Monday, December 29, 2008

Thoughts and Summer Tour 2009

Once again I ready myself for my annual summer holiday journey amongst the Ruahine ranges. The eighth such summer trip of reasonable duration done this time of year. I can recall so very well those prior trips, as I have always written a diary along the way, take photos to capture the moments, and savour them later like a fine wine. And of course, share them here as well, for those who care to read them, to view this place, and even get a glimpse of what they mean and have brought to my life.

This years trip will be a little different, a little bit of an interesting twist, and hopefully will come off as a success. Though commonly on these mountain trips it is not the memories of a trip coming off exactly as planned, but rather the patience, joy, and aroha with which we accept the Gifts we are given instead.

I am driving down to Wellington on New Year's Eve and picking up my friend Jeff early in the morning at the airport. He has been traveling in the south island with his lovely wife Sarah, and daughter Zoe visiting family he has living in Christchurch. He is joining me for a week and a five night adventure in the Ruahines. So we will celebrate New Year's eve here with my family and a few friends, then early on New Year's day drag our hopefully not too sore heads out to the mountains. Jeff is one of my oldest friends, dating back to 1980 when we met at Ripon College where he played basketball and I played football. We shared a love of music and more so a love of being outdoors, of wandering in Nature and just being amongst Her. Jeff's wonderment really impacted me and started me on my own journey which continues today. He was my first Nature mentor, someone who helped open this door inside me quite possibly never even knowing he did.

I would write the chances of Jeff returning to this part of the world are slim. This is really a once in a lifetime trip for him and his family. That is just reality. So the opportunity to share my love of the Ruahines with this friend literally brings tears to my eyes. I just want to savour the reconnection and create memories that will have to last the rest of our days. To be in a timeless place with this friend, where time has no meaning except light and dark, for five days, is a gift to treasure.

The other interesting aspect is that sometime on our second day we are meeting John Nash, my fine Kiwi friend and long time tramping companion well represented in this place. John has a few prior plans and will walk in and meet us at Maropea Forks and spend three nights with us as we roam around a bit. I have not seen John since our winter trip in July so I relish his presence as well, and the thought of these two very important people in my life meeting and breaking bread together brings a large smile to my face. Sometimes it is cool to just sit back, watch and Listen. I can't wait!!!

I dedicate this coming trip to all three of the people pictured above:
To Bob Mckerrow on the left for your unabashed acceptance, hospitality, experience, and friendship. I know you can't walk in the mountains just yet my friend, so let me walk for you. I take you with me in spirit, and have a fine wee dram to toast you with!
To my beautiful wife Tara for your aroha, for your refusal to accept mediocrity, and your understanding and acceptance of what this is to me, to us. I love you darlin'.
And to Ed Cotter, a man I have only once met, but was simply one of those of those people you do not forget. Ed is peer of Ed Hillary, a climber of legendary status. In our conversation he told me that on so many nights he shared high on mountains with Hillary or George Lowe, or any other climber of note, that the others would always break out their diaries and write about the day. Ed said he was never concerned with that then, that the climbs and experiences were fresh and he thought he would remember them vividly. He is now 82 years old and regrets a bit he did not write these things down. He remembers the climbs well enough, but what is gone are the moments of laughter, of the banter, of the real conversations now gone like a wisp of smoke up a hut chimney. So I dedicate this to Ed Cotter, for making me realize the "importance" of my own written words, even if they are just for me. So the aroma of the musty forest, or wood smoke is always upon me, so the sound of the clear mountain river is never gone, so the sight of a far off peak reveals itself through a break on a ridge, so the Ruahines are always with me and part of me.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Hononga (Connection)

I have often heard people not "into" the world of blogging comment on the potential negative aspects of using such a tool. That we can choose our persona, that we can put up an image of who we wish we really were rather than are, that it is simply ego based self gratification, that we are interacting not with people but rather with cerebral entities, and so on. I sometimes wondered myself what exactly I am getting out of this pursuit, perhaps these points are well taken. I cannot write for others what their experiences have been, I can only share mine. This is my truth, and I have always felt that if I write from my heart, honestly, and genuinely, that the connections I make here will reflect that, ( and possibly even improve my writing). Here is another truth. Since starting this place a little over a year ago I have connected with many people here, and I have actually met in person 4 individuals with whom I established a relationship with via this medium. Each one of those has been exactly the person reflected in their writings, each one has improved my life in some small way, or big way, and each one is as open, honest, and genuine as I strive to be. So I am four for four, 100% accurate in connecting with people I share with here in person. I have little doubt now, that the other people I frequently interact with would be exactly the same. I like the odds.

