddle and I was thinking of my last crossing with Charlie battling those gales. He did so well, and was so brave. And looking at Taylor walking ahead I drifted back the sliding years to him in this same place at age 8. It seems we have struggled a lot since then. But I love my son, and I want to see him here. It may be the last chance and the last time I get.
"Thoughts in late afternoon at Top Maropea"
Surly and bruised grey clouds
roll over my head
fluorescent on the edge
opaque and glinting
of yellow and red
A painting is never the same
in any different light
Nor is the backyard of Top Maropea
when day turns to night
I'm here with my son
my son is with me
we have 5 days more
to simply be we.
Maropea Forks - late afternoon : Taylor is missing. He took off in front of me and when I arrived at the hut expecting he was here I found it empty. I dropped my gear and hurried down river towards Otukota twice now, the second time building cairns and leaving markers back to here. I also searched back up river to the falls thinking he may have slipped or been injured and I missed him but found nothing. I am having a short rest and will try to climb up to Point 1450 to ring out and notify search and rescue. I have to remain calm and think clearly, and hope if he is still walking down river he will realize his mistake. He knew it was only 30 minutes from the water fall. If he carries on down towards Otukota he is going to get himself into a very wicked gorge. This is real.
Let me be very clear. This incident has not put any dent for my love of the Ruahine and any wild places. Taylor recovered well from making a few near fatal mistakes. He was not paying attention nor in tune with his environment. Out here in the world that can get us into trouble, in wild places it can kill you. He should have realized far sooner I was not behind him, and stopped and waited, then come back looking for me on the basis I might be hurt or need assistance. And thirdly, with his knowledge that the hut was very close to the water fall he should have deduced that far too much time had passed. He said to me later he just caught in the trap of going around "one more bend" thinking the hut must be there. It is not an uncommon occurrence. A steep ridge we think will end soon only leads up another steep point, or ground we think looks familiar is not. This is why being in focus and in tune is so vital. My mistake was not telling Taylor to wait for me. He did well when he did realize what he had to done to remain calm and then focus on getting a camp and planning for the morning, and staying as warm as he could. Fortunately the last good move he made overcame a few very big errors.