Sunday, November 1, 2020

Sixty in the Ruahine and other Thoughts

It has been a long time since I have written words and shared moments here in his place. Almost two years. Though I have posted of my Ruahine travels on the sound byte-oriented Facebook. A place where anything over a few paragraphs seems long winded and even as I write words there can envision the rapid scroll through and ubiquitous and highly unsatisfactory “Likes”.

It feels calming to be here in a way I would not have imagined. Like having a cup of tea, or a beer with an old friend whose company I really missed. The unhurried moments that I do so often feel in the mountains, as if somehow even as they pass by us that moment remains and we are connected to it. This place too brings such feelings. A place to write slowly, reflect on the words or bring the moment I am trying to wake up those sleeping moments within me and talk to them again. That feels freeing to me somehow.

Social media has had its place. It enabled me, in particular, to remain in contact and share with my now 93 year old mother, and to re-establish contact with a few people in which our worlds through the years have grown and expanded in ways we can still connect through and find a balance between remembering the past, but celebrating the present. There is another side to that equation, however, which can be far less satisfying. It is a lesson I have been thumped hard with.

So here I am with an old friend. If you have found this place then Haere Mai - Welcome. If you have visited here before then Nau Mai, Hoki Mai – Welcome Back! And if no one finds it and no one reads and looks, well that’s fine too. It’s just good to be back in a place I love.

Ruahine Winter Day with promise!

28 July 2020

Top Maropea 



The steam rolls off my breath and I wear pretty much every bit of gear I have in the frozen confines of Top Maropea hut. Yet writing these words in my notebook fills me with unbridled joy and warmth in spite of the cold. 


It has been exactly one year since my feet have been placed in the Ruahine. A new left hip and observing my 60th birthday in a few days time. It feels good to have set a goal and met it. And another tomorrow in getting down to Maropea Forks lies ahead. Tonite I will just stay in the glow of arriving here. I won’t write I walked any faster than when with my painful worn out hip, but what I can state is not feeling sore and exhausted now when done walking. So in a way more balance is restored and my experiences here can be measured both in the journey and the destination once again. Which makes for a far more enjoyable day. 


It was a wind free crossing of the saddle today and with the snow covered peaks all around both John and I walked with carefree smiles. Though the snow was hard and icy so we had to take care. Especially on the final gruelling steep descent through the forest to here. We were both glad to shed our heavy packs and get into warm dry gear. 


As I was putting my gear on my mattress I noticed what looked like a furry pillow poking up under it. I reached over and felt very soft fur and realized it was actually a possum! I wasn’t sure if it was alive or dead and even after pulling the mattress away he lied curled up unmoving. I prodded him with a gentle nudge of the broomstick and nothing. Then I gave him a real poke and he jumped up, big and fat with his little claws in the air! He must have been really out to it, or had little intention of giving up his bunk to me. He bolted out the door and we saw his chubby furry rump heading up into the forest. It must be cold if the possums are looking for a warmer place to nap. 


John and I are debating as to going to the trouble and effort to even start a fire. There isn’t much wood and it is getting dark now. A wee dram helps and I am about to prepare fillet steak with mushrooms and gnocchi. We might have dinner then crawl into our down bags and get a good nights rest. We have a long day ahead in the cold river tomorrow. 


And though it’s cold I don’t feel cold. I can’t stop smiling. David and James have both been through as evidenced by their entries in the hut book. So a gathering awaits as do 4 more days here in a place I had doubts about ever returning to again. So this icy hut feels like home. An old friend. 


When I walked out of here last year and got to my car I knew I was done in here until I fixed the problem. Hard to fathom what a completely different world that was. In so many ways.

A fine winters day of the Maropea, Not far from Puketaramea and Maropea Forks.

Robb seated. David Dodge, John Nash, James Jordan.

