Thursday, January 10, 2008

Summer Wanderings 2008

3 Jan. 2008, 5:30 a.m. Sunrise hut : I sit on the porch of Sunrise hut, alone with my cup of tea. And though the spreading illumination of the rising sun will soon rouse others from their sleep, this moment is mine alone. It has been far too long since I have interacted with the Ruahine ranges, and though they do not miss my presence, I have missed them terribly. The walk up in the early evening yesterday was a good way to reacquaint myself, as well as John, or in Jonathan's case be introduced to them, and two hours just enough to start with heavy packs. We sat up late into the evening, in our excitement, and yet I still found it easy to be up and ready to get to work. I already feel the magic. What will the next six days bring?

The Maropea river is as low as I have ever seen it, and this is my 13th venture down the river. The route, though always subtly changing, seems to instinctively guide me and pull me to all the right places to cross, or climb up to a benched bank for easy walking. Johnathan seems amazed, the crossing of the saddle was a windy one, John was knocked over once, and he soon realized the Ruahines beyond Sunrise is a different proposition. I keep an eye out near the familiar spots where in the past I have seen Whio, but none are around today, or I have just walked past them. Perhaps they are up in a cooler side stream, as it is hot and steamy even up here in the mountains.

5:30 p.m. 3 Jan. 2008 : Maropea Forks hut. This is my 14th visit to this lovely integral place, arriving here sometimes with other special people, other times alone. This place holds for me the memories of so many journeys into the mountains. In my mind, away from here, this is a place I often wander to escape the daily toils of the world. Yet, in my 14 visits here, my 14 plus years of traveling in these ranges, I have just now experienced the most disconcerting and disturbing incident in all that time. We arrived here after a 7 hour day on the ridge and river from Sunrise, settled in and sat on the porch with a cup of tea, when we heard the god awful thumping and muttering of a helicopter flying up the valley and landing outside the hut. It sat there as the pilot obviously saw us on the porch, I suspect debating whether to fly to another hut, then disembarked and came over stating he had 4 hunters aboard in for 5 days and that was that. They unloaded and he took off. The 4 hunters stood there amongst the coolers, suitcases, and gun bags, then trudged over to the hut, no doubt as disappointed to see us, as we were them. It was very awkward as only one hunter, the leader, tried to make any conversation, and that mainly around where there might be any deer about. So we went from complete seclusion to 7 people in a 6 bunk hut - they had no provisions for camping, merely assumed the hut would be theirs for 4 nights. I have spent many more than 14 nights here, and suspect I was long due for a meeting with other trampers, or even walk in hunters, but I found the intrusion of a helicopter very disturbing. It took them 7 minutes to fly in, us 7 hours to walk, and the differences in which we viewed the Ruahines were astounding. They had no interest in any intrinsic value to the mountains, merely saw them as a game range for potential hunting, the helicopter simply a time saving device. 7 minutes and 7 hours and never the twain shall meet. Do they hear the breezes blowing through the beech, the music of the side creeks joining the symphony of the river, or even simply appreciate the view? I think this is a huge issue, and as I write in my notebook, and feel tears well in my eyes, I feel in my heart the time has come to be a voice outside here for the Ruahines as best I can. How can I protect the mana heke iho of this place?

We were going to stay here for two days but will instead head over Puketaramea ridge and Otukota hut in the morning. The one advantage of their landing here and not flying off to another hut, is that we would then have known there would have been chopper hunters at either Otukota or Wakelings, and would have run into them at sometime. Might as well be now. I lost some of my naive Ruahine innocence today.

4 Jan. 2008 5:19p.m. : Otukota hut. Sitting in the shade outside the hut, the sun has been blasting at us all day long. Except for our initial grey sky, and in my case mood, ascent up to Puketaramea ridge from Maropea Forks. It drizzled on us and was very windy and cool as we worked our way up the spur, and once on the ridge we even were forced to don warmer gear and rain jackets for a bit. But after a wee bit of trouble finding the route through the open tops of Puketaramea, again as in 2000, the skies cleared, the sun shone, and my mind slowly gave itself to the beauty and energy of the forest ridge. I am forced to walk at a much slower pace due to my hip, yet this, aside from some pain, does not trouble me, the energy here is intense and I feel it flowing through me. The mosses and lichens literally glow in the sunlight, the ferns brush our legs with a gentle swhish, and the big beeches seem to pulsate in the sunlight. This is just what I need. Yesterday seems like a lifetime ago.

