Sunday, September 29, 2013

Thoughts on the Maropea.....



17 September, 2013. Early evening outside Sunrise hut in the Ruahine.

The snow has been falling now for at least as long as it takes to boil the billy for several cups of tea. It is cold! Yet the wind is gentle, a quiet frigid southerly that bodes well for us passing over the exposed and most often windy saddle in the morning. We arrived late in the afternoon, and finding the relative luxury of Sunrise hut empty, and being the only car in the lot far below, are taking our chances of enjoying our solitude here. In particular the newly installed wood stove and choppered in wood supply replacing the problematic old gas heater. I am not sure what to make of that, but as John is inside the hut getting that fire going in this moment all is well.
  It is a pleasure to be back in these mountains with John. It has been well over a year since we have hoisted swags together, our lives busy and complicated with other matters. To find these moments means a great deal to me. And we have 5 days to just be here in the Ruahine. It was good to begin our climb and quickly regain the old camaraderie of old tramps. Heavy packs, legs and backs straining a bit under the unfamiliar loads. Yet we soon settle in to our old ways and pace. John much faster than I, yet waiting at key spots to make sure all is well. Words spoken, and words unspoken. It has already been a good mountain trip..



Evening settles in over Te Atuaoparapara.....




18 Sept. - just before Sunrise.....
 I awoke to my own steaming breath, and going outside in the emerging light checked the thermometer to find it was -10 below Celsius! Had to forgo my normally very strong early morning solo coffee as the tap and water tank were frozen, and we had neglected to fill the billies before retiring for the evening. We will have to try and pry the top off the water tank, but that will keep for later. Going to wake up John to watch the soon to be revealed sunrise. It is frigid, but still and quiet, and the promise of a fine day to travel in the Ruahine lies ahead I sense. I tingle with anticipation - and thoughts of the sunrise ahead, and a cup of coffee soon after...


Te Atuaoparapara  at Sunrise...... We watched a stunning sunrise, quiet and still, the promise of the day ahead overcoming the sleepiness still left in our heads. The water problem was solved by climbing on top of the tank and removing the guttering pipe and tank top, dipping our billies and water bottles in the ice cold water. Strong coffee's indeed! How cool to pack up our swags and head out into the Ruahine on a day such as this...



Rime ice on the poles above Armstrong Saddle. Look at those colours!













     Morning tea at Top Maropea. The water tank was frozen here as well, but we soon had the billies full and sat in the warmth of the sun and enjoyed our cup of tea before heading down to the stream and river. It was far colder in the hut......



There is an old flood ravaged tawhairauriki log along the Maropea where, on good days like this, I have made it a habit to stop for lunch. It has become a marker for me, a sign of an earned rest and work done, and also a sign of work ahead. The log is smooth and worn, both seats and table, and the spot on the river a fine quiet straight. On not so nice days I pass by this place wistfully.....

Not a bad spot for a bit of a kip in the warm sun either! The cold river will be joined soon enough...



Evening: Maropea Forks
John stirs the wood stove, the momentary glow from the coals accentuates the candle lit hut with a golden glow. Though it was a flawless day on the river with not a cloud in the sky, and gentlest of breezes, the river was very cold and rocks slippery, so as always it is a pleasure to arrive here at the empty hut and change into dry warm clothes while the billy boils. There has been no one here since July, at least according to the hut book, a thought that also adds to the charms of the hut and the remoteness of this place. The reward for travel down the wild cold early spring river. We saw 4 whio on the way down, two pairs. One much higher up than I have observed before, hopefully meaning a new pair establishing a new territory. In any case it always moves me deeply to interact with the whio in their place, and I am still smiling. Soon I will put my pen down and pick up the tools to prepare our tea. Tonight we have fresh broccoli, green beans, mushrooms, tomatoes, stir fried with red onion, garlic and ginger, served over rice. To be followed by a few wee drams of Glen Morangie. Ultra light trampers we are not.....