I have spent many birthday’s in the Ruahine over the last 28 years. Significantly my fortieth, fiftieth, and now sixtieth have been marked in the depths of its beauty. Along with many other less marked years. Some with friends, and many with the solitude of only my own company.

When I turned 50 I had only months before had my right hip replaced and climbed on my own into the wintry Hikurangi range, and then at 60, this year, shortly after my left hip was replaced I climbed up into the winter mist and beyond with my tramping mate of over 25 years, John, and onto Maropea Forks.

Out of all the above-mentioned days the one that offered the most eclectic celebration, and certainly the most party like was this past year. When I turned the final bend on the western fork of the Maropea river I saw on the hut porch John talking to a couple of guys there with him. Now normally the sight of other people already at the hut makes the heart drop and spirit sag, at least for bit. Over the years I have found that on the rare occasions when I do share a back-country hut with other people they are almost invariably like-minded people, and also probably feel that exact same heart drop as I do. Indeed in a few cases I have developed excellent friendships and bond through mutual interest and love of these mountains with people I have met and shared huts with.

And on this occasion the sight of the people on the porch brought a smile to my face and a final burst of energy in my tired legs and body after dragging my heavy pack there for the last 6 hours or so. For these people I knew and expected to see and was glad to see all had arrived safe and sound.

Quite a few years back I came across a book somewhere, somehow, called “At Home in the Hills” by a man named James Jordan. I recall opening it and seeing pictures of the Ruahine and immediately bought it. James grew up in the shadow of the Ruahine and it wasn’t long before he was in them, and their sister range the Tararua, and quickly became an experienced and accomplished deer hunter and eventually making his living as a deer culler in them. Living for weeks at a time in tent camps and then huts thinning out the massive deer herds, then making money by carrying out the venison when that market exploded by exporting the meat to Germany. But aside from that was the overwhelming love and connection James felt to the hills, streams and rivers of the mountains and expressed in his writing. I felt a bond to his words and to James as a kindred spirit. I can’t quite recall how it was we connected but at one stage we began exchanging correspondence which eventually led to smiling at the sight of him sitting on the porch there at Maropea Forks in that moment. A man, in his early 70’s now, had tramped deep into the Ruahine to meet and celebrate my birthday. It seemed a bit like a destined moment in a way.

The other man talking to John I had met in the Ruahine nearly 20 years ago when he was just a teenager. David was in the valley fly fishing when I came through on a tramp. We shared a few huts over the next several days and he was excellent company. Ten years later I was walking down the Maropea river on a hot summer day when I saw a couple guys come staggering towards me under the strain of obviously heavy loads and a stag perched on top of one their packs. As I approached them one stopped and shouted “I know you! You’re Ruahine Robb! I read your blog! We met in here years ago”. His name was David Dodge and we stood in the river recalling our time in the Ruahine when I noticed they were tired and sweating. We hoofed it back up to Top Maropea where I was staying, and we caught up some more along with several cups of tea from the billy. Being as it was summer and very hot the two lads had to get their massive loads of venison out to the road end where they were being picked up. So off they staggered. David and I have stayed in touch since then. He and the guy he was with, Tyson, both helped carry the benches we had made at Community Work to replace the ones at Top Maropea which had been burnt. David stops by my house occasionally for a cup of tea and to drop off some very welcome venison through the years and we would leave greetings for one another in the hut books. So to see him as well here at a place we both love and have spent a lot of time at was also widened the smile on my weary face.

30 July…early morning

On the porch at Maropea Forks

Dressed warmly in the early morning chill and enjoying another strong coffee. The river runs by with its endless song. I am 60 years old!

David has already packed up and headed back up the river towards Top Maropea, Armstrong saddle and Sunrise. And James is packing up and heading up the steep spur and Puketaramea before heading northwest and to Iron Bark for the night.

