Wednesday, June 25, 2008


The above photo, courtesy of the New Zealand Deer Stalkers Association, is Top Maropea in 1959. I came across it and just sat staring at it. It seemed to speak to me, almost as if waiting for me to discover it. How many nights, or hut bound afternoons waiting out a storm, or even fine ones lazing about doing not much at all, have I wondered about this place, the men whom have spent time here culling deer, the storms this hut has withstood, the changes in the mountains it has been witness to observe. A few posts ago, Celebration, was in honour of my 25th night spent here, and in a very humble way I must believe no one person has interacted with this place more than I have in the last 15 years. So in a way I feel that I too have become part of the lore of Top Maropea, and the emotions this photo invoke in me are many.

The hut was only 3 years old when this photo above was taken. Though it has been refurbished, most of the structure today is the original hut seen above,the chimney, roof, guttering, interior lining, and fireplace all have been replaced, and the hut has been designated as an historical land mark, one of the original cullers huts in the north island, and certainly the Ruahine.
It was not, apparently, the most popular place amongst the cullers to pull duty in. It is relatively high at 1242 meters, burnable wood for a fire hard to come by for a night, much less to cook on and warm one's self morning and night day after day. Also observing the above photo and noticeable lack of a water tank to capture rain off the roof, getting a drink or boiling the billy would have been the best part of an hours journey to and from the stream far below the hut. In winter, after the fire dies, it is like sleeping in a refrigerator.

Still, this place calls to me and always will. I have seen it on the most sublime of days and nights, and got my stuff packed and dressed at 3:00a.m. when I thought the hut was going to be blown away. I have seen the snow glow translucent on the surrounding peaks on a full moon, and just sat in the hut contemplating, looking out the fly specked window, the rain beating down on the tin roof. Taylor has been here, Charlie's placenta buried here, I have howled at the full moon with Gustav, and alone, and with many other special people I have journeyed here with as well. I have had many wee drams in my tin cup, a candle illuminating from the hut window as I sit outside enjoying it's charms.

So this photo echoes strongly for me. As if I can sense those that perhaps even begrudgingly felt the beauty still have their spirits swirling about this place, these mountains.

The above photo was taken this past May, 2008. A photo of Adam sawing up some beech and leather wood on a plank dropped off by helicopter for the new loo - toilet. The old one had its roof blown off in a blizzard and storm I was witness to, and the rest of the disintegration was simply a matter of time. In any case, it can be seen not a lot has changed in the appearance of Top Maropea. The hut has retained its original appearance, the addition of the water tank a good one, as is the new chimney. The affects of deer control can be seen by the encroachment of the bush near the hut, and on the far off hill sides in comparison to the 1959 photo. The gouged out area in front of Adam is the helicopter pad, certainly not needed in 1959, and even now simply a nice place to pitch a tent if need be, on all but extremely rare occasions when a helicopter might land. There are times when I enter the hut, door creaking, the smell of old wood smoke filling my senses, I half expect an old culler to swing the billy over the temperamental fire and offer me a brew, and while a way the hours listening to stories and the history of these ranges.

Back in 2005 I did a 3 day solo trip into the Pohangina valley. It actually turned out to be 4 days as I was forced to spend an extra night at Ngamoko hut due to inclement weather on the tops, but that is another story. From the time I climbed down from the Ngamoko's to Leon Kinvig hut in the upper Pohangina valley, I was filled with the sense I was not alone on this journey. Not in a scary or threatening manner, just a gentle feeling of another presence there with me. I also knew that Leon Kinvig hut is named for a deer culler who drowned in this area back in the 1950's. Sitting outside the hut in the sun I began to read one of the more interesting hut books I have come across. What stood out to me was the number of entries in recent years from men who had spent much of their younger days living and working in the area as cullers, possum trappers, or for the New Zealand Forest Service in various capacities. Men who returned here now after so many years gone by perhaps to take a last look at a place that impacted them as younger men. They wrote with great clarity, perception, remembrance, humor, and dignity in their observations of then and now. It added to this feeling of not being alone, as if I should put the billy on for my fellow companions. The river rolls by still.


My footsteps are left here for the first time
The solo journey always adds to the remoteness
Yet I know deep inside I am not alone here
That for various reasons
this rugged mountain river
has touched many
The voices echo off the steep valley walls
their succinct memories etched briefly
yet beautifully and poignantly
As they return here after far too many
years gone by
As if knowing time grows short
and thus return to the places
which meant the most
to their Youth
Listen to the River!
Listen to the Wind!
Their voices Dance with mine
And though I have seen no one for days
Only Ranted and Raved
and spoken the Truth to myself
I have never felt alone
How could I?
The echoes are all around

written on the Pohangina river Novemeber 2005
Photo of rapid was taken and loaned by Pohangina Pete. Pete's photos and writings can be better viewed and read at:



Anonymous said...

This was wonderful to read Robb.Thank you for taking the time to visit my blog. There is a writing exercise there at the moment, which you might enjoy. I know I would be fascinated with your outcomes as I love the "sense of place" and history in your writing.