Tara and I have just returned from a trip to the South Island. Our first real experience of any duration together, alone, in almost 15 years. So it was a reconnection of very important and renewing depth for ourselves as well. We were invited down south by the man pictured on the left, Bob Mckerrow, whom I met through the blog. Bob is back in Christchurch and had both knees replaced less than a month ago, and as is his nature and in spite of being in a lot of pain, took advantage of the time to bring people together. Bob runs the Red Cross in Indonesia, and has been involved with them and other humanitarian work since the early 1970's. A native Kiwi he has spent extensive time in India, Afghanistan, Vietnam, and too many places to list here, at the forefront of war, disaster, and famine. Long after the news media loses interest in places like Aceh, people like Bob remain behind. He has also spent time in Antarctica, been to the North Pole, is an accomplished climber and kayaker, and is also an author and poet. Blob's blog is at :

Bob invited Tara and I down, having never met us before, and on crutches met us at the airport along with his lovely daughter Aroha. That afternoon, and stretching long into the evening, he hosted a barbecue attended by a fairly amazing and accomplished group of people. In the photo above are Bob, Tara - my amazing wife, and to the right is Ed Cotter. Ed is a legendary mountaineer in the world of climbing. A contemporary of Ed Hillary, George Lowe, Norm Hardie, he climbed with Hillary in the Himalaya's and probably most of the high peaks in New Zealand and was also instrumental in the establishment of the Great Walks of the South Island. At age 82 he is still active in the hills. I was in awe of him, yet he had no ego whatsoever, just a genuine and calm presence, and put me completely at ease. He started to ask me about my travels in the Ruahines, saying he had heard good things about them, and then complimenting me when I told him I often venture out alone! A guy who has done what he has saying that to me. I felt 10 feet tall.

Pictured above to the left of Ed Cotter is Colin Monteath. Colin is one of the worlds leading Nature photographers, writer, and mountaineer. He has traveled the world and is particularly a leading expert on Antarctica, having spent summers there for over 27 years. He established a publishing company named Hedgehog Press, with the ideal of "increasing the awareness of the need to look after the polar and mountain regions of the world". His web site is at : .

Colin and his wife Betty were both lovely, friendly, and a joy to meet.

Enjoying a red wine with Bob is Robert (Bob) Headland. Bob came along with Colin and Betty and had just docked in Lyttleton after returning from Antarctica. A delightful man, I found out the next day he is considered the worlds leading authority on Antarctica. The information below was taken off the website for Quark Expeditions:

Robert Keith Headland
Bob Headland is a Senior Associate of the Scott Polar Research Institute, University of Cambridge. His principal interest is historical geography, specifically concerning human effects on polar regions. Bob is an adviser to several expeditionary organizations, departments of government, a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society, and a member of the Institute for Historical Research of the University of London. His published works include books and numerous articles on his specializations. In 1984, he was decorated with the Polar Medal and is a member of both the Arctic Club and the Antarctic Club.
Bob is the historian aboard the Northeast Passage and Arctic Islands expeditions in the boreal summer of 2008.

Robin Judkins, founder of the Speights Coast to Coast Race, one of the fathers of Adventure Racing, artist and raconteur. An old friend of Bob's.

Robb with Bob and Ed. Pretty heady company at this function for the likes of me, but I guess life is about learning, meeting new people, and finding new paths to pursue. It was really a lovely evening. Bob's daughters Ruia and Aroha, and Ruia's partner Gavin providing an array of nibbles and a fine cook up, chops cooked perfectly!