I revel in the glow of a fine afternoon yesterday, and an even better evening, spent in the company of such fine gentlemen here at an amazing place deep in the Ruahine to celebrate my birthday. Here I am, a manuhuri, visitor, to New Zealand, yet feel so at home here in this place and honoured by the company of these guys who travelled in here by foot to share a bit time with me. A mark of acceptance and belonging and sending waves of emotions and warmth that roll through me from the feeling of both the company and the place. Particularly John, whom I have tramped with in here for over 25 years now and shared countless trips memories, but also David and James. The common bond being the Ruahine. And once again the lump rises in my throat. The echoes of so many friends, and both my sons, whom I have shared this place with, seem to drift lazily in the air like the melting frost off the toi toi and grass in front of me.

At dusk yesterday David went off for a hunt upriver and John, James and I meandered about the hut, flats and river until heading into the hut when darkness rolled in. We lit the fire and when David came back, we settled into a fine evening.

With over 150 years of Ruahine experience in that small hut there were a few tales to share and tell. David supplied us with venison steak and sausage cooked on top of the wood stove and cut up and shared on a common plate, and out of nowhere appeared a fair bit of very good whiskey and scotch. There wasn’t much room left in the hut by the end of the evening as besides us it was full of deer, trout, old cullers and friends, poems and books, steep ridges, snowed in tops, flooded rivers, and skies so blue they take your breath away.

Sitting here now on the porch of Maropea Forks and watching a perfectly amazing day unfold I can write that even though an evening ahead of my actual birthday it would have been the finest birthday I have spent in the Ruahine, or anywhere else for that matter. That must mark something special.


30 July -afternoon

Outside Maropea Forks hut 

I am in the warmth of the sun next to the river, absorbing its energy and soothing rays. The gentle lullaby of the river song had me drift off to sleep for a bit. I lie upon my bush shirt while John in a more industrious mood earlier dragged a mattress from the hut to rest upon. Only a few feet away from me I can hear him snoring softly as he enjoys his own afternoon nap. I came back from my walk down river towards Otukota to find him lazing in the sun at the most perfectly chosen spot to enjoy the afternoon. All too soon the winter sun will pass over this valley. 

Scribbling words in my notebook on my 60th birthday in the Ruahine. As I did in another notebook 20 years ago here on my 40th birthday and many others since then.

I am not sure what will become of these near 30 notebooks I have filled in the mountains. Even now they tend to gather dust upon our bookshelf and probably will till they become dust themselves. Still, for me they are a treasure, a place where my trips here remain alive. And there are always evenings in front of the fire I might reach over from my old chair and grab one to reminisce on words scribbled that perhaps only I can decipher but soon come to life. 

And now today here I jot down thoughts once again in the Ruahine. Only a few feet from where the old hut was until 5 years ago. The echoes still dance around me. 20 years ago I had more hair, less weight, and my two original hips still working in fine order. A few years prior to that I had run my last marathon up in Rotorua. The guy lying here now looks far different, has two new titanium hips, has not run for many years, but is still here in the mountains. And to have walked in here after having my left hip replaced less than 5 months ago has moved me bringing forth emotions and realisations when I least expect it. It has made me feel connected to something I don’t quite understand and am simply content to appreciate. Like I can roll back the last sixty years of my life like a tape and feel it all at once. And know that I am exactly where I should be. 

In that sense I am changed only as is the rivers song that I listened to here 20 years ago is different than the tune which plays for me today. Still the same river but different. Only those whom have spent time here would have observed those changes. Not so much different than flesh, bone and blood. Yet my spirit feels whole. Like this place.

And this beautiful river, the sun shining and glistening upon her, the graceful curve just beyond where I lie leading down river and eventually to the sea where this sparkling water will be lifted up to fall back upon the Earth and begin again. When the time comes I am ready to flow with her.

Maropea Forks hut: Evening 30 July 2020

“If you will stay close to nature, to its simplicity, to the small things hardly noticeable, those things can unexpectedly become great and immeasurable.”

