Monday, November 30, 2009


26 November, 2009
Late Afternoon
Oroua river flats
Ruahine range

I sit in the sun next to the river, the emerald pool deep and vivid, the song a gentle murmur as it gathers before the crescendo of the rapid below. I watch my friend Gustav above me on a mossy boulder tying a fly to his line, about to cast into the pool and lure a wily trout to do battle. The sight of my friend enjoying this river in the Ruahine brings a lump to my throat. We have a very short, but relevant, reunion here in this place we have traveled together many times now. Only this one afternoon and evening. We must leave in the morning as we have a Thanksgiving celebration and Tara's 40th birthday to prepare for. In this moment I am most Thankful to be here.

We walked into Heritage lodge, had a cup of tea, left our gear there, then walked the 45 minutes down here to the river. Gustav is roaming up and down the flats trout hunting. I am just enjoying the scene, gazing up further into the valley, Tunupo peak on the Ngamokos high above and the sun drenched golden tussock of the Whanahuias at the end of the valley. It is beautiful and while part me looks wistfully with wanderlust, the other part is content right here.

The boundary of the Ruahine with Tunupo peak and the Ngamoko range framing the Oroua valley.

Gustav photographing the sunlit beech leaves.

Above a creek on the way to Heritage lodge, a lovely stroll of less than an hour from the car park.

Gustav and I have been this way before. We came out via Triangle, Iron Gate and the old Heritage lodge back in 1998, the first multiple day trip I had done in the Ruahine at that point. A few years later he returned from the states and we did the first multiple day crossing of the ranges I ever did going via Top Maropea, Maropea Forks, Otukota, and out via the Mokai Patea where Nigel met us high in the mist with cold beers, the first person we had seen in 6 days. We spent one night of that trip camped on the Maropea in a one man bivvy as we ran into darkness and doubt. The next morning Gustav slipped on a rock slick with ice and broke his hand. It was only day 3 of a 6 day trip. That trip was a water shed moment for us both. For me, in realizing how much I loved this place and what it was doing to my soul, but how much I had to learn in order to travel safely here, understand conditions, and have the right gear. For Gustav, it was the whole direction of his life and what he was doing. Not long after he quit his job in San Francisco and moved to Tasmania where he still lives today.

Gustav returned again in winter 2005 and we went into the Maropea Forks area for another 4 day trip, a lovely one of full moon nights lighting up the surrounding snow covered hillsides in translucent purple light, and a raging snow storm witnessed from the warm and lovely confines of Maropea Forks hut, the Corker blazing and steak sizzling in the pan, wee dram in hand. We had learned a bit since the last trip.

So it has been almost five years since he has last interacted with the Ruahine, and indeed since I have last seen him. It is good to reconnect with old friends, to discover that even within the silence there is comfort and understanding and that at times there is no need for words. Judging by the contented smile on my friends face he understands that as well.

Above the Oroua river looking west.

A very likely spot for a nice brown or rainbow.

A man and the river.

A happy fisherman.

Gustav on the lovely veranda at Heritage lodge looking up the Oroua valley.

Joined by hut warden Jan.

The view from the veranda, in the far distance the Whanahuia range

26 November 2009
Heritage Lodge
Late evening

Really a perfect evening. One defining the meaning of friendship and Thanksgiving. We were joined on the early evening walk back up from the river by the hut warden, who was out deer hunting and fishing as well. Jan lives in the private quarters attached to the hut, and tends the hut and the trap lines put in for stoats and rats. He has a long relationship with the Tararuas in particular and is now in the Ruahine after a stint in Australia. He quickly noticed Gustav's high quality fly rod and they got into a animated conversation about trout and Jan set up Gustav with some gear to try in the morning. We had brought in a 6 pack of beer and a wee supply of fine whiskey and happily shared our bounty wth Jan, and the three of us sat on the veranda enjoying a beautiful evening, the colours delightful and alive, and the mood mellow and full of good cheer. Now the garlic and tarrogon enfused steak is ready to sizzle in the pan in the candle lit hut as the wood stove crackles. I think of the words of a Mose Allison song we listened to last evening.
"Mountain sheen, ocean shine
Miocene valentine
One such perfect moment
Never twice the same
Such a perfect moment
Will keep you in the game" - Perfect Moment, written by Mose Allison

The view from my bunk, the sun shining on the opposite face of the Oroua. Not a bad spot to wake up in.