Another interesting person there, whom left a bit before I was brave enough to get out my camera was Jamie, another person connected with through the blog. Jamie had just returned from China and was finishing up a stint as the director at the Arthur's Pass Outdoor Recreation Centre. He invited Tara and I to drive up into the mountains and spend a day or two with him at Arthur's Pass, one of the famous and historic South Island mountain areas. How could we say no?

While the above photos are all in the Arthur's Pass area and taken along the road, they were not taken by me. For two reasons, one being that the whole day was either raining steadily or torrential so our view was very narrow, and secondly after doing a walk in the rain with Jamie up to the Devil's Punchbowl, pictured above, my camera completely malfunctioned. So the above photos were all supplied by Bob, and certainly give a taste of what the area is like. My goodness, the possibilities in those mountains is only limited by the imagination, and skill level.

Tara and I drove to the village and met Jamie. Jamie's parents Chris and Debbie run the information centre for the Department of Conservation and live right in the middle of the small village Arthur's Pass, population 40. They kindly offered us a place to stay, lit the fire, and left us to enjoy the rain, the shimmering white water falls forming on the steep hill sides, and a fine library to browse through. Eventually I had to get amongst this place, rain or no rain, and Jamie and I walked up to the Devil's Punchbowl, and hours walk or so. Any time spent in Nature is valuable to me, and judging by the smile on Jamie's face, to him as well. How cool to walk in the rain and get to know someone I have become connected with via this way and feel completely comfortable doing so. These moments are ones we recognize and grab onto, or let them slip away, and I am getting better and more intuitive at knowing when they are here. This was one.

Later, joined by Tara, Chris, and Debbie, we retired to the local, and only, pub - The Wobbly Kea, for a few libations and then returned to the house for a lovely dinner prepared by Debbie. Afterwards we enjoyed a fine evening around the fire, a robust discussion, laughter and stories, and a few wee drams as well! Tara tried Stone's Ginger Wine for the first time, and judging by the small amount left in the bottle at the end of the evening seemed to enjoy it. Chris and Debbie on our next trip through we will bring another bottle. The hospitality of our hosts was exceptional and a day and evening Tara and I will recall fondly.

I returned to the Arthur's Pass highway on my own a day later. Leaving Bob's house early in the morning, again an overcast slightly drizzly day, but I had to get out and climb up something. I stopped at the Korowai / Torlesse Tussocklands and headed off. I was fairly limited as I had no pack, extra gear, compass, or water, but stuffing a few big juicy apples and some cashews in my pockets started climbing into the mist. I climbed about two hours up, to around 1100 metres or so judging by my map, and it started getting a bit windier, wetter, and colder. I could see the higher peaks above me emerge through the mist from time to time, the whole scene not unlike many experiences in the Ruahines. Had I been better equipped I would have gone on, but climbing into unknown terrain in cloudy, wet conditions alone and with no equipment is just not very smart, so I just enjoyed walking back down thinking, and being lost in the moment. I was surprised to see the the car suddenly appear in front of me. How the mountains call to me.

Kura Tawhiti is a large area of an ancient limestone sea bed now eroded into fantastic shapes and sizes. Not much further up the road to Arthur's Pass than Korowai/Torlesse area I drove up hoping to get a few photos we had missed in the rain a few days earlier. Just as I arrived there the sun came out and so I walked up amongst these amazing formations, and then spent a few hours just roaming around them. The sense of energy I felt here literally pulsated, the hairs on the back of my neck stood up. At one point way in the back of them I felt the Earth gently calling me to lie down on this sun warmed limestone and connect to Her. I fell asleep amongst this mystical place, surrounded by mountains on a bed of warm smooth limestone. As I pulled out of the parking area onto the road it began to rain again.

Later when I returned to Bob's I was almost reluctant to tell him of my experience when he asked what I had done that day. So I simply said I had been to Kura Tawhiti, and that I sensed a lot of energy there. Bob just looked at me and told me it is a very spiritual place, his connection to it, and how the ancient Maori used its caves and local streams to shelter and gather food on their journeys across the island. I, too, somehow feel part of it, or at least cognizant of its pull.