Rainer Maria Rilke

 30 July


Maropea Forks hut

 The hut warms slowly and glows softly with the cherry red coals in the wood stove, a few candles and our tiny lantern which has been a very pleasant discovery on this trip. John reads by his head lamp as I scribble a few words and think about getting tea started. No hurry. Last night we had a far more lively atmosphere with David and James here. We cooked up venison, drank a few drams of nice whiskey, and filled the hut with our combined Ruahine stories, memories, and observations over the last 50 years. I guess that was the real birthday celebration.

 Though John and I have just returned from out by the river enjoying a quiet dram it is far more sedate this evening as we return to patterns established over the past 25 years in the Ruahine. A transition that is never difficult. I was here twenty years ago at 40. Still here at 60. I’m good with that.

David leaving in the morning to head back up river

30 July 2020

In the sun outside the hut

Maropea Forks...


When I turned 20

the days ahead seemed endless 

and plenty

The hair was long

my body fit and strong 

When I turned 30 

I felt I was drifting

the sands kept shifting

I felt unease

nothing was clear

I could not have known

that changes were near

When I turned 40 

those changes had come

A new country with mountains

A new wife

A new son 

The unease was less

something new had begun

When I turned 50 

I had a new hip

The old one was done

Also in that time

I had a new son 

Now I am 60

with another new hip

Pieces of me gone

like a rusty old ship

The days of my past like 

a long winding road

Hitting the straight away

to my final abode

All I can do is trust

things aren’t ill fated

And live in love and peace

with what I’ve created. 

Kia ora!

Birthday Stroll on the Maropea

Morning tea

River Walking

Top Maropea

31 July Afternoon

John and I arrived here a while ago after a very pleasurable meander up the Maropea river. Though climbing out of the side stream was a real grunt as a new slip has come down. It was a gruellingly steep effort. And when we arrived and were changing into some dry gear we saw out the hut door a pair of legs coming down the rough track. It was our friend Pete! What a cool development. I have shared this small abode with so many special people. Both my sons, Tara, and a handful of friends who get places like this. We are in for a fine evening. And far from the first in this lovely little spot as wll. Tihei Mauri Ora!

Robb, John and Pete. Many trips under the belt now.

“Faeries, come take me out of this dull world,

For I would ride with you upon the wind,

Run on the top of the dishevelled tide,

And dance upon the mountains like a flame.”

― William Butler Yeats

1 August

Sunrise hut - mid morning

I sit in this spacious but rather dull hut alone. The view is world class but the ambiance of a 24 bunk hut lacks the charm, even dignity, of the more remote huts that lie beyond here. Two hours beyond here lies the rather more quaint abode of Top Maropea from which I have come here this morning. Few that arrive here venture much further. I am glad I am one that does. And thankful.

John is making his way over. With him our good friend Pete who arrived at Top Maropea yesterday shortly after we did. Pete is another page of richness added to this story of my return to the Ruahine. He and John are much similar in their pace over the mountain terrain and the thought of those two very capable friends out there enjoying the place and the company keeps the smile that has been upon my face for 5 days now firmly set.

I have been travelling in these hills now for over 25 years. The men I shared time with these past 5 days in here brings that total to well over 150 years of Ruahine wandering. A mere fragment of a moment, a mere breath drawn, in the life and significance to these beautiful mountains.

This return has been heightened by the echoes of those who love the Ruahine as much as I. Who were, are, as exhilarated by the sight and distinct call of the whio on those sparkling pristine rivers that lie far below. And the symmetry of those far off peaks and leading spurs beckoning always.

So I wait for my friends and happy to do so. I can linger for awhile in the foolishness of things.

Kia ora John Nash, David Dodge, James Jordan, Pete McGregor, my whanau, and the Ruahine...

