Tuesday, January 22, 2008


My great friend Nigel has put his new scanner into operation and forwarded me photos taken on some of our earlier forays into the Ruahines. As Nigel now lives in South Korea some of these I have not seen in years and the emotions they invoke upon me are very strong. Much like Nigel's continuing presence is with me whenever I venture forth into the mountains. The memories of these trips linger in my mind like the smell of wood smoke still there upon some of my gear now stored in the garage, and as I look at these photos it releases once again powerful memories and reinforces this strange and beautiful hold on my soul the Ruahines maintain.

Above is another early morning at Sunrise hut, John gazing out upon the east coast plains. Judging by the ice and snow on the ground, this would have been October, 2000. Nigel, John and I walked up in the dark with headlamps, then on this morning to Maropea Forks. According to my notes we made it from Sunrise to Maropea Forks in less than 5 hours. Oh the good ol' days! It took me 7 to do the same walk this summer. Though having written that, in 2000 it was only a few months since I had crossed with Gustav, and I had no problems with my hip. And truth be told it is such an amazing walk it should take 7 hours.

It is hard to believe in the above series of photos that it is summer, though in the mountains it why we carry the gear we do. Yet indeed it was, Jan. 2003, and I recall it was very cold. We are along the eastern side of the ranges near Longview hut. Our original intention had been to cross Sawtooth ridge and proceed to Waterfall hut and beyond. We spent two days waiting at Howlett's hut for the weather to clear. It was a combination of wind, rain, cloud, and very cold. At the time it seemed somewhat disappointing, but now, with luxury of hindsight, I realize how much I learned and how fortunate I was to be weather bound in a high mountain hut with these two excellent men. The third day we retreated back down to Daphne hut, then climbed up to this ridge and over to Longview. Then we climbed down into the headwaters of the Pohangina river and down to Top Gorge hut the next day. It was a day of sunshine and blue sky, rivaling the weather we experienced this summer and we relished such a day on the beautiful and mysterious Pohangina river.

Entry from notebook, 13 Jan. 2003 : "Still at Howlett's hut. The weather has truly packed in after starting to rain and sleet when we hit the bush line yesterday afternoon. As we have some major open tops work crossing Sawtooth, and even more over to Waterfall, we know we cannot do it in these conditions. We had a long sleep in and are about to gear up to take a wander down the spur towards Tiraha. Hopefully the weather will come right, but I can think of worse places to wait it out.
4:45 p.m. : Walked up to Tiraha in the mist and cloud. It is a fairly long pull on its own, and truly spectacular scenery - even in the clouds, which simply add to the eerie remoteness. We saw a fleetingly brief glimpse of a portion of Sawtooth, enough to grasp the seriousness of the job required, climbed a very steep gut to a small saddle then up to Tiraha where it began to pour on us. Couldn't see anything beyond 10 metres. Then we we returned to the hut, happy to see it appear out of the mist. We just have to wait until morning to make any kind of call. This is not an area to be trifled with, some very serious country. If it is cloudy, or windy, or both!, well then I think Sawtooth will have to wait, it ain't going nowhere. We may have to develop a contingency plan. This is what teaches patience, and simply enjoying the gifts we are given."

It is always a pleasure to settle in at a cool spot along a Ruahine river after a long day, better yet to spend a few days in such places. Not that staying at the higher alpine huts is any sort of chore, Top Maropea, Mc Kinnon, Howletts, Parks Peak, all are special places in their own unique ways. But the rivers simply offer a bit more scope to wander about a bit more, perhaps spot a Whio if lucky, swim if conditions permit, and sometimes even if they do not! Mostly though is the symphony of water, crystal clear and pure, a sound for me that represents the Ruahines and the calmness that overwhelms when I am there.

I am not sure where the first photo above was taken. I suspect it is on the Tuki Tuki river near Daphne hut and spur, though it also just might be someplace up from Maropea Forks. These photos were all taken with my old Cannon 35mm self timer.