Unknown said...

Robb, I have come back three times today to look at that first photo. There is definitely some underlying soul to that place that peeks through to the core of the viewer, isn't there? Wow.

Thank you for the history of this small, seemingly insignificant place in this vast world. Many would pass over it in search for something more grand, more important, and maybe more flashy. The fact that you have take the time, again and again, to return to this land, this place, this spirit of the mountains is evidence of the soul within you. You recognize beauty, you connect with it, and you return to it.

Your ventures here seem to be different every time, with a new lesson learned. While I love the newness of my next adventure and seeing what it beyond the next peak....I still have a few spots that I must return to, because i think I might have left part of my soul it's good to go and visit often...and feel whole.

Marja said...

Kia Ora Robb. How nice that you have your own little sacred place to go to. A safe heaven away from the business of the world.
I slept in many huts when we had scouting camps. I remember the flies and the cold and all the sounds at night but foreall I remember the shared spirit, songs and a sense of belonging.
You poem is nice I love the last sentence "the echoes are all around"

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much, Robb, for such a beautiful and touching story. It really affected me deeply, and still does. I love thinking about the connections we have with all people who have passed here before us, and find comfort that we are a part of them all, in a very profound way.

The fact that our footsteps follow in many before us, that we are all bound together on this journey here on earth, helps me believe that anything is possible in this lifetime.

Thank you for sharing the wonderful poem, and also the photos. And for reminding me how deeply connected we are to one another.

MB said...

Robb, it's an interesting history to which you are thoughtfully adding your own. Kia ora.

Ruahines said...

Kia ora Pam,
Cheers for your words, and I appreciate your visits here, as well as finding your interesting writing and poetry. I can't explain that "sense of place" I found in theRuahines. Sometimes I think They were always waiting for me to just come home.
Ka kite ano,

Ruahines said...

Tena koe D'Arcy,
Kia ora for recognizing that sense of something in the photo that keeps drawing me back as well.
Top Maropea will never be a highly prized tourist destination, and that is fine with me, as quite simply the beauty of the area takes my breath away. Maybe some of that is the Connection I feel when I am there in the Ruahines, and even when I am not amongst them. They always seem to be whispering in my ear.
I just re-read a very cool book written by a very serious Kiwi mountaineer, who also happen to be a teacher of ancient Chinese philosophy. What I love about it is his acknowledgement of in spite of being an expert mountaineer he still feels anxiety and fear, and self doubt on his solo travels, even in familiar terrain. Each journey, even in known areas, is new. There are always lessons to absorb, conditions always vary, and so I will continue to return to places I love. Who knows? Maybe one day you will see it for yourself! Kia ora.

Ruahines said...

Kia ora Marja,
You are a treasure! Cheers for your words, "safe haven", so true!
Many timers Marja, the memories of huts can be more enjoyable than staying in them! Kia ora.

Gustav said...


I heard some echoes when we connected on my birthday.

How cool is it to return to old places in our minds and laugh?

Top Maropea is you.

We all connect to different places in time.

There was the UW Madison Terrace, The Carribou, Mifflin Street, Green Bay Packer Stadium, the Boundary Waters, Glicks, and
now in New Zealand its Top Maropea which is a deep echoe that will resonate with the footsteps of your sons, grandsons, grand daughters, and grand friends perhaps for centuries.

Maya cannot wait to see Top Maropea with Taylor and Charlie.

This is your gift, and the gift of Top Maropea, you and it are One.

Thanks again for being a brother of the highest order.

Bob McKerrow - Wayfarer said...

Kia ora Robb

Old huts in the hills and mountains have a character which is so hard to describe. You can feel the past and present, you become part of it, and it part of you. When you lie back in the bunk you can hear the voices of the old deep cullers, the Forest Service rangers and the boots of the trampers.

I enjoyed your words "I feel that I too have become part of the lore of Top Maropea, and the emotions this photo invoke in me are many."

I spent years in huts as a young fella in the South Island in storms, blizzards, sunny winter days and courted a few young lassies too. Spent many a night with shooters sharing their venison. Thar and Chamonix. What memories your story evokes! For me, 1966 as a 17 year old in the Forgotten River shooters hut with the peaks of the Olivine ice plateau towering above, is probably my best memory of being in a hut. I could go on and on........

Take care my brother


Amy said...

Robb, it's been interesting reading about your connection and adventures. I admit I am too much of a wuss to do any hiking that would require me to sleep in a hut with strangers, although I wish I weren't so wimpy. Reading your blog is making me rethink.

Ruahines said...

Tena koe Ophelia Rising,
Cheers. I guess in the absence of any concrete connection to organized religion I do find a faith and belief in the patterns and the flow of Nature - something we are all indeed Connected to and part of, past and present.
Ka kite ano,

Kia ora MB,
As I have no doubt mentioned to you before there is indeed a rich and colourful history behind manyof these huts, and the voices of the past do indeed echo strongly for me. Cheers.