Sunday, December 30, 2018

Ruahine Summer Tour 2018

16 December 2018
Top Maropea hut
Late afternoon.

I write these words sitting upon one of the benches we hauled up here in June to replace the ones which were burnt. I think back on that sleet filled, windy and cold weekend and packing these seats up to here and glad that I am now enjoying the benefits of them and that they are all in fine condition. It gives me a real connection to not only the tinana, or physical place but the wairua, spirit as well. It makes that hard journey bringing them here worthwhile in so many ways.

It is the first day of our annual summer tramp in the Ruahine. John and I hoisting our swags for around two decades now and this year joined for the second time by Pohangina Pete, whom I met in these ranges almost as long ago. Very appropriate company indeed. Three people bonded by the adhesive love of these mountains.

We changed our plans and reversed our six day loop when we reached the turnoff on Sunrise track to the Waipawa river. Rather than head down to the river, up the valley and over the saddle to Waikamaka hut we decided instead to head to Sunrise and over Armstrong saddle to here. The debate was mainly around the long gruelling river walk and nature of the terrain going down the other side of saddle, versus quickly getting to the tops and enjoying the fine weather on the way here, a relatively rare occurrence. We all concurred in the decision and here we are. (Completing our trip 6 days later on the Waipawa river validated the voracity of the decision made.)

It is very comforting and soul nourishing to be here after a lovely day on the tops enjoying the weather and the stillness that enables us to walk slowly and not only see the view but get a lesson in botany, bird life and entomological life John and I simply do not see. Dr. Pete is in his element. So are John and I in our own ways, but it is humbling to see how much we don’t see.

Pete and John heading up towards Top Maropea.

A rest before the drop to the hut. A rare occurence to get such a day.

On Camel Back spur near Top Maropea

Top Maropea. Benches in good shape. A pleasure to sit upon after a long day.

Sunrise over the Maropea valey. Ataahua!
17 December
Top Maropea

The sun is still searching for it’s way over the peaks at the head of the Maropea valley. Te Atua Mahuru, Remutupo, Orupu, Waikamaka, Puketaramea, and Maroparea all stretch and come to life. The emerging dawn sky is a flawless blue with just a breath of chilly wind. The river awaits!

I feel excited by the prospect of being on the Maropea river on a day such as this. To just let go of my thoughts and be on the river, to be with the river. And find that in letting go will come many reflections, questions, and maybe even a few revelations along the twists and turns of her shimmering beauty. What has changed in the river? What has changed in me? And where will the whio be?

Tupare (Leatherwood) in flower. Friend and foe.

The Maropea river

Morning tea must be soon!

The old tawhairaunui log. Still there amongst much change. Great place on a good day.

The waterfall. Not too far from Maropea Forks now!

John and Pete approaching from below the fall.

Time for a swim. Beautiful pool and highly refreshing/

Maropea Forks hut

17 December
Late Afternoon
Maropea Forks hut

We did indeed walk with the river under the flawless blue sky today. When a day like this shared, when the sunlight sparkles and shines on the clear water and illuminates the stones and pebbles like jewels, when the day is fine enough to go slowly and stop by the old tawhairanui log for lunch and to boil the billy, when we can stop and observe the whio, and when the day allows a leisurely swim in the pool of waterfall we have enjoyed a special day on the river. Such experiences become engrained within my very soul. The symphony of the river’s music changing with its ebb and flow.

And the river, as I have, has changed since I last was here almost exactly two years ago. So change was my common bond with the river today. A huge boulder, the size of a small truck, I used to linger at prior to a small rapid is now gone! Another near it tipped on its side. What must that have looked and sounded like? The river is far fuller of shingle and rock, other areas that used to be grassy toi-toi covered flats now gone. Dramatic changes synchronistic to the large boulders I have shifted within my own life.

We saw one whio higher up in the river. I know two years ago a pair was on this stretch of river near the hut and forks so hoping we see them. One fat trout was spotted in a deep green pool lazily lurking.