The second photo I recall very well, and was taken after dinner along the Pohangina in front of Top Gorge hut. John got a lovely fire going and we boiled up the old hut billy over the fire for a last brew. That night we slept outside by the river, as Top Gorge hut, while in a beautiful spot is a bit run down and now scheduled to let fall into disrepair before being removed altogether in the next 10 years, which is a shame but indicative of its low user numbers and DOC budgets. In any case Nigel was well equipped with his gore tex bivvy sack while John and I simply plopped our therma-rests down with our sleeping bags. I woke up hours later with condensation running off my sleeping bag and trudged up to the hut, decrepit mattress or not. John soon followed.

This has been a very pleasant exercise, recalling these trips with Nigel and John. It has been 5 years since I have traveled in the mountains with Nigel and I await the next opportunity with much anticipation. When that will happen I do not know, but these photos really make me realize the quality of memories I have of our time there. These were days we traveled fast and long, days perhaps beyond me now, but then the reasons I enjoy and need the Ruahines do not require me to necessarily travel fast and long, rather just to enjoy the journey and being amongst such a place.

I particularly enjoy the first photo above, just coming off Daphne spur, and by the upward gaze tilt to my head a fair way yet to climb to the main range, very typical Ruahine terrain. The second photo is also high on Daphne ridge. I remember this one as well, as we carried extra water for the purpose of boiling up the billy in the high beech forest. A very memorable cup of tea.

"Ruahine Realizations"

The changes in me are obvious
less hair
more weight
aches and pains emerge
as I return again
to steep climbs
and precipitous descents
where the hut time signs
slip further from my reach
yet the call remains strong
The mountains change as well
though the changes
are often too subtle
unless one visits here
with relative frequency
there would be no notice
and Timeless

written at Top Maropea, Sept. 2006


Anne-Marie said...

Kia ora Robb. What great photos - you all look very relaxed and happy. I hope for your sake it isn't too long before you and Nigel can go tramping again. I like the last photo best, which river is that? Hope you're having a lovely weekend and enjoying this beautiful weather. Ka kite ano, Anne-Marie

Ruahines said...

Kia ora Anne-Marie,
Yes, I do believe we were relaxed and happy in those photos,the effects of being in a place like the Ruahines for multiple days and Time takes on a different meaning, the biggest worry being to have another cup of tea or not. Nigel now lives and works in South Korea, so it will probably be awhile till we again hoist our packs together, but I know the Ruahine ranges have a strong pull on him as well. The last photo was taken about 15 minutes or so up from Daphne hut on the Tuki Tuki river. It was, is, a beautiful pool, one I dove into not long after the photo! I like the photo as well, very Ruahine-esque. Have a great day Anne-Marie, thanks for stopping by.
Ka kite,

Anonymous said...

Hey Rob

I have been perusing your site for a while now and I'm loving it (actually found it initially as a link from pohongina petes blog). A Hawkes Bay / Manawatu kiwi I have spent a fair number of nights in the comfort of a Ruahine tin roof. I recognise youre name now as one I have seen in many hut books.

Recently myself and girlfriend decided to spread the wings for the great OE as one must, and we are currently living and working in the North East of England. We have been away for close on a year now, having travelled (and tramped) through much of south america before coming to the UK. Travelling was great but now living and working in a strange and different place I often find my mind wandering back to the familiar and wonderful kiwi bush. Admittedly I used to do the same when working in Palmerston North as I made it through the day planning the next mission into the heartland. But now of all times, when I have all of the UK and Europe to discover, I find myself planning tramps into the hills of home...hard case.

Your blog helps me feel sane as I realise there are others with a similar fixation on the Ruahines. Having said that I am not sure it is a good idea for me to keep following it given I plan to spend another year at least living over here, a decision I will have to make. Luckily I come home for 3 weeks in Feb and will be hitting the old haunts a few times which might fuel my addiction for a while.

Anyway, keep the pics and words coming, you do realise you are setting a precedent and will be letting a lot of people down if you do not continue haha

Cheers anyway and good luck with future adventures.


Ruahines said...