A fine place for the first cup of tea of the morning.

From the hut to the river below.

27 November
Heritage Lodge

A stunning morning in the Ruahine. Brilliant blue sky, not a breath of wind, the far off Whanahuias glisten in the morning light. The lush green spurs running down into the valley perfect in their symmetry.

Gustav went down to the river early to get after some trout further upriver than yesterday - which Jan had spotted and showed us pictures of 3 hovering in the clear water. Gustav
indeed saw them but they were content and well fed, and just as they were not tempted by Jan they avoided Gustav's offerings as well. That is fishing. He did, however, spot a pair of whio that Jan had also seen and mentioned, and in my book that is by far a more successful result. They came to greet you and welcome you home Gustav!

I was content to linger here in the morning sun and enjoy the elixir of this day as long as I can. Just a wee taste of the mountains, and as I look up the valley again to the tops with longing eyes it is also fine to just sit here and linger in peace. Knowing what possibilities lie out there is enough for me in this moment.

A Happy belated Thanksgiving to one and all. Living in Aotearoa has made me appreciate the value of Thanksgiving even more. For no matter where we live we can find something to be Thankful for in our lives. Family, friends, and Wild Places to share.


betty-NZ said...

It's quite interesting how the Thanksgiving holiday lingers in the hearts of Americans, no matter where they roam!

Robin Easton said...

Dear Robb, Aaah you really are my Wild Brother. Of course this brought tears to my eyes, but you always do that. I don't think I've EVER read a post of yours without tears springing to my eyes. That is a really GOOD thing.

Man, my whole heart swelled with joy seeing you there with Gustav. You really are brothers. God, I wish I could have been there with you guys. It is so so beautiful. And your photos are just magical and priceless, the views, the flowers and light and moods of it all. The way you SEE the world and WHAT you see just fascinates me. I don't look at your photos as JUST photos. Every time I see them I think this is something that Robb stood there and was looking at. This is what HE sees and is drawn to. Somehow that really moves me. I get to see part of you because I get to see what you LOVE, what touches you, what inspires you. That is magic.

I swear your writing grows more deep and lovely with each post you write. Filled with intense love and passion for these times with the wild. The description of you and Jan and Gustav at Heritage Lodge that evening is just absolutely romantic in the sense of conveying deep comradeship, peace, trust and beauty.

I sure wouldn't mind Jan's job. :) Well, I will settle for getting over there one day so you can show even a fraction of what you explore. Maybe I can get Ophelia and my husband to come with me.

Although I've had little time to hike, I walk and jog along a high desert trail at dawn with a 20 - 25 pound pack on my back so I can keep fit for spring and summer mt. hiking in a another few months. ...But then, that is not why I really do it. As you know so well. I do it because I HAVE to do it, because I am called to do it, because it is part of me, it IS me.

Blessings to you my dear friend and I am so glad you had this time with Gustav. And yes, he looks VERY do you.

Aroha, Wild Heart.
Rave on!...always.

Ruahines said...

Kia ora Betty,
Thanksgiving was always my favourite American holiday, and for a few years we made a point of celebrating it here with my new family and friends but it sort of petered out after a few years. I always get a bit melancholy around this time so to have a mate from Wisconsin here and celebrate the occasion again was grand. Mind you, we had a beef roast on my Weber as what they call a turkey here is quite amusing and far too expensive! Hope you had a great Thanksgiving.

Anonymous said...