Now I am sitting on the porch of Maropea Forks hut with another cuppa full of sweet tea. Pete and John discuss green hooded orchids and the differences between butterflies and moths. Other conversations of my past visits seem to float amongst the fluttering of the tawhairuriki leaves.

The hut book here goes back to 2010. My first visit here was 20 years ago which certainly feels like a milestone. This is my 7th trip here since 2010. The first being with Taylor, or should write without Taylor, when he was lost on the river. The ghost of that old hut and that lonely night I spent there without my son lingers. After that I did two solo trips searching for some sort of relief or answers to that experience with Taylor. None have been forthcoming, aside from the realization that places we love can hold more than just happy memories, and perhaps should for that is true life. I feel a sense of clarity scribbling these words now, my wairua, my whanau both feel soothed.

John and I then came to the old hut for the last time in 2013 for a few nights and on the way out we met Pete at Top Maropea. Another circle completed.

In 2015 I came to the then brand new hut with my other son Charlie. So to have the memories and echoes of both my sons here swirling about with the river’s song is a moving and real experience.

John and I then visited two years ago this very day for 2 more nights which brings me to today. I’m not quite sure how many that makes in total going back over 20 years but certainly enough to indicate I find this a very special spot in the Ruahine. And realize that here now I am less concerned about how many times in the past but rather simply enjoying the moments here right now. Another smile radiates through my entire being.

18 December
After sunrise
Maropea Forks hut

Another beautiful day comes to life. The birds have begun their rounds and the air seems fuller of birdsong than I recall in many years. The piwaiwaka, the titi pounamu, the miromiro are all here today. And as if on cue a lone whio landed in the pool by the little waterfall just across the river. There is again a slight chill to the morning air, and though much more of a wind it appears we are in for another hot mountain summer day.

Today we are heading over a connecting spur and ridge between the Maropea and Waikamaka valleys to Wakelings hut. I am going to head over there soon on my own. Though I have lost a lot of weight and feel very fit my pace is far slower than that of either John or Pete. And truth be written I look forward to the solitary walk and time immersed amongst the forest.

I woke up this morning thinking of Tara, feeling very refreshed. Usually when I am in the mountains, I have very vivid dreams of her. Of not being able to find her, or seeing her across a crowded room but unable to get to her, or she can’t see me. I’m sure there is a lot of meaning tangled in there but right now it feels like mountain therapy, along with work I have done out there, is revealing the truth that lies deep within. Moving my feet, breathing the mountain air, and being part of this environment has brought a certain degree of clarity. I hunger for more.

Early morning light and the symmetry of the trees.

18 December
Mid morning
Hidden in the forest

I am somewhere on the ridge connecting the Maropea valley to the Waikamaka. I'm hoping somewhere near the point where it drops to the river. My altimeter tells me I am still at 1257 metres and the hut on the river somewhere over 900 metres. So, there is a very steep drop ahead. However right now I sit in a sunny moss-covered spot on the forest floor. The accrued sweat dries. Though warm the wind whips over and in the shelter of the forest it is actually cold so this sunny wee spot beckoned strongly. Flies buzz lazily. I munch contentedly on a salami stick and drink my water. I am in no hurry. This ridge is longer than I recall and undulates from gentle to steep. Very synchronistic to my own life this year so I simply accept my toils.

Somewhere behind me Pete and John are catching up to me, their pace much faster than mine. I can wait here or go. In the mountains it boils down to simple choices.

The Waikamaka river below. Much steep work yet to be done.

In Waikamaka hut on a summer day. What to do?

Just the thing!

Pete and Robb

John and Robb. Ten years since our last visit here.

18 December
Wakelings hut

I am preparing our tea for the evening meal. Soaking shiitake mushrooms and shucking fresh peas. Pete is inside the hut writing and John has gone to meander by the river and stretch his legs. I sit here and smile at being in the company of friends who can go for a wander, do their own thing, then come together and enjoy that equally as well. I am relishing that in particular this year when the true value of friendship and what that really means to me has evolved. Quality far exceeds quantity.