Taunga no te mauri (Inner Calm)

My path today was walked
as if in my own life
the search for inner calm always a battle
the words choke inside me
and I fight for air
the pain inside me which I own
the hurt inflicted upon me
perhaps deserved
the ups and downs of my own existence
mimic my thoughts on this ridge
Then there is the beauty
of seeing through enlightened eyes
if only briefly
moss and lichen illuminated by the sunlight
filtering through the forest
my sons being born
and You
Yet always I will wonder
in my dark moments
Are you through with me?

5 Jan. 2008 Otukota hut, 7:20 a.m. : I sit with my strong early morning coffee trying to drive the sleep from my eyes. I am sore and body is tired and I am very happy today will be a rest day. I can hear the Waikamaka river below the hut some 50 meters, and I suspect, as does the barometer, these few early morning clouds will burn away leaving us with another brilliant day. I can feel myself sinking into the connection I seek with this place, or myself?, and I want to remember this moment vividly so I can drink deeply from the memory of it later on. I feel like a child with the whole day ahead to do nothing but play.

5:50 p.m : What an incredible day this has been. I walked up river a few hours on my own and returned. It is a very big and lush river and will be much more of a challenge in the morning with a big pack. John and I spent hours in the afternoon roaming from pool to pool diving into the chilling embrace of the river. I have never experienced swimming like this in the Ruahines, when even in summer a quick and cold dive normally suffices. Today we were embraced by the river, swimming for hours, then drying in the hot sun, only to swim again. The bush around this valley is in very good shape, the spurs and ridges thick with trees and absent of the common feature slips for the most part. Even around the hut lie an abundance of flowers, mosses and lichens, perhaps the finest display of Lancewood, both juvenile and adult, I have seen, and even the cabbage trees are in flower, which I have never seen. I think we have all lost the sense of time and urgency pressed upon us in the world after 4 days here. We should all have the time to look at a flower in great detail.

I frolicked in the river today
with exuberance
the emerald pools
embraced my soul
tingling and soothing
allowing me
to enjoy her touch
as opposed
to our more frequent
and brief icy dances
I lay upon her
sun warmed rocks
and I listened
it was good to know
I can still reach
the child within

6 Jan. 2008 11:50 a.m. : Along the Waikamaka river : Time for a cup of tea in Nigel's old billy. Those billies have done some traveling in these ranges and for all the new fangled contraptions and devices they still work as good as any, and there is something very comforting about pulling them from my pack to boil a brew, dented and dinged but still up to the job. The Waikamaka, at least down lower by Otukota hut, is a big river, and technically a harder river to negotiate with a big pack. It is very gorgy, with huge boulders and log jams to be climbed over, and must be crossed carefully. We are fortunate the day is lovely once again and the river is low. I suspect it would be a real brute with even normal flow and certainly not negotiable if it was high. In addition to the river is the fact we are also climbing, from around 560 meters at Otukota, to around 850 up at Wakelings. I am ready for a cup of tea.

6 Jan. 2008 4:50 p.m. : Wakelings hut : I must focus on the here and now as already the end of this experience draws ever closer. Jonathan has walked up river to try and spot the Whio family nearby. I see Pete's name in the hut book and no doubt close by is where he took those wonderful shots of the Whios and chicks. I think I would burst into tears if I saw them right now. John is cleaning up the hut, all the bits and pieces of food and rubbish left behind. I rather think John's pack ends up heavier coming out than going in as he collects debris from our stops without fail or hesitation. This is the third time I have been here, but the first time I have had time to relax and enjoy the area. Back in 2003 John and I called in for a cuppa and to get out of the rain before heading up river to camp, and 2001 with Rick and Steve it was pissing down with rain and we simply curled up in the hut with a fire. It is a beautiful area, a lovely river straight runs down from the back of the hut with Te Atuaoparapara looming over the valley, some excellent swimming holes lie about, and this is our reward for a long river bash.