Morning: Before sunrise - on the porch of Maropea Forks....
    John sleeps soundly in the hut. I crept out quietly with the cooker, billy, and the makings of my large early morning coffee. I am dressed warmly against the early morning chill, and there is frost all around the hut and river flat. I love these quiet moments of early morning mountain solitude...the day yet to unfold, and the whole day ahead to do as much or as little as we wish, to think, to dream, to just be part of these mountains. I am currently thinking of the very future of this hut. Over 16 years ago, when I first came here, the river was 25 metres away with a large shingle bed between the hut and the river, and another 10 metres of tawhairauriki between the hut and river. Now the river has changed course, has eaten away the entire shingle bed and 5 more metres of the tawahairauriki. I can look off the porch and see the river below me. The fallen trees like dead warriors lying in the water. Part of me wants a solution to this, the hut moved, a new hut, a cement barrier protecting the remaining land. The reality is our government has chosen to not value places like this for what they are. The other reality is the river has chosen her course and that is that. Claiming back what is her own. In here the river decides. And then my mind moves to what is happening to these very rivers when they leave the sanctuary of the Ruahine. Where man does decide where, and how she shall flow, where she becomes beholden to the needs of man rather than just being what she is on the way to the sea. The dam which will lie less than 8 kilometres from this very spot as the crow flies in particular gnaws at my guts. That we continue to "value" wilderness, our rivers, and the sea, only in terms of what they give us economically, instead of relishing the very wealth they offer our hearts and souls. So it is with a certain sense of irony I sip my coffee this morning.....


 Climbing up to the main Ruahine range and Pt. 1450. The snow covered peaks of the main range further south.




Out of the forest and up into the open tussock. Maropea Forks far below.
 
John nearing Pt. 1450 with Remutopo and Te Atua Mahuru behind...



In the forest above Maropea Forks and not far below the open tops of the main Ruahine range. I have climbed up here three times now in the last 5 years. Once with my friends John and Jeff, a day that should have been filled with light heart... and joy, except my damaged arthritic hip hurt so bad I was near tears. In this spot here on the way down the mountain I found my friend Jeff waiting for me, playing his harmonica. That meant more to me than words I can write. The second time was the afternoon my son Taylor became lost after not appearing at Maropea Forks far below. I could not be in tears as I had to focus. I climbed up high in the growing darkness trying to get phone reception which I did not and so spent a very lonely and sleepless night at the hut. The next day I found him. The third time was on this day, with John. We climbed unburdened by loads all the way to the tops and a place he and I had climbed down from many years before. The memories of the pain of my hip and heart still there, yet also a realization I could release that pain and these mountains would absorb that burden for me. My tears on the way down on this day were of thanks for the gifts brought through trial and tribulation. The mountains are not always about moments of joy and happiness. Sometimes that comes much later.
  

Evening Maropea Forks: We farewell our third evening here in the Ruahine.  A fine day trip up to the main range with one light pack containing a bit of extra gear, water and lunch for the day. Nice to travel light at times like this, when our home awaits below. It is still a gruelling climb up the steep spur to here, or any Ruahine spur for that matter. So finding a lasting connection to certain  places and staying for a few days, getting to know and understand the lie of the land around us rather than just traveling from point A to B has great appeal for me. Particularly with my 53 year old legs and new hip. And very rewarding as well to travel up there light of load with John, when we can walk and climb together, speaking or not speaking doesn't much matter. Rather it is the mate ship, the confident feeling of having shared so many Ruahine experiences together and the resulting trust that gives us. It is very special indeed, and though we have been tramping around these hills for many years it is always fresh and new when we return  here. John reads the letters of George Lowe, a Kiwi icon whom cut his teeth here in the Ruahine, maybe even this very place, while I scribble these words. The Corker crackles and hisses a bit with a bit of wet wood. Olives, salami, pita bread and cheese await. The rain begins to patter on the tin roof...