Bob signing my copy of his book, Teichelmann, for me enjoying the afternoon sun with his brand new knees.

I would like thank Bob, his daughters Ruia and Aroha, Ruia's partner Gavin, for their unflinching hospitality. It was really a special experience and they are all wonderful people. Also to Jamie, and his parents Chris and Debbie, it was delightful, and Jamie we hope to see you up here! The South Island is a beautiful magical place, full of wonderful people, and I can't wait to get back to explore more of her charms.

Always good to get home to these two though! Happy Holidays to all, may you all be blessed with joy and happiness!

Friday, November 21, 2008


It is always around this time of year I find my thoughts drifting back to the place I originally placed my feet (Turangawaewae). It is Thanksgiving season in the states, a signalling of many significant aspects to the year. Time to reflect on the year rapidly passing, the final throes of Autumn finally relenting to the onset of winter, time to gather family and friends close to us, and of course, as a child, the countdown to Christmas begins. Even as a kid growing up in Wisconsin it was always my favourite holiday, somewhat for the reason written above, but even then I seemed to have some innate understanding of the importance and temporal nature of these gatherings. That somehow contained in all this chaos of cooking, drinking, eating, not getting our good clothes dirty, and finally at some stage, my Swedish grandfather commanding the stage and telling us stories while wildly waving his hands about, that this was a moment of perfection in an otherwise very imperfect family. Now, I have become my grandfather.

We do not celebrate Thanksgiving in New Zealand, hence the reason for my drifting thoughts and melancholic meanderings. We have had a few, including a huge gathering one year when my mom came over, but moving into summer here they always seem to take on more of a Kiwi barbecue atmosphere, with the real meaning of the experience somehow being removed from the day. So eventually we just drifted away from recognizing the day, aside from perhaps me settling on the couch listening to music, looking at old photos, and having a quiet drink and toasting my far away loved ones.

I do not have a lot of photos of those times, but I have a treasure trove of memories in my heart.

That's me in the middle, and in the back my beautiful older sister Kathy, brother Steve, cousin Roger, my Great Aunt Ruth holding my still gorgeous baby sister Trish, and my Great Uncle Harry holding my cousin Nancy. My great aunt and uncle never had kids of their own so we always loved each others company. They lived in downtown Chicago in an upper of a huge old brown stone, full of nooks and crannies to play and hide amongst. Harry loved his drink, and would take us boys to the local taverns which was always an interesting adventure in the big city. They were both lovely and I miss them dearly. Harry taught me how to fish and shoot a rifle, he left me his Johnson outboard 18 horse power 1959 motor. I still have it, and it still runs perfect in the care of my great friend Carl back in Green Bay. One day I will give it to Taylor. I wonder if he will understand the significance of such an item.

An even earlier photo of Thanksgiving with my Grandpa Ivar holding me as a baby on his lap, Ruth, Nancy, my Great Grandmother, Steve, my Aunt Jean holding baby Roger, Kathy, and my Grandma Grace. Ivar came over from Sweden on the Lusitania, which on the return journey to Europe in 1915 was sunk by a German u-boat. He met my Irish grandmother and caused a near scandal amongst the very ethnic oriented communities of Chicago by falling in love with her. They were married for over 60 years. When she was dying in Florida, ravaged by dementia, he and I stood outside her hospital room and looked in at her lying there. She was smiling and he said to me, "look at her smile, she always had the most beautiful smile in the world. She is the only girl I ever kissed". Even writing that now still brings tears to my eyes. I miss them both dearly.

My dad in front holding Roger, Ruth, Nancy and Kathy, and in back my mom holding Trish, Ivar, Grace, Uncle Harry, and my Aunt Jean and my Uncle Roger, the neatest aunt and uncle a kid could have. Only my mom and Aunt Jean remain amongst the adults in this photo, and brother Steve is gone as well. My mom and my Aunt Jean are still living life to the fullest, and two of the most stunning women I know. The four men in this photo were the greatest male influences in my life, which most of the time is a hugely positive thing. They were wonderful men, beautiful and flawed in their own ways, and I loved each one dearly. How I would love for them to meet my sons Taylor and Charlie.