7 Jan. 2008 10:15 a.m. : On the ridge dividing the Waikamaka and Maropea valleys. I am alone, having left Wakelings hut early this morning on my own. Both for a bit of solitude and practical reasons due to my slower pace. I am where the ridge begins to descend steeply to the Maropea and I will wait for John and Jonathan to catch me, and I suspect they are not far behind. I enjoy climbing through the forest, and even at a slow steady pace it always amazes me how quickly height is gained. There are no open tops on this ridge, but yet it offers excellent views at certain points, and the forest walk is wonderful. It is very dry here, the greens somewhat muted storing its moisture I suppose, and a very distinctive tarn I recall on my two prior walks here is completely dry, the colour of rust, yet still soft and spongy. If I could, and one day will, I would find a spot in the forest, pitch my tent, and just sit there all day and night listening to the sounds of the high forest, absorb the energy of the twisted and stunted beeches, and fall asleep amongst the trees. But not today, I would imagine we are another hour or so from Maropea Forks, and then after a rest there, we will head up river to Top Maropea for our final night.

7 Jan. 2008 6:30 p.m. Top Maropea hut : It has finally begun to rain, and the sound of rain beating on the tin roof of Top Maropea is one I know well. This will be my 24th night spent here. My 25th will have to be a special occasion, though aren't they all here in this first place I stayed in the Ruahine ranges? It is somewhat melancholic to be here ending a trip, rather than beginning one, and though there is a fine line between melancholy and darkness it is a feeling I am riding with and I am fine.
It has been a long day, 4 hours from Wakelings to Maropea Forks, then another 4.5 hours from the forks to here. I have been toting along a small amount of Jameson's 12 year old Irish whiskey, a slightly sweet and nutty nectar, and will surprise the boys with a final little treat soon. As I suspected, the helicopter hunters left no entry in the hut book, the hut was clean but smelled like a greasy meat factory. We found a smelly deer haunch turfed into the bush near the hut, and a dead carcass, minus said haunch lie further up the river. The helicopter still seemed to echoe for me there.
John prepares the fire, always a challenge here at Top Maropea. Yet it soon crackles and roars under his expert tutelage We have lived simply and honestly for the past week. These are things I always strive to take back out into the world with me, but somewhere amongst all the responsibilities, requirements, and consumerism, it always seems to get harder to apply these lessons elsewhere. Yet simplicity and honesty are the very things Tara and I are striving for out there so I need to keep focused on what I feel here. Perhaps I need to, much like arriving at a spot like this at the end of a long day, just appreciate each day for the small things, or at least try to.


Anne-Marie said...

Kia ora Robb. So much to enjoy in this post, I don't know where to begin. Your photos are great, they give a good feel for the place. Swimming in a clear mountain river - I'm jealous!

"...and though they do not miss my presence, I have missed them terribly."

May be the mountains did miss you. Some one told me recently they believe a place can get to know a human just as well as a human can get to know a place, and I agree with that.

Ruahines said...

Kia ora Anne-Marie,
Thank you so much for your kind words. I greatly appreciate it. The wholeness and calm I feel right now may just be proof of your point. The Ruahines are still flowing through me.
I read of your recent work restrictions, and I hope your new lap top arrives soon as I have been enjoying your writings.
Any advice or help you can offer in helping keeping our rivers clean please count me in. When you look at and experience the beauty of a mountain river how can that not change someone? To contemplate the cess pools those same rivers become not far away from where they flow out of the mountains is just a travesty. I am on board. i also loved, as did my wife, the fact you organized the rally in Wanganui in reaction to the Tu Hoe raids. I do a lot of work in Wanganui, and though a lovely place, you are very brave and courageous to take that on in Wanganui.

pohanginapete said...

