Wednesday, October 3, 2007


Back in 2003 I was on a trip through the ranges with my brother in law Steve, who lives in Wisconsin, which encompassed a traverse of the Whanahuias to Triangle hut, then down the Oroua river to Iron Gates hut, then out to the road end via Heritage lodge, a 2 night, 3 day affair. An excellent tramp I have also done with Gustav, and Taylor as well.
Triangle hut is a beautiful spot, up in the headwaters of the Oroua, in the shadow of Te Hekenga high above, a fine place to linger and enjoy. Many times there I have been treated to the sight of a Mountain Blue Duck flying by the hut on its unerring path down river. Perhaps the sight I enjoy most in the Ruahines, one indicating you are in relative remote and pristine back country as that is a requirement of the native Blue Duck. These places are growing all too rare.

In any case, on this trip with Steve, we climbed out of the river and over a steep spur to by pass a gorge, then dropped back down to a side creek to the main river, and not far away, Iron Gates hut. My hopes of settling in alone for a fine afternoon and evening were dashed by the sight of a small pack on the porch, and the emergence of a very fit looking blond haired bearded man. I must say at this point in my Ruahine ventures I found the sight of other people at places I wanted to be as an annoyance and intrusion. I no longer feel that way, and while I would rather have my own solitude, I find that in true back country most of the people encountered are both like minded and interesting. Most of my trips I see no one, part of the allure of the Ruahines in comparison to other high use areas. Part of my own growth in the mountains was to begin to look at such encounters through a positive eye rather than negative, as perhaps an opportunity for growth rather than an affront to my personal desire for solitude.

This man introduced himself as Pete, and from the moment he spoke I sensed a certain gentleness and calmness emanating from him, again, not an uncommon feature amongst people I meet in the Ruahines. In talking with him it became apparent he had great experience not only in these ranges but all over New Zealand as well, yet spoke of these experiences with a great sense of humility. We had a few cups of tea and as he packed up to leave - he was in on a day walk - he mentioned a new wet weather track had been put in above the river a ways down from the hut, but was rather difficult to find. I asked if I could walk along with him to see where it emerged from the river and he had no objections. As he started into the bush, then down to the river, I immediately knew his pace was far faster than mine, and even with no pack I had difficulty keeping up with him, and on the river I watched him leap from rock to rock with far more speed, confidence, and skill than I will ever possess. I followed him till he headed back up to the bush where the track began and waved goodbye and I headed back to the hut. Steve and I walked out in a pouring rain storm the next day so the knowledge of where that track was located proved invaluable as the river was flooded and the side creeks growing angry. A lucky encounter? Who knows?

Over the next few years I was in the Ruahines fairly often, both with other people and more often during this period alone. I often came across hut books with Pete's name inscribed inside, and also saw his name mentioned, and photographs of him, in the New Zealand Wilderness magazine on rather difficult South Island trips requiring true mountaineering skills so I knew my impressions of him were accurate. I also came across a blog called Pohangina Pete which I began to read from time to time and always found insightful and thought provoking. I hadn't checked in with it for some time, and had last left Pete in the midst of an epic journey for him to India and Africa over the course of almost a year. Just yesterday I checked in with his blog out of curiosity to find he has returned recently to Pohangina valley, and in many ways his journey has probably still just begun, that the valley and this area may not be able to contain his soul for too much longer, at least that is how I read it. In the entry he quoted a book named " A Field Guide to Getting Lost", by Rebecca Solnit, a book I must obtain. The quote perhaps perfectly summed up Pete's feeling of change and the potential result of moving to find something else. Yet I found it perfectly summed up, in some ways, the reasons and feelings inside myself for ending up in the very same place, and a journey that continues. Indeed, I might apply that statement to quite a few, if not all, RTC members, all for their own various reasons and where they are at in their own lives. So cheers to Pete, a man I have only briefly met, yet felt a bond with through the Ruahines, and also the same message of change for perhaps entirely different reasons, both valid and true.
"Without noticing it you have traversed a great distance; the strange has become familiar and the familiar if not strange at least awkward or uncomfortable, an outgrown garment. And some people travel far more than others. There are those who receive as birthright an adequate or at least unquestioned sense of self and those who set out to reinvent themselves, for survival or satisfaction and travel far. Some people inherit values and practices as a house they inhabit; some of us have to burn down that house, find our own ground, build from scratch, even as a psychological metamorphosis". Rebecca Solnit, A Field Guide to Getting Lost.

The Journey continues.............................................................................................

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