I arrived here after finding that gruelling steep drop very shortly after my rest in the sunshine, and John and Pete arrived not long after. It was a very lazy afternoon, with a brief nap, a refreshing swim in a lovely pool near the hut, cups of tea or soup, conversation and making plans for our day tomorrow. We will be staying here so have the day to do whatever we wish. That is a very liberating feeling.

Right now, I have set down my peas and merely sit here writing and listening to the wind breeze through other tawhairaunui leaves in another mountain valley, as the river mutters by close below the slight rise the hut is built upon. Perhaps the music is the same as the Maropea, yet there are differences that bring a freshness and newness to what was familiar. Or maybe it is my own perception. What I do know is that right here, right now, my Te Whare Tapa Wha is okay. I’m okay.

Climbing through the forest to the Mokai Patea tops.
19 December
Early morning
Wakelings hut

I awoke this morning and had to lie there sleepily and work out what day it was and how long we have been in the mountains. I considered this a very good development. For it indicates I have moved into true Ruahine Time. That being the essential moment is the present one, and the only important measurement is lightness and dark. Which also means I have let go of outside distractions around stress or worry. That might be the greatest gift of being here. Thoughts I do have of home and my whanau are of love. I have no room right now for anything else. The river beckons.

According to the hut book no one has visited here since October, and only 7 other parties have been here this year. Four of those were flown in by helicopter. It's location and distance provide a natural barrier. So, it is a place that adds to these feelings of timelessness and solitude. I set my pen down and listen to the winds rustling through the tawhairanui leaves, the river muttering past in harmonic symphony. I take a drink of my rich dark coffee and smile at thoughts of the day ahead.

Waikamaka valley and Ruahine tops

A happy man. A ways to go yet.

At Rongotea. Warmer gear required.

John with main Ruahine range behind. Pretty cool.

19 December
Wakelings hut

Pete left after breakfast and headed downriver towards Otukota to try and spot whio, which makes sense as we head up river in the morning. After another cup of strong coffee John and I decided to climb up to the open tops high above and the Mokai Patea ranges. The highest point in the Mokai, which are part of the Ruahine, is Rongotea at 1568 metres. That was our goal. It was quite warm and muggy by the river but by the time we had climbed through the forest into the tupare and tussock the wind had picked up and it was cold. We donned some warmer gear and continued onto the tops. The views of the Ruahine were spectacular, with nearly the whole range exposed in the distant blues and closer peaks and ridges of the tussock with its golden hues and greens’ leading to slips and spurs down the valleys far below. It was truly worth the sweaty climb and effort on a supposed “rest day”. We lingered at Rongotea until the chill of the wind had us heading back down. Even now here at the river I can close my eyes and see that view. I can sense the change in the river’s song as we climb away from it, steeply, and though with great exertion always surprised at how quickly the river drops away and the music of the water fades to hushed whisper. Or the excitement of seeing the big trees gives way to the stunted tawhairaunui and finally the tupare and tussock. The hard work of the climb brings the rewards of our efforts. John Muir was absolutely spot on…

“Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature's peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop away from you like the leaves of Autumn.”
  John Muir

Early morning on the Waikamaka

Misty morning with Te Atuaoparapara at head of the valley.

20 December
Waikamaka hut

The day begins to fade into our final evening of this summer roam in the Ruahine. I can’t help but wish we had a few more days here to linger in the mountains, yet one mixed with how much I look forward to seeing Tara and my whanau. After 6 days I notice myself feeling fitter and coming to settled terms with my ever-lightening pack, though also notice the blisters and other bumps and bruises gathered along the way. There is nothing for it but to just enjoy this last evening, these last moments of camaraderie with fine friends, and appreciate the long walk out tomorrow and our lives out there.