It was indeed a fine moment to talk "live" on your special day. I believe you and I have been able to achieve a very nice balance of remembering the past while continously advancing our friendship. And the importance of that can never be under estimated. I look forward to seeing the red roof of Top Maropea appear again for us, and Maya. Kia ora my friend.

Ruahines said...

Kia ora Bob,
I thought of you when I saw this photo and this post began to take shape in my mind. I would love to share a wee dram with you sometime and listen to some of your old stories!
Also just about to finish off the Teichelmann book. An excellent read Bob, superb job. I love the fact both he and his father were so accepting of the indiginous cultures, and his old mans work in preserving that Aboriginal dialect is pretty amazing. I am just into his roaming and explorations of the mountains, and it excites me for my own trip coming up in 3 weeks. His photos are really world class. A great book to have on my shelf Bob, one of those, like Aat's, that it is so easy to return to like an old friend. I hope I can get you to sign it for me one day. Kia ora.

Ruahines said...

Kia ora Amy,
Haere Mae - Welcome. There have actually only been a very few occasions I have had to share huts with anyone, and always the folks who travel to such places are there for similar or at least interesting reasons. I also carry a tent most of the time both for emergency shelter if required, and insurance of my privacy. I hope you do get out and enjoy some of that beautiful Wisconsin nature. Kia ora Amy.
Ka kite ano,

HWHL said...

Hello Robb - how are you?
D'Arcy and I are busily working on the screenplay version for the wonderful love story of how you and Tara wound up together (we were both so moved and touched by what a wonderful romantic love story it was!)

I believe I have come up with the perfect duo to play the two of you.... I think Viggo Mortensen should play you (he has that rugged, outdoorsy, thoughtful thing going on), and Charlize Theron can play Tara (a beautiful blonde, with a strong will, and very intelligent).

Do you like the casting choices?

(D'Arcy and I are having fun with this, as you can tell!) :-)


ghreeblestaff said...

Here there is much of splendor!
You have many who enjoy your accounts and photos, and that makes me glad. You seem to be making something grand of your efforts, and you see so much goodness in the things and people around you.
This is wonderous 'tino pai.'
Thanks for stopping by my reflections and leaving word, I feel blessed through your musings- I plan to keep an eye close on this site in the future.
All the very best to you and yours,

Marja said...

Kia Ora Robb I got an award for you. Come and pick it up

Ruahines said...

Kia ora Hwhl,
Appreciate your kind thoughts. Tara suits your choices better than I. At one time I cut a slightly dashing figure, but might be more suited to someone like John Goodman these days! Cheers.
Ka kite ano,

Ruahines said...

Kia ora Adam,
Cheers mate. I enjoyed dicovering your place as well, and see a bit of common ground, and new thoughts, to discover and learn from. I guess that is one of the coolest aspects of this mode of communication and putting stuff out there. Have an excellent day.
Kia ora.

HWHL said...

I have bestowed an award upon you and your blog for being a "beautiful place" and for teaching us about the wonders of New Zealand (a land I knew so little about before). Come on over to my blog, and you can "pick up" your award! :-)


vegetablej said...

Hi Robb:

"ranted and raved and spoken the Truth to myself... the echoes are all around."

Love the ideas in this poem. I wonder how many of us really have the courage to speak the truth to ourselves, or really even try to discover what that truth is? At least you have found a contemplative place to listen and hear the echoes of wisdom, whether they be of people absent, or nature, very present, or even yourself.

I've not forgotten your pizza crust recipe but wonder if it wouldn't be better to email? You can send a message to if you like and I'll send it right along.

Happy trekking! :)

Ruahines said...

Kia ora HWHL,
Cheers for that!
Ka kite ano,

Tena koe VJ
I will be along soon for the recipe, cheers.
Kia ora for your words on the poem as well. It can be a hard thing to share, but I just do it anyway, and that one means a lot to me, the moment, the words coming to me in such a special place, and the feeling of those echoes around me for those 3 days. I am lucky to have this place where things seem more open and make more sense to me. Cheers.

Nature Nut /JJ Loch said...

This has to be the MOST BEAUTIFUL BLOG EVER!!! I love your photos, your stories, your life. How blessed you are!!!


Ruahines said...

Kia ora JJ,
You are really too kind! But thanks and I am glad you enjoy it. I am enjoying your writing and photos as well. Cheers.

Paterika Hengreaves said...

Kia Ora Robb

My virtual climb to the top of Maropea with you as the leader of the ascent was most enjoyable. The echoes that welled out from the fantastic imagery were most profound. The summary as encapsulated in the poem was superbly done. Oh I love the rhythmic flow of the lines in the poem. ..."Listen to the River! Listen to the Wind! Their voices Dance with mine...The echoes are all around." I do like it when you infuse poetry within your ruahineramblings. The mixture of prose and poetry bring vitality to my cognitive sparks. Thank you very much for sharing your thoughts of yesterday and now. Shall be back to read more of your stuff after a visit to