21 August, 2016 Sunrise hut Ruahine range
It has been a long time between drinks of these mountains. Not since early January with John and Pete have my feet been placed here. And today I left definite footsteps in the snow that lie just halfway here. By the time I arrived at the hut I was breaking through to thigh deep snow and the saddle and tops look deluged with the white stuff. I am having a cup of coffee and some hot noodles and deciding if I want to cross the saddle to Top Maropea today. I have a few hours up my sleeve and it is a lovely day. I'm just a bit concerned about all the snow. My plan is to get to Maropea Forks for a few days. I was last there with Charlie in late 2014, and in those near two years since have been wandering in the Oroua valley so the thought of the forks, river and whio appeals. A bit of work lies ahead..
This year has been a fruitful one in spite of my lack of mountain time. A mokopuna to increase our whanau, Charlie starting high school and entering the teen years, and my undertaking of a new career. A steep and daunting challenge at my age. Yet I feel that part of my life invigorated, moved in a direction that feels right. It is a difficult under taking and one where the rewards are far and few between. Small shifts that hold great significance.
I am connecting many dots. My Te Whare Tapa Wha needs re-balancing after 7 months. (I wrote about Te Whare Tapa Wha a few posts back for those interested)...And a recent concept I have been made aware of through involvement in the Tikanga programme. Te Whaka Piri Mauri Ora...or in essence to Step up to, or Enhance the Spirit or Breath of Life. Which fits the essence of the four pillars of Te Whare Tapa Wha and my need to assess that balance. What better place for me to do that but here in the Ruahine. One foot in front of the other.
(Note again...shortly after writing this a few people arrived up at the hut. I decided solitude was my immediate goal, so I packed up and left in the late afternoon. It usually would take less than two hours to cross the saddle, over the short stretch of tops and down into the forest to Top Maropea.)
21 August late evening Top Maropea...
I arrived here a few hours ago. It took me nearly 4 hours to cross the saddle, tops, and drop into the forest to here. Snow conditions were extremely difficult. Icy on the narrow ridge and deep all the way. Every few steps I would break through the surface knee or thigh deep, and in places where the obliterated track was rutted up to my waist. Extracting myself from that was both time consuming and exhausting. By the time I got into the steep drop through the forest to here it was dark. The forest at night with deep snow all around is essentially featureless, and I had to stop to get out my head torch so I could locate markers on the tree. I knew the hut was close but I could not find the next marker. I felt a sense of panic welling up, thinking I might have to bivvy in the snow during a very cold night. I focused on being mindful and present and my experiences here. I moved a bit towards the sound of the creek far below and suddenly not only saw the marker but the roof of the orange hut. I stood there quietly just looking at that little refuge where I have spent so many nights. I tried to utter a karakia but the words choked in my throat and so I just thought them. I was shaking, wet and cold and it seemed to take ages for me to get out of my wet gear and into dry stuff, get the billy on and get some hot drinks inside me. Lighting the fire seemed too much. Eventually the hot tea and soup worked and I managed to get a fire going which is now built up into a roaring conflagration. The heat and glow have warmed me immeasurably. The difference a few hours can make.
In spite of my physical and mental tiredness I feel a sense of warmth within beyond the heat of the fire. I found resilience, mental toughness, experience and inner calm today. Perhaps qualities I know I have anyway but maybe I needed that reassurance. I'm thinking maybe those people arrived at Sunrise for a reason. A Gift from the Ruahine.
The fire crackles and takes the chill out of the cold confines of the tiny hut. The hut was re-piled a few months back and some of the old piles left behind. Original totara from when the hut was built in 1958. Totara burns bright and hot and I feel it is appropriate for me to use and enjoy their warmth here. I have spent a bit of time here over the last 20 years after all.
A sleet and ice driven snow patters on the tin roof. A fine, even reassuring melody when in front of such a fire as this. I munch contentedly on olives and salami and contemplate over a wee dram of Jameson 12 year old...I gaze over to my bunk and rumpled sleeping bag from which I recently awoke from a dreamless and deep afternoon nap.
This morning I battled down through the forest to the where it drops to the side stream. I was already wet, cold and tired. It is perhaps a 150 metres down to the stream. Straight down. There is a track that zig zags down but it was obliterated by snow. The thought of getting down that then spending another 4 hours or more in and out of a freezing river to Maropea Forks was too much. So I battled even harder back up to the hut. What should take less than 30 minutes took well over an hour. So here I contemplate and I am okay with this....
23 August Afternoon Sunrise hut..
It was snowing and blowing a gale at Top Maropea all night. I rolled over in my sleeping bag and mentally resigned myself to staying here another day. When I drifted off into a fitful sleep finally I awoke to quiet and blue skies. It was another long and grueling climb up through the forest and across the tops and saddle to here. Took me 3 hours and I arrived to an empty hut. Being a week day I fancy my chances at solitude so have settled in here, filled the wood bins and have a cozy fire going.
In spite of the deep snow it was a beautiful day and I was again mindful of the immensity of that splendour and what this place means for me. Which I guess helps to alleviate the tough conditions and travel on days like this. In any case I have had three revealing days here. Not the days I had planned or envisioned but how many are? I have had a few moments that have awakened me totally and completely to the present. What more can I ask? Te Whakapiri Mauri Ora!
The time for me here begins to dwindle
My presence a mere gust of a nor'west wind
reaching probing fingers down
to rattle this hut
or one of the icy snowflakes
bouncing on the tin roof
destined for creek, river, and sea
Listen to the crackle and pop of the fire
The wood hissing from rain, snow, and life
in these mountains
The final act to give warmth
then like my own temporal moment
a smokey wisp
So I gaze out the fly specked window
One more time...