Yes, what Anne-Marie said. I read the post right through, and it took me back there; it's only been a few weeks since I was in the Ruahine, but it feels much longer. I wish you could've seen those whio, but i hope they, and their chicks, will be safe up there still. Actually, they were probably tucked up deep in a log jam somewhere.

Sad about the hunters, but I have to say many really do appreciate the Ruahine (and other wild places) — even some of those who do sometimes fly in. I've met hunters worse than those you encountered, but I've also met some great guys; real keen, hard blokes who'd walk the legs off me yet were also on the same wavelength. Let's hope those sorts continue to far outnumber the occasional ratbags. And, I do think there's merit in pushing for a "fly in only" policy, perhaps starting with certain times of year and specified areas. I think it'd certainly weed out some of the guys who go in just to live it up and shoot and drink and leave the place in a mess. On the other hand, it'd be a shame to deny access to people who, whether for reasons of age or infirmity, would never be able to reach some of those areas. But a line will always have to be drawn somewhere.

And I agree with Anne-Marie's last point. I do believe that places, in some sense, come to recognise those who visit them often and who pay attention, who respect the place. In short, open up to the place and it will respond. But I really don't think I need to tell you that. I'm pretty sure you know it.

Cheers Robb.

Ruahines said...

Kia ora Pete,
Glad you checked in. Yes, I have to agree I too have met hunters who see things the same as I do. And I also enjoy some nice venison from to time. As you referred to earlier I may be in danger of approaching elitist, if not hypocritical, views here, especially when I quite possibly might one day need the aid of a chopper to stay in touch with the mountains. It is just a shock to have a chopper dropped in your lap in that beautiful spot.
I have been in touch with DOC, and understand they are looking at a system whereby there are limitations on when and where choppers can land and John and I will be following that up. At least it would give trampers, or other hunters the ability to find out if there are any chopper parties in a particular area so as to adjust plans and routes.
Thanks to both you and Anne-Marie for pointing out the possibility of a connection between a soul and the mountains. Perhaps I do realize that inside, and prefer that line of thought anyway, so why not embrace it. Look forward to staying in touch Pete.
Ka kite,

Anonymous said...

I have lived under the shadow of Te Atuaoparapara and Rangioteatua on the upper reaches of the Tuki Tuki for most of my life and find your blog and photos very satisfying over those long weeks when we are always saying "Haven't got time". My husband often sees your name in the book at Waikamaka or Top Maropea and had not come across your blog until I introduced it to him late last year.He has now started putting some of his tramps onto Google Earth. The new technology can sometimes go really well with the old.
Don't give up the blog just yet as
for those of us unable to get up and over the Waipawa Saddle that often, we can follow you instead.
Happy Tramping

Gustav said...

Kia ora brother

You never do anything small do you my fine friend?

Your latest blog entry is massive and affirms that you have not given up on bringing the beauty of the Ruahines and your ideas to the world.

Anne Marie's idea of a place interacting with humans or other creatures rocks...

My daughter laughs at me for talking to my plants as I water them.

When you stroll through the heart of the Ruahines you are welcome for you love her and she loves you.

Do the Ruahines love the flying helicopters that buzz in the hunters and their guns?.

I dare say no - the helicopters are like relentless mosquitos that bite the Ruahine Mistress on the arse. Helicopters should be reserved for rescues and fires and not for lazy hunters.

If people cannot reach these places because they are physically incapable they should visit Robbs blog and not ruin the tranquility and majestic winds of those gracious mountains.

One day I too will succumb to old age and not be able to traverse those steep ravines. But I cannot imagine being flown into a hut and flown out like a piece of baggage.

The Ruahines deserve better. Remember its the journey and not the destination.

Ruahines said...

Kia ora nexus,
Wow, thanks for that, Really is nice to know that there are folks out there who know and appreciate what is behind this. I guess it is a way for me too to travel back there when I am away. I envy you being able to see the real mood of the Ruahines on a daily basis. That area in particular is the one I am most often in and seems to keep calling me back. Stay in touch and enjoy.
Ka kite,

Cheers, brother. You know what a spiritual place this is, there has to be a way for all outdoor enthusiats, of all types, to enjoy. Perhaps this is the path to seek.

