Friday, November 18, 2011

Whanahuia Ora

11/11/11 Whanahuia range of the Ruahine - evening

A stunning campsite on the Whanahuia range on a lovely evening. John Nash and I climbed to the tops and Rangiwahia hut in the early afternoon and rather inclement weather. Late in the day the weather cleared and we quickly decided to pack up and head further up the range towards Mangahuia and camp. Our decision was validated by finding this small piece of flat gravel in the tussock. Just enough for our tent and a little room to sit, which is all we need. We are on the north side of the range looking into the valley know as Venison Gully and across to Deadman's Ridge with an unnamed stream running far below, we can listen to the muttering song up high.

We are being treated to one of the more spectacular sunsets I have been privileged to be part of in my time traveling in the Ruahine. The tussock is lit up to golden brown, then fiery red, in the distance the sun duels with the cloud and mist, treating us to a new vista like clicking through natures own digital camera in real time, and a slow moving bank of smokey cloud moves up the valley reminding us of a maunga taniwha as it crawls up the stream below poking and probing each gut and gully, then retreating back to the flat lands far below. John and I just sit here in the quiet silence of the mountains saying little even though we have not seen one another in some time.  Sometimes more is said not saying anything at all.

John earlier in the afternoon as we set up our little camp. Looking south east towards Mangahuia in the distance.

Settling in with a wee dram and the sunset.

The show begins.

Just a bit above our camp looking west toward the setting sun.

Looking down into Oroua valley the following day. Our destination, Triangle hut is a small red dot almost in the middle of the photo. A lovely spot, and though we could see it, was still many hours away.

Resting by a snow tarn as we make our way north before steeply heading down through the mud and treacherous footing down to the forest and the hut. A good place to refill our water bottles and have a snack before pressing on. A good place period.

Finally down into the high forest after a long battle with the descent. The sun came out and with still another hour or so very steeply down to the river time for some lunch (bagels, cheese, tomato, onion, and salami for me as John is a vegetarian), then a bit of a nap before pressing onwards. What's the hurry?

12/11/11 Triangle hut late afternoon
The rain gently patters on the tin roof, droplets drip slowly off the porch overhang as the Oroua river flows by. A cacophony of water surrounds us. I have seen, I have listened to this, many times before at this very spot, but it is always new, always different. I feel like I am home.
 John sleeps in his down bag as he was not feeling well today, another reason to take it slow and easy on the tops and down through the kaikawaka and tawhairaunui. I made John a few cups of tea and some hot soup and he was already feeling better, and what better spot to curl up in and dream. Sleep well e hoa!
So I have been just sitting here listening, brewing cups of tea in the billy, smiling and laughing. Gathered wood for the stove, and reflected on our day of traveling in the Ruahine. Mostly just smiling. This is my 9th visit here over the years. The hut book goes back to 2004 and the third entry is by John and I. It is barely a third full, so this is a place that is rarely visited, and being here 9 times in an honour I an humbled by. Pohangina Pete's name is here, as are a few others I have come to know in my time in these mountains. My time grows short, so moments like this take on even greater clarity and significance. One day I will be here forever.

John by the stone gorge a short meander up the river from the hut. The whole of the Oroua pours through this gorge, as can be seen by the place John stands. In 2004 the Oroua out on the flat lands flooded through rain up in here and caused untold millions of dollars in damage. The mountains are built for that. What is now farmland used to be "built" for that when it was just bush and forest. Now cleared and "productive" we blame Nature. This very spot tells a huge story.

Triangle hut just in the left side. In the hut book I found a poem I wrote back in 2008, my last visit here. One where I got stuck for 2 days when the river came up through incessant rain, and I sat watched the droplets fall off the porch.

"Hut day at Triangle"

I have used this day to my fullest ability
have run through the rain to use the facility
except in the course of that little caper
neglected to bring the toilet paper
I've chopped wood and stacked it quite high
more than enough for the next man by
sat on the porch just quietly thinking
about how many cups of tea I've been drinking
Rivulets of water drip down from the roof
offering me final and total proof
That a day spent here all toasty and warm
beats the hell out of being out there in that storm

Inside Triangle hut early evening.

Cooking tea. Fresh tomato, red onion and garlic, simmered to a sauce with tarragon and and a smidgen of rosemary, then served over pasta. Really roughing it!

13 November very early morning Triangle hut:
I sit on the porch with a strong mug of coffee and start to watch the mountain morning unfold. These are the days when John and I really have learned how to excel. A day of doing nothing with the whole day to do it. And feel no guilt, or remorse, or regret. To just have enjoyed these moments as much as we possibly can. Yet by the end of this day, the wood boxes will be full to over flowing, the hut cleaned, all the excess rubbish stuffed into bags we will carry out, which amounts to not much  here thankfully and gratefully. We will have walked up river and down, maybe even have tried to climb up some unexamined spur, (though I doubt that). And soon enough I shall be back sitting in this very spot as the sun passes over this valley far sooner than it does on the tops we camped upon. John and I will sit here with something stronger than this coffee in our tin mugs, and we will wonder where the day has gone.

Evening inside Triangle hut - The wood stove creaks and moans as it comes to life. Candle light accentuates, softens, and adds dignity to the already apparent charms of this back country hut as the sun sets on our second evening here on the Oroua river. Neither John or I were concerned with packing up and going anywhere today, particularly with the rain up here a fairly good indicator conditions would not be too pleasant up there. The frantic rushing we used to do, the 8, 9, 10 hour days on the go, the huge endless climbs and descents are for younger legs. At 51 and with a new hip I am content to stay here in spots I love so much and let them fold over me, and enjoy them on their own intimate terms. Like sitting in the high forests quietly and being absorbed by them, and in that stillness see the real forest revealed, so it is too by the rivers - the fact this charming little hut is here an added bonus. My legs are older indeed, but here my heart sings and my soul is young.

Back along the tops of the Whanahuia.

We had to stop on the tops to don warmer gear, but once we turned out of the wind it became calm and still once again. We stopped in the tussock for lunch and a lie down. The cloud rose up in the distance and revealed Te Hekenga, the first time we had seen it on this trip.

14/11/11 Rangi hut - evening. The sunsets in a brilliant show once again, just as it sets on this mountain experience. In the morning a 3 hour walk or so will bring us back to the car and soon back to the world. Though right now here in this moment that seems a long time away and we are content to linger here in the foolishness of things a while more.

15/11/11 morning - Ruapehu, Ngarahoe, and Tongariro, the volcanoes, shimmer in the distance. Taranaki glimmered further to the southwest as well, forced to flee there after fighting with Tongariro for the affection of the beautiful Pihanga. It is said that when Taranaki is covered in cloud it is weeping for it's lost love. It weeps often. I understand how he feels. As I get ready to head down this mountain I miss the Ruahine already.

Kia ora John, Kia ora Whanahuia, Kia ora Ruahine.