Thanksgiving dinner at my grandparents in Chicago, little kids had to sit at the card table which would have meant Roger, Trish, and I. We still had fun. I can close my eyes and smell the turkey, hear the laughter, I can walk through each room of that house with unerring direction even though I have not been there for over thirty five years.

Being allowed my first crack at carving the turkey, a passing of the torch. The first left handed turkey carver in the family!

My mom and I in New Zealand , Thanksgiving 1998. The last time I celebrated Thanksgiving. I think perhaps I will organize a small gathering of family and a few friends here in New Zealand. My boys deserve to connect with, or at least be exposed to some of their culture and heritage. And even in a year such as this, with doom and gloom on every seeming horizon, there is still so much that I really need to recognize and Be Thankful for ..........

My family here in New Zealand. Tara's parents, Tony and Val, whom have taken me in without question as part of the family, and loved my children unconditionally and completely. Tara's sister Karley, another little sister in every way. Tara for simply being who she is and our journeys, together and apart. Taylor, my oldest son, the catalyst of so much in my life, a challenge and sometimes a complete joy in listening to his questioning of what is around him. And Charlie, an unexpected gift, keeping the eyes of a child upon me.

To the friendships I have grown here in Aotearoa. Nigel, John, Chris, and Erika. I find it harder as I get older to cultivate friendships, yet I have been blessed here to include a few people whom I consider family as well.

To the people who read here and share this place, and allow me to share theirs. To have connected, literally, with a small group of people from all over the world in this way has been such a joy. Each of you has taught me so much, and I am honoured to have you here. I thank you all.

And, of course, I am Thankful for Wild Places. In particular the Ruahine ranges. I still relive the feeling of awe and wonderment I experienced with Nigel and John the very first interaction I had with them in 1994 on Gold Crown ridge. Almost in the same way I recall my grandparent's house. I just close my eyes and I am there. Each time I return to the ranges I am overwhelmed with a feeling of Being Home. I am blessed by this place and what it has brought to my life. May we all find such a place. Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 10, 2008


Sitting outside Rangiwahia hut in the late afternoon after returning over the windy and clagged in Whanahuia's, I was enjoying a cup of tea and when I looked to the north east saw this cloud formation above me. The lenticular layer is called a hog's back formation, a harbinger of bad weather usually in the form of northwest high winds and a storm to come. Indeed it began to rain and gust heavily later that evening, and as I walked down in the misty grey dawn it was both windy and pouring rain.

It seems as if in a way here in Aotearoa we have our own hogs back cloud hovering over the islands. Our election here outed the Labour government to install a National one, or basically exchanging a left for right on the political spectrum. Made more threatening by the fact that under our MMP system that National in order to form a government has to go into coalition with a party called ACT. So for the next three years we have a conservative right majority being supported by a radically far right minority. This bodes well for the rich white fat cat developers, for the concepts of big business and progress, power companies, and generally the well to do. It does not bode well for the poor, or even middle class, for the Resource Management Act, for any state owned enterprise, and certainly not for any of our wild areas. There is a feeling of people rubbing their hands together in glee. The wrong people.

As a country the mood was to vote for "change". I was somewhat flabbergasted to talk to so many people who believed that Barack Obama was the catalyst for change here, almost a mandate to vote for a different government. Yet the change in the states was a vast swing to the left, to potential equality, possibility, and hope. To change to the right here simply for the sake of change rather astounds me, and people seemed unable to make that connection to what Obama is, and what John Key will never be. There will be little change to the make up of a National led cabinet to what it would have been 3 years, even 6 years ago. The same faces, the same agendas, made worse by the inclusion of ACT, whose simplistic "policies" I consider just left of Fascism.

