Sunday, January 15, 2012

The Summer Tour that Never Was

Early Jan. 2012
 I sit here alone just above Sunrise hut, over looking the Waipawa valley, the Three Johns, and Te Atua Para Para. To the northwest lies Armstrong saddle and the route into my intended destination, the Maropea valley. But for now I am content to just sit here in the rare quiet stillness of this moment.

It is early evening and having climbed up and finding Sunrise hut empty, a luxury as it's 22 bunks and gas heater usually have someone, if not several people in residence. My preference is to add another hour or so to the day and cross over the saddle to Top Maropea, perhaps my favourite spot in all the Ruahine, but the lateness of the day, the empty hut, and being able to sit amongst this view when normally the wind dominates the scene, simply makes me pour myself a wee dram and relax, the days work done.

It feels somewhat as if the Ruahine are welcoming me, and understanding my reluctance and hesitation to even be here better than I do myself. A solo trip always brings out these feelings, but I also have a few lingering family issues which hang low over me like the onimous steely grey clouds descending upon this valley. I feel almost a sense of unease.  To sit here in the quiet hazy silence of an early mountain evening is a rare and distinct pleasure. I have, literally, fought for my life out there. And there she lies before me. Calm. Temptress.

Waipawa valley, the Three Johns, dipping low in the middle is Waipawa Saddle which separates Waipawa valley from the headwaters of the Waikamaka valley. On the right is the flank of the centerpiece of the area Te Autoaparapara.

The sun sets on Armstrong saddle and Patiki to the far right.

The sun fades on Te Atuaoparapara.

Evening: A breeze has picked up from the northwest, which is never a good sign. I may have missed my window to get across the saddle. But what will be will be. Why is it so easy to understand here that I can control what I can control, the weather not being one of those? Yet outside here I so often worry about what I cannot control in others, especially those I love dearly. There is a freedom in that which I struggle with. This evening my choice has been made, all the ramifications of that will be revealed soon enough.

Looking to the east and the plains of Hawkes Bay in the evening light.

To the north east and the far off Parks Peak ridge, an old familiar Ruahine place as well.

Following Day: Still here! In the night I was awoken by a shaking of the hut by gusting wind and then the sound of torrential rain on the tin roof. All I could do was roll over and nestle deeper into my down sleeping bag. The wind has been howling all day long, and having crossed the exposed saddle some 40 times I KNOW when to simply stay put. These are gale force winds and there is nothing for it but to just put the billy on for another cup of tea.
I have been thinking about my son Taylor. One of the reasons I wanted to traverse this area is I feel a sense of unfinished business in the Maropea valley from our last trip here some 7 months ago. Taylor wandered ahead while I stopped to photograph and observe a pair of whio on the river. Somehow he wandered right past Maropea Forks and continued down the river. I could not find him, and I spent the loneliest night of my life in the warm hut while Taylor shivered some place on the wintry cold mountain river. The next day the mountains returned him to me, but this time it is not the mountains he is lost in. I love him.

Tupare - or leatherwood. A hearty alpine shrub and tree which withstands the howling gales, rain, sleet, snow, and winter cold to thrive and grow, and even find beauty in such unforgiving terrain. Like the heart of any parent.

Evening: The wind howls even fiercer. I have trouble standing even in the relative protected shelter of the hollow where the hut sits. I know I would stand no chance of standing, much less moving on the exposed open tops a few metres away. The hut shakes and moans frightfully, and all I can do is trust in the sturdy construction and the guy wires which lash it to the ground. It is quite a storm. I will wait till morning and see if by some chance the wind abates and I can move. If not I will retreat back down the mountain and live to try another day.

Sunrise hut. When I first came here in 1993 it was a very small unimposing 6 bunk hut. Now it sleeps 22. It is anchored into the ground with a series of guy wires at the corners. I was thankful for that. It is hard to capture wind in a photo, but trust me, to walk from the hut to where I was standing was a struggle.

Aside from the near vertical mist and cloud rolling across, the indication of how strong the wind was can be seen by the tussock grass which is blown straight over. It too is a hearty rugged alpine plant well adapted to this environment. It just goes with the flow.

Morning : Still howling and raining, and I am retreating down the mountain and home. I am okay with that, as it is always these hills that hold the final say, and even if I was only here for a brief interlude and not what I expected, at least I was here at all. I will return.

Down into the forest and home.
I end this meandering post with a poem by Sam Hunt, one of my favourite New Zealand poets. He captures the essence of what I was feeling, and how I felt up there in that storm on my summer trip that never was.

'Rangitikei Riversong"
A man can only
 find himself when lost
Such country, this,
 where all men are lonely
plateau, hawk, and rivermist

country where a man at last
might lose himself, an end of talk
find that gaunt faced other
man who stalks these ridges
plateau, rivermist, and hawk

no longer keeping eye
for crumbling edges
lovers or the weather
Listening, rather, to the river:
hawk and high plateau
rivermist below
                             Sam Hunt - Selected Poems

Mauri Ora!


kylie said...

i stubbornly persist with the belief that no act of love is ever wasted and what you have done and been for Taylor will eventually pay dividends. waiting sux tho!

kia kaha!


Bob McKerrow said...

I enjoyed your posting Robb and somehow thoughts of George lowe tramping the Ruahines kep coming back as I read.

Anonymous said...

Never trust expectations, always trust in beauty...

Erika said...

Bought a tear to my eye, ataahua!

troutbirder said...

Sometimes turning back is the harder but truer choice of wisdom. The long run will see it end well...

KB said...

Yes, it is always the hills that hold the final say just as others ultimately hold the final say in their own lives. I sense your unease, and I hope that things calm down.

The mountains are angry here too right now. In the past, I've gotten myself into serious trouble (close to hypothermia and delerium) within 2 miles of my house so I know to respect the mountains, just as you wisely did.

Ruahines said...

Kia ora Kylie,
Sorry for the tardy response as I always appreciate your presence here. I hope your words prove true. These are really difficult times for our us as a family. Like my trip that wasn't into the mountains we just can't seem to get any real traction with this young man. Very painful.

Ruahines said...

Kia ora Bob,
Well, back in his day George might have looked at me content out of the gale with disdain as he shouldered his canvass swag and trudged into that wind. He set record times in the Ruahine on his romps as a Hawkes Bay lad. I have to feel the Ruahine led George to bigger thirsts. He is a Kiwi legend and hero no question.

Ruahines said...

Kia ora LC,
I ain't sure what to trust anymore sometimes. I guess that is why I do head to the hills and my own solitude.

Ruahines said...

Kia ora Eka,
There is a lot of beauty in sadness as well, I guess that is what my wise friend the Lost Coyte is possibly alluding to in his comment. It wasn't the trip I wanted or envisioned, and they rarely are, but I think it may prove over time to be one of my most profound. Mauri Ora!

Ruahines said...

Kia ora TB,
Those are words I wish I had written. I know you write them from experience. Kia ora.

Ruahines said...

Kia ora KB,
I know you have so many things happening, and I do think of you often and hope all is well and send my strong thoughts across the miles.
Sometimes it does seem as if the mountains understand our own angst and issues better than we do, and the signals are not always subtle. I know that does not stand up to logical thought, but when it comes to mountains I am not logical. My aroha to you and your family. Hope the health issues are on the mend. When I get to a better frame of mind I will be around. Kia kaha e hoa.