Anonymous said...

Hey Robb,

Sorry it has taken me so long to comment on the blog mate but I'm working at a disadvantage as the instructions are in Korean on my computer and being the technophobe that I am it's enough to leave me gun shy. Anyway, Young-hae has shown me what to do it so.... I love the blog! It takes me back to all the tramps we have done together in the Ruahines over the years and the vicarious experience of living the Ruahines through your accounts is the next best thing to being there when you are 7000 miles and a hemisphere away. Before I forget, the photo you added of Maropea Forks taken slighly downstream of the hut is very cool. Every shot I have ever taken of that magic place has done it a serious injustice due to my lack of photographic talent. I really love the photo of John and Jonathan wading through that foliage too. A great shot and a good angle. I have scanned all the Ruahine photos I have here in Korea and will forward them to you soon. Sadly, I was a little disappointed with the quality. For some reason that I haven't deduced as yet they seem a little grainy. Maybe that's just because I'm viewing them in enlarged format on my computer screen. Anyway, brother, I'm rambling. To cut it short - the site is excellent and as long as you keep adding to it you will have an avid reader here in Asia. Rest assured brother,we will tramp in the Ruahines together again.

Ruahines said...

Kia ora Nige,
Cheers for that. Getting feed back and participation from you guys in particular was what I had in mind when originally doing this, that it is as much for the RTC as it is for me. I look forward to getting those photos from you again, grainy or not, as I had a few future posts planned with them when the computer flagged it. I genuinely anticipate the day we once again hoist packs together in the Ruahines, and your spirit is always with me there.

Anonymous said...

Kia Ora Robb,

I was just reading Gustav's comment about the journey being more important than the destination and thinking how apt that statement is, both in the serenity of the Ruahines and in the chaos of life in general. I've always considered regrets to be essential useless as you can't change what you have done (or alternately, have not done) so beating yourself up about it has no value that I can see. I think learning the lessons taught along the way is far more fruitful. It is 6.30am here in Korea and once again the Hwang-sa is severely reducing visibility. The daily hike I do in the hills near my house will have to wait. A lung full of Chinese heavy metals doesn't appeal this morning. Relish New Zealand brother. I think embracing the jewels it so selflessly offers can never be taken fr granted, though sadly many do. It is the complacency born of indifference that leads to the decline of natural gifts like the Ruahines. If you don't get out and see what is at stake, it is infinitely harder to feel motivated to work at protecting it. You mentioned John's collection of trash from the huts, and that is a prime example of what Kiwis need to do. How many times have we walked in the Ruahines and suddenly come across a discarded sweet wrapper or the like? Even something small like that is an affront to the beauty that surrounds it. Here in Korea I see on a daily basis trash discarded thoughtlessly in the woods where I hike and it honestly makes me despair for the future of the country. If you take the time and make the effort to put yourself in that position, why would you then disrespect it by soiling it with human trash? It's beyond me. I recall going to that idyllic waterfall at Parakawhai just south of Whangamata once and as I sat down to take in the beauty seeing beer cans that some schmuck had lugged in there then tossed off the top of the waterfall into the riverbed below. I climbed down as far as was safe and collected several, but others remained inaccessible and had to remain there. What mental processes cause a human to carry heavy beer cans into the forest for an hour and half, enjoy the contents, and then feel OK about about dumping the remnants? I think it's like a dog pissing on a tree....the strangely human need to leave a mark of some kind on nature. Personally, I would have happily consigned the culprits to the river bed below. At least they are biodegradeable. It's spring here in Korea now so enjoy autumn in NZ.


Ruahines said...

Kia ora Nige,
You introduced to me to the Ruahines. Your acceptance of me,and our friendship as a result is priceless to me. I took Gustav to Parakawhai, we camped there for a night,mostly with your gear and generosity ! No beer cans were there that day, though any flood rolling through that spot would easily remove man made shite. It was an amazing spot. I take the Ruahines Very Seriously - in an Edward Abbey sense. I would give my life to protect it's Mana heke iho as relevantas I can?