Yet democracy has spoken, and we deserve the government we ask for. We seem unable to accept that in some ways, many ways, we have to change the way we live, our very systems of progress, to leave a better world for future generations. I suspect the fight for our wild places has only just begun.

On the other hand, to witness, and participate, in the election of Barack Obama was perhaps my proudest moment as an American. I hold no illusions that racism and poverty have ended, and that Obama and America do not face monumental challenges. The issue, for instance, of Indigenous Americans, seems to have greatly been overlooked and there is much healing and acknowledgement to be done there as well before we have real conversations about equality and opportunity for all races. And of course the economic issues facing not only the states but the world. I am inspired by the Possibility that we have a man inside the system who can bring the first steps of real change to that system be a reality. At some stage we have to stop stealing from our children. I can only write that it was a day we will all remember, a day of history and hope, a day America took a step towards being for all what it was supposed to be at it's inception.

I urge all who read at my place here to check out and read a post called The Rewrite, by Teju Cole. Actually all of Beth's writings are of interest, but this one for me really captured this moment of change in America.

Another place I would like to recommend is at and a post named One More American Moment by Tom Russell. Not only is Tom one of America's most talented and under rated song writers, but also someone who is on par with Abbey, Bukowski, and Hunter S. Thompson as an observer of the real under belly of America.

"Man is not built to vegetate or stagnate - we like to progress - zero growth environmental policies fly in the face of human nature".
Gerald Ford, former Republican president, 1974.

Tell that to these guys Gerald.

Charlie holding my new niece, Hazel Rose.


Friday, October 24, 2008

Alone not Lonely

A foreboding feeling of trepidation accompanies me as of late. Collapsing financial markets and economic doom being shouted at us constantly, the rhetoric of elections, and even danger to the mountains I love so much. It seems everyone I know has some sort of nagging uncertainty in their lives, as if we are reaching some sort of turning point from that which we know.
It all mirrors how I feel shouldering my new pack for a 4 day solo journey in the Ruahines. I always feel a bit uncertain or nervous when undertaking a mountain trip, and more so when by myself. Everything is heightened when I take to the mountains on my own, the emotional and physical connection,which is good thing, and also the heightened insecurities of something going wrong, the weather, getting ill, or having an accident, which is not a good thing. Yet I can no more not pursue my love for these mountains as I could not breathe and still be alive. It is within me, and nagging feeling or no, off I head up to Rangiwahia hut late on a lovely Sunday afternoon in the Ruahine ranges.

19 October 2008
Rangiwahia hut

It has been 4 years since I last interacted with this part of the Ruahines, the Whanahuias. Too long, and it is good to be back here, good to simply be in the mountains. A late afternoon walk up here. That detour around the slip is a real bruiser with a laden pack, and I knew it would be. Tick one nervous point off the list. I am in store for a sensational Ruahine sunset from up here at 1200 plus metres, and will be the only one in the world who will see it from here.

Except for the spirits I carry within me, in particular on this trip those of Ophelia and Robin, two lovely souls whom I have never met in person, yet have developed a deep and lasting bond with through their unseen love for these very mountains. Also Paterika, D'Arcy, and Vegetable Japan for their participation and encouragement, and Bob McKerrow for his inspiration and love of mountains every where. I raise my tin cup and toast you all with a fine wee dram. Do your spirits dance on the evening mountain breeze?

In the morning I will head over the Whanahuia's and then down into the head waters of the Oroua river and valley. It will be my 8th visit there, but my first since 2004 with John. It is a lovely spot. The sky is filled with stars, but the forecast is for a northerly to blow in sometime Monday, so I will start as soon as I can possibly see in the dawns light. The nature of these ranges is how the wind funnels through the steep valleys on either side of these very geologically young and unstable ranges, which can make a sudden turn in direction a real battle against wind that mere seconds ago was an ally, and though I know the route well, it is 3 hours of exposure I would rather not do in a gale.