Kia ora Tom,
Cheers for that. It is very gratifying to discover this small community of people who feel a certain affinity for the Ruahine ranges, and indeed other wild places as well. And especially gratifying to know that a few people now far away from "live" interaction with them can find a bit pleasure through this forum. I have found that many of the Ruahine hut books often contain the names of many who just pass through and never return, yet always there are the names of a few familiar to my eyes, a few I have even met along the way, who return to these spots frequently, and feel their own connection to this place. Please feel free to stop by and visit anytime to reconnect! I may even run into you in Feb. as I am planning a solo trip at some point then as well, and if not it will be good to know there is someone else roaming the Ruahines who feels much as I do. Happy tramping Tom.
Ka kite,

Gustav said...

Kia Ora Brother

Beautiful pics as always...

"Time and timeless"....yes the Ruahines have their own beat in the timelessness of time.


Anonymous said...

Kia ora, Robb!

I'm finally catching up a bit on your fantastic pictures, prose and poetry - all exhibiting tremendous depth and spirit. I especially appreciate the most recent poem, "Ruahine Revelations".

I added your blog to my blogroll, to make it easier for me (and others) to [re]visit ... and I've added the goal of experiencing the Ruahines first-hand to my list of things to do before I die ... or get too old.

Thanks for sharing!


Ruahines said...

Kia ora Gustav,
Cheers brother, you know and understand the pull of the Ruahine -and she still calls to you strongly!!

Kia ora Joe,
Thank you for your time in stopping in and your kind words. Reconnecting with you a few years back and then reading your own excellent blog was one of the biggest reasons I felt inspired to create my own and share these experiences with others. You are most welcome to come and experience the Ruahines and I would be proud and honoured to show you around.
Ka kite,

Anonymous said...

Hi brother,

Excuse my radio silence of late. As you know, I've been fully occupied completing the transcripts of the diaries my grandfather kept during his time on the Western Front during World War One. They make riveting reading and I feel like I'm climbing out of the trenches now that I have completed the project. Anyway, checking in on your website is always a relief from the daily mayhem of living in Korea. To put my existence here into perspective, it's a country of comparable size to the state of Indiana but with a population of 50 million. Busan, the nearest 'big' city to where I live, is the same size population-wise as the whole of New Zealand and my own city of Changwon, only 45 minutes away from Busan, is as big as Auckland. Today, as I look out the window, I can only just make out the dim ridgeline of the hills that surround me, despite the fact that they are only 500 metres in height and no more than a kilometre or two away. The reason for this is not the omnipresent industrial pollution or exhaust emissions. It's the Gobi desert making its annual spring pilgrimage in the form of 'Hwang-sa", the fine yellow dust borne on the easterly breezes that bring it from China all the way across the Yellow Sea (aptly named today) to Korea. Responsibilty for this phenomenon lies largely with the extensive deforestation that is taking place in China and the continual encroachment of humanity on the diminishing natural areas. Hwang-sa is laden with the heavy metals it collects en route and is toxic by any definition of the word. In this respect I think we Kiwis have a rare gift that few people pause to contemplate. That you can dip a cup in a Ruahine river and drink largely without fear of adverse results (I still like to think that chriptosporidium and the like have not breached the Ruahines' isolation yet)is a pleasure barely conceivable here. When I look at that photo taken of us at Top Gorge Hut, it brings back fond memories of that tramp. I remember us being pretty knackered when we got there after several days of mountain work and to just kick back and soak up the sun and the sounds of the bush was - like all of our numerous Ruahine experiences - magical. Even after six years in Korea I still miss the Ruahines a great deal but a huge part of any mountain experience I feel is the people who you venture into the wilds with. In the case of yourself and John, I never felt (nor indeed would feel) the slightest trepidation or doubt because I know from long experience that we are totally compatible in that environment, and that no foreseeable obstacle we encounter will be insurmountable. The beauty of the mountains is the nature of the choices you face isn't it? To go east or west, to go down or up, to finish that scotch now or tomorrow, to have rice or tuna. The alternatives are seldom unpleasant, and even if they are, you walk away from them feeling better for having had the chance to make the mistake. Well, brother, the daily tedium of paid graft calls. I have been in correspondence with Welsh Jon and I'm currently toying with the idea of us working in a visit to the Ruahines with you once more. Hard to say when this will take place, but be sure it WILL happen.

Be cool!