The Maropea river and a familiar old tawhairauriki. We saw 5 whio on the way back upriver - the same two pair and a solitary male even higher up the river.





Top Maropea hut: Evening...I was climbing up to the spur from the creek below Top Maropea. I turned one of the near vertical corners to a slight flat spot on the steep face and there stood Pohangina Pete! A good friend, and a Ruahine mentor in many ways. He had come in the night before to Top Maropea and was climbing to the creek and down river to meet John and I. What a cool development! Pete joined Tara and I for dinner a while back and I had mentioned the upcoming trip with John. His university teaching commitments kept him from joining us for the whole trip, but how splendid to see him here for our final evening. And I am quite sure Pete would have enjoyed the quiet mountain solitude on offer at Top Maropea. We had a fine afternoon sitting in the "backyard" of Top Maropea, gazing out to the head of the valley John and I had come from that day, and the distant peaks of the main range above it. John has worked hard to get a tidy fire going here in the tiny hut, dinner awaits, and not far off the pleasure of a final night in my down cocoon. I smell of wood smoke, sweat, and a wee bit of Jameson 12 Year Old. My thoughts are clear and strong. When John and I entered the Ruahine I stopped and said a little karakia. I asked the Ruahine for the strength to set my worldly burdens down here at her entrance. I'm ready to pick up them back up now. Just a bit lighter than they were 5 days ago


John and I the next day on Armstrong saddle. Kia Ora and Aroha to my family, to John, to Pete, and mostly to these beautiful ranges, the Ruahine, which keep calling me back.....................................





11 comments:

Ryan Syme said...

Your Spring snow, our Autumn snow...

Tim Koppenhaver said...

Good stuff Robb. I particularly liked this line:

"I asked the Ruahine for the strength to set my worldly burdens down here at her entrance. I'm ready to pick them back up now. Just a bit lighter than they were 5 days ago."

Take care.

TK

pohanginapete said...

Kia ora Robb. Catching up with you and John in the Ruahine was a delight, and reading about your trip brought back great memories.

I agree with Tim — those are beautiful closing lines.

Noho ora mai ra, e hoa.

Marja said...

Good to see you back What an amazing trip expressed in passionate words. Never heard a "bit of a kip" before Kip in Dutch is chicken lol How great that you met your friend Pohangina Pete. he's got a blog as ell isn't it. Your photos are poetry in itself, the enchanted forest, the ice crowns and the sunrise. Stunning Even though it was freezing up there it must have been paradise. Arohanui marja

adam burningham said...

These brief days of near equilibrium between your and our home fascinate me every year; your spring and our autumn seem especially close in persoanlity.
I also cherish the relationships you have with your mountains, streams and human friends, Robb. Good to see the photos and more lengthy account here...

Ruahines said...

Kia ora Ryan,
And no two snow flakes alike, either or there. Yet plenty to connect us from far away. I miss the Coyote for his words, but understand he is no longer lost. Kia kaha e hoa!

Ruahines said...

Cheers Tim - I think that is perhaps the greatest gift the mountains have me. I was in good company as well.

Ruahines said...

Kia ora Pete - very cool to have a very special Ruahine place enriched with your presence. I always experience the powerful feeling of spirits around me at Top Maropea. Glad yours will now be among them e hoa.

Ruahines said...

Kia ora Marja,
Pete does have a blog and a photo blog as well. Both worth visiting. He was an inspiration in starting my own place and I proud to call him a friend. Being there with he and John is just an enriching experience.nGlad to see you back as well!

Ruahines said...

Kia ora Adam - I would adore adding your presence to those memories at Top Maropea, or anywhere in the Ruahine. And you and the Coyote always come to mind when I am there. It is good to be back here out of the sound byte world of Facebook, where our offerings stay relatively accessible instead of disappearing in the mists of a timeline....
Hope you are well e hoa! Kia kaha!

kylie said...

good to see you blog again!
i randomly wonder how you are going
k