20 October 3:25pm
Triangle hut

On the porch at Triangle hut, barefoot and in only shorts as the sun beats down. It was a very windy, cold, and sleet filled walk down so I am happy for the warmth. I can see the northerly still whipping over. I left Rangiwahia at 6:30am. I heard the wind come up and the rain on the tin roof during the night, so I was feeling quite anxious to get underway. It was not a day to linger and take photos, I just kept my head down and kept going. Every once in awhile you feel that wind gust get through and chill you, watch the dark clouds swirling and rolling and obscuring the route ahead , and though it is a sight I love, it keeps my feet moving. Even in the forest I encountered a lot of wind fall on the steep drop to the river, so was glad to finally hear the river muttering below me and see the little red roof come into view.

I arrived here at 10:30am and I just sat on the hut porch in the sun feeling rather done in and empty. As if these past months have simply drained me and I felt nothing except relief at being here. Exhausted. I simply lie down in the sun, wet sweaty gear still on, muddy boots and gaiters wet from the river still on, and promptly fell fast asleep.
I awoke a few hours later, hot and sweaty in the sun, and for a moment not quite knowing where I was. When I looked around at this amazing spot, the river chorous welcoming me the emotions welled up inside me. I felt recharged and filled with spirit. As if the Ruahines held me in Her bosom and refilled my soul, my spirit, my need to be here in the Ruahines, to cherish them, and be a voice for them.

What better way to wash away the taste of sleep, grime, and sweat than to be embraced by the cold mountain river? My joyous screams echoed off the steep valley walls. Fresh gear, a cup of tea, and full of vigour I headed up river to the beautiful stone gorge and in hopes of seeing Whio, then down river on the same unfruitful search. This river has changed much in 4 years since I was last here. Then again, so have I.

The view from the porch at Triangle hut and the Oroua river.

Stone gorge just up river from Triangle hut. In 2004 John and I were standing here and a Whio landed 10 metres away from us. Just magic.


A starry night filled with Promise
Yet the dawn brings grey mist
and the hurried gusts of wind
The way is known to me
still Trepidation taps my shoulder
I carry on
Steep muddy and wet
the cold chilling breath of the mountains
a constant reminder of all possibilities
footsteps unsure through the deep
and rutted tussock
down through the shimmering forest
to the rivers Embrace
Promise fulfilled

Triangle hut 7:15 pm
20 October

I sit quietly by the river, wee dram in hand, doing nothing more than to see if a Whio might fly by and simply enjoying this moment by a mountain river. The Whio is, for me, the heart and soul of the Ruahines, their eloquent beauty, their unerring flight, their harmony with this environment, the Ruahines. I have not seen one for over a year now and I miss them.

Photo of Whio family kindly given to me, and taken by Pohangina Pete and used with his permission.

21 October 9:00am

A morning coffee on the porch, a gentle yet persistent rain beats on the tin roof, contrasted by the symphony of the river. Very much like a steady saxophone riff by Stan Getz bouncing off an equally absorbing fault filled haunting trumpet solo by Chet Baker. The two very different, even clashing, yet the sound of both together both entrances and yet signals an unsettled beautiful truce amongst opposing forms of grace. But I have enjoyed a lovely sleep in till just a wee bit ago, and to be here right now, with absolutely nothing at all on my agenda today but the very moment in front of me, let the rain fall, let the river roll on.

It has well and truly packed in on the tops high above me now. Here in the mountains at 802 meters on the river my world is reduced to the steep valley forested spurs in their green symmetrical beauty. It has been raining steadily now for hours, which made it made very easy to roll over in the early dawn and snuggle deep inside my warm down sleeping bag.

There has been no one here, at least by the hut book, in almost 5 months. It moves me deeply to be in such a place of solitude. This hut book goes back to 2004, John and I are the second visit written in it, and it is only a third filled after 4 years. These are places we must relish, protect, and fight for. Too many are becoming disconnected from any sense of Nature, thus places only visited by very few people become superfluous, or in the way of progress. This is what I must fight against.

I have been here with Taylor, Gustav, Nigel, John, and Steve. I share this place today with those memories. And the hut book carries names I know as well. Tom S., to you brother! I know you love these ranges. And Pohangina Pete, here in 2005, and whom I first met down river at Iron Gates back in 2001, I am glad his spirit is here as well.

