1 November, 2012. Sunrise hut - evening. Robb solo.
It has been well over 6 months since I have breathed deeply of the fresh mountain air. Our recent trip home to the states causing my normal winter birthday journey to be cancelled. There is always a certain amount of trepidation I feel when returning to the mountains after such lengthy absences, particularly when hefting a large 5 day pack upon my back. Trying to keep relatively fit by gym work and weights has very little bearing upon putting such a load on my shoulders and climbing up a mountain, even a well graded track like Sunrise. You find out pretty quickly how fit you are indeed. I am here and I will leave at that.
Along with the physical fitness is the mental fitness. Having all your ducks in a row as it were. When I arrived at the Sunrise entry point, I was stunned to find 13 cars and large van at the road end. By my calculations a possible 50 people might be up at Sunrise! That did not bode well with my desire for solitude. I stopped at the Ruahine boundary as I always do. I said a little karakia, took out my pounamu (greenstone) and kissed it's warmth gently and asked the Ruahine to watch over me. Then I trudged up here. Arriving I expected to hear laughter and screams of kids, people on the porch, and possibly a full hut. Instead I found not a soul, completely empty! And in the hut book no one has proceeded over the saddle into the valley, bar one hunter, for over a week. The others must be far below camped by the Triplex hut not far from the car park. No matter. I am here alone in candle lit confines of the hut. The peaks and valley outside waiting for me to roam. The Ruahine has already given me a gift of Haere mai (Welcome).
I took a bad fall at the start of the extremely steep bit from the forest below Top Maropea to where it then drops into the creek which leads down to the river. It is very steep, near vertical in places, and at the very start as I reminded myself to be careful, that this could be the very crux of my day, I slipped. What kept me from falling 15 - 20 metres straight down was an old tawhairauriki stump which I landed in a straddling position directly upon, taking most of the blow with my left buttock and thigh. I suspect I will have quite a bruise come up, but for once having a large fat ass came in handy. A lot of peeps who love me worry about my being here solo. And I love that I even have peeps who love me enough to worry about that. Yet, had I been here with John, Nigel, Gustav, or anyone else, I still would have fallen, still could have been injured or even killed. Instead I had to sit there with myself, and figure out how to extract myself from a fairly precarious position. Risk and reward? I am willing to absorb that risk to be in such a place. To be truly wild you have to be in the wild.
This has been a very cleansing evening for me, to be in Maropea Forks hut alone. The last time I was here I camped outside as there were hunters occupying the hut. So I spent very little time in here and tonite, alone, I find myself wandering back to that almost impossibly lonely night when Taylor was lost out there, and I was in here. My emotions run unchecked, I find myself laughing one moment, crying the next, almost looking outside myself and seeing the lonely man who sat here that night, howling, crying, crazed. In ways my boy is still a bit lost and I can only just love him. I have had a taste of how it would feel to lose him. The hug I gave him when he finally appeared just outside from where I write these words is the best hug I will ever give anyone.
Late Evening: The fire here flares in a momentary brilliance before I work it into a real useful slow burning entity I can use to dry my gear for the morning. Wet boots, socks, gloves, hat, thermals, even my pack. To start in the morning with relatively dry gear is a huge bonus in any persons mountains. And lets me know I have had a useful fire at Top Maropea. The sun sets on Top Maropea, and once again on a solo journey. I have seen no one in nearly 5 days. That crowded parking lot seems a long time ago now. I have learned a few things, as I always seem to in the Ruahine, how can that not be a positive experience? To be 52, and wandering in such terrain on my own, after 20 plus years, and still be learning must mean something.
I love these ranges, these hills, rivers, and streams. I love them dearly. Time starts to whisper her tender warnings in my ear, a new hip as I bash about, thinning hair, and other such gravity losing battles. Yet my inner youthful vigour to be here remains unchanged, strong and powerful. To lose myself within myself, to be in the wilderness inside and out, to just not really know for sure. Just to know those possibilities still exist.