We were up and off early. Last evening it began to drizzle and during the night it rained in earnest for a long while. In the morning it had stopped but it remained overcast and smelling of rain at any moment. By the time it did start raining we were several hours up river. As there was little wind in the valley the rain didn’t bother us aside from making it a wee bit harder to decide which rocks to step upon for footing. The river was fairly low and few gorges I recall nearly swimming through years ago were perhaps hip deep at best. It is a beautiful river with a lot of deep clear pools but easily walked around in most cases. It is a fairly long walk which took me about 6 hours all up. We saw one lone whio again and spent a bit of time watching as Pete took a lot of photos and worked his way as close as he could. Eventually the whio tired of us and floated off with typical whio unerring grace and dignity.

And so here we are at Wakeling for our final afternoon. John reads, as I sit in the now emerged sun and write, as Pete is off pursuing other interesting things. In the background we can here thunder and see bruised clouds rolling in. It won’t worry us much either way.

I felt a twinge of anxiety start to well up inside me as I was walking up the river. It was raining fairly hard at the time and with adjusting to the footing on wet rocks the dull ache in my hip began to come to my present mind. I have battled anxiety this year, and have for my whole life without knowing it until recently. When I first came to the Ruahine I can recall getting worried about what might happen, particularly when lying in my sleeping bag at night, what if rivers flooded, or too much wind and cloud on the tops, what gear I had and so on. Eventually I think it was the mountains themselves that began to bring clarity to something I didn’t even know was occurring. That was by simply being in a place I loved, the Ruahine. It brought an inner peace and contentment – even if a thin layer – and soothed my jangled nerves and running thoughts. Only this year when developing recognition and strategies in dealing with it did I see that in the past. So today I simply focused on my breathing, on looking at the strengths I possess rather than my faults and weakness. I thought of the company of the friends I was with on the river and how they adapted themselves to my pace and my presence. And then I felt peaceful and calm totally cognizant of the moment and place and of the tears in my eyes, as they are now. These are the rare moments when mind, body, spirit, and those we love become supportive equally of each other. Te Whare Tapa Wha. Today on the river was one. Kia kaha!

One of many falls on the Waikamaka

Green pool and tawhairanui leaves shining. 

John and Pete walking up river


Pete photographing the whio. 

21 December 2018
Waikamaka hut

The dawn is a pallid dull grey and mist swirls about the ridges and higher peaks. Though it isn’t raining it feels as if the skies will burst forth with showers with the slightest provocation. Our task is fairly straight forward. Climb up the side creek below the hut, find the route leading out of it and climb up to Waipawa saddle, then climb down the other side to the Waipawa river and up it to re-join eventually with Sunrise track and complete our 6 day loop.

My mood feels somewhat the same as the weather, a sense of melancholia envelopes me. It is not depression or even great sadness, but rather a lingering loneliness that will not be satiated until I again appear at the entrance to the Ruahine bearing a load on my back.

It has been a full six days of open tops, forested spurs and ridges, battling down and up side creeks and wandering along 3 different mountain rivers. We have had a full adult portion of the Ruahine. We have said Kia Ora to the whio, miro miro, piwaikwaka, titi pounamu, kereru, kareara, the trout, deer, and a myriad of insects, butterflies and moths I never had considered before.

Kia ora to Pete and John for their knowledge, experience, company and friendship.

Kia ora, most of all to the Ruahine…I’m not done here yet!

Unuhia, unuhia
 Unuhia ki te uru tapu nui
 Kia wātea, kia māmā, te ngākau, te tinana, te wairua i te ara takatā
Koia rā e Rongo, whakairia ake ki runga
 Kia tina! TINA! Hui e! TĀIKI E!

Draw on, draw on,
 Draw on the supreme sacredness
 To clear, to free the heart, the body and the spirit of mankind
 Rongo, suspended high above us (i.e. in ‘heaven’)
Draw together! Affirm!

Kia ora!

30 December 2018