So while I am relishing my solitude I have never felt alone. My heart and spirit are filled by the mountains, by the pristine clear waters, by the call of the Whio, and by the people I love. Just Listen!

The porch on a rainy day, if you look to left side of the roof rain drops are dripping down.

7:30 pm Triangle hut

The rain is still falling, a persistent yet soothing serenade this day. The river has held well but is now losing the battle and slowly losing its clarity while gaining depth. My biggest problem in the morning will most likely be crossing the river. Oh well. I can think of worse places to NOT cross a river if it comes to that.

The hut is warmed by the stove for which I have chopped a huge pile of wood on this rainy day. My tea simmers on the stove, and I have had a wonderful hut day here at Triangle. You might wonder how you will fill the rainy day, and suddenly the day is gone. So I have have honestly enjoyed each second of this interaction, wandering around this area in the rain, sitting on the porch just pondering this place, firing up the billy, babbling away to myself and many others, waiting for a Whio to fly by. It has been a complete day. I would not change a thing.

"Triangle Hut Day"

I have used this hut day
to my fullest ability
Have run out through the rain
to use the facility
Except in the course of that little caper
I forgot to bring the toilet paper
I've chopped wood, sawed it, and stacked it quite high
more than enough for the next man by
Sat on this porch just sitting here thinking
I wonder how many cups of tea I've been drinking
Rivulets of water run off the roof
offering me total, complete, and final proof
That a day spent here all toasty and warm
beats the hell out of being cold and wet
out there in that storm.

The Ororua in flood and as it looked as I crossed early in the afternoon of the 22nd. Conditions up on the tops were not much different. Ah, the solo journey eh! During the night I could hear the river roaring with a markedly increased intensity, and at mornings light there was not a possibility of crossing the torrent. I simply had to wait it out until it stopped raining long enough for it to drop to a reasonably cross able level. Ruahine rivers are not to be trifled with. So I was not able to leave Triangle until early afternoon, and did so before the rain began again, which it did not long after I started climbing in the forest. And once again emerged onto the open tops to find wet, windy and white out conditions. A different world than the one I left below in the valley.

Clagged in tops of the Whanahuia's looking east down into the headwaters of the Oroua river and valley.

Looking north towards Mangamahue, which on a clear day would be easily visible. A mountain snow tarn in which I have often slaked my thirst.

22 October 7:00pm
Rangiwahia hut

Still here in the Ruahines, and spending an extra night as I did not arrive here until very late in the afternoon. I could easily walk the two hours down to my car but after ringing Tara she suggested I stay another night. Perhaps she knew better than I that the Ruahine wanderlust is still upon me, battles with raging rivers, and forcing routes across cloud obscured wind swept ridges still within me. At least I like to think she thought that. In any measure I have spent the afternoon just roaming the immediate area here on the lower Whanahuias, and it is indeed a lovely place. I look upon the plains below, the world I live in, but I keep one foot and a part of my soul firmly planted here in these mountains.

The view from just above Rangi hut looking south. Notice the stream in the lower left hand corner. This is where the leatherwood peters out to the open tussock tops, 1100 meters or so.

"Both Ways"

It is nice to recall in retrospect

the golden hues of the open tussock tops

on a sunny wind free day

the shimmering play of light in the high forest

pulsating with its own Soul

or the delights of exploring each new bend

of a mountain river

to listen to its unique song

and the wonderful sensation of wholeness

genuine interaction with the Ruahines

all recalled with such clarity

at home

in front of my fire

wee dram in hand

Much dimmer and less prominent

are the moments of doubt

even fear

the tough choices which must be made

of flooded rivers to cross or not

a route perhaps beyond me

the sound of gusting wind in the upper forest

knowing what awaits up top on a stormy day

the feeling of being tired and cold

with the hut a long ways off

Yet these memories are just as much part

of the mountain experience

maybe more so

For out of doubt and fear

and the action of moving beyond them

emerges clarity and knowledge

to appreciate the Journey

and now truly see

the view