A post of wonder and delight - especially that last photo, such happiness! Belated Thanksgiving wishes to you and your family Robb. I think when we finally get to the High Country here in Australia in the coming weeks, we too will ease off our hiking boots, partake of a wee dram, and raise our glass to you and your inspiring posts.

Barry said...

Hi Robb. My wife's mother was a world traveller and saved New Zealand for one of her final trips. When she returned she said in was one of the most beautiful country's she'd ever visited.

And she had the photos to prove it.

One day I hope to find out for myself.

I really enjoyed your post and your photos.

Ruahines said...

Kia ora Robin,
Gustav and I have known each other for almost 30 years now, meeting at the University of Wisconsin back in 1982 when he lived in a flat above me. We became firm mates and even then seemed to relish the moments we had. Since then we have lived far apart, at times oceans apart, and our time together in person has been far and few between, yet the bond remains strong. So we both understand the importance of the moment, the need to extract the most out of each second in some way. And add the mountains to that and we literally fizz and pop. You understand what I mean. To be in that environment is a blessing for me at anytime, with such a huge part of my life is beyond words. I know you understand that as well.
There are certain spirits I always bring with me on the mountain journey. Wild Sister, you are one. Rave on. Kia kaha.

Anonymous said...

You are doing just fine Robb, just fine indeed. Looks to be spring time there, that make me ol' heart flutter a bit. It's good to know that someone's looking at flowers...

Me, I'm gonna take her easy for a week or two...if I can wait that long...

Thanks for the pictures though... it is wildness loved to be sure...

Ruahines said...

Kia ora Pam,
I am so glad to read and view of your stunning reconnection with your own old stomping grounds - beautiful. Thank you for your Thanksgiving wishes and I hope you had a great day as well. The thought of you raising a wee dram thinking of me so far away is very cool. I shall do the same in your honour.

Ruahines said...

Kia ora Barry,
Haere mai (Welcome) - your mother in law was a very wise woman. We are indeed a beautiful country but it is taking a lot of work to keep it that way and out of the hands of those whom view it only as a resource to be exploited.
It was really great, and inspirational to discover your place and your journey through Robin. There are times I feel very down about the condition of my hip, but to find those whom are fighting even bigger battles with the courage you exhibit is very altering. Kia kaha Barry.

Ruahines said...

Kia ora Lost Coyote,
Indeed it is actually the first days of summer brother! Though by the weather as of late tough to guess that. However on the short time my friend and I spent in the Ruahine the Mountain Goddess blessed us with perfect weather - everything was vibrant!
My strongest thoughts and aroha are with you LC as you endure your own treatment for what ails you. My hip held up well, and I contemplating another solo journey sometime during the Christmas holiday period. Can't stay away LC!
My finest wishes to you and yours for a beautiful and nature bountiful holiday season. Kia kaha brother!

KB said...

You've written a melodic description of your time with your friend by the river. It sounds like you had a peaceful and happy reunion. I agree with you, at times, it's enough to know that the mountains are out there, just existing, even if we aren't in the midst of them.

Sometimes, in our current deep winter, I visualize the places that I visited when summer was in full cry, and I try to imagine what those oases look like now. I imagine myself in those treasured spots and smile.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Wilma Ham said...

Hi Robb, I too love this adopted country of ours. I cannot imagine livng anywhere else.
Pleased to ehar your hip did not deter a visit to nature. As Robin says once you know it is there you have to go and visit often.
It has wizened your son up as well, you cannot visit these sacred places and stay numb to institutalization that happens in schools.
It unleashes our soul, that is what is happening and bless you both.
Love Wilma

Marja said...

Kia Ora Robb

First of all Belated Happy birthday to Tara, belated thanksgiving
Another blissful journey for you
What a gorgeous pictures. Aren't we blessed. Nice to have friends who share your love for the outdoors.
Speaking about the right gear, man that cost a fortune. I bought already a proper daypack and some shoes and socks with discount and that already costed me a rib But than again it lasts for a long time.
Very unusual in NZ to meet a man called Jan The name is very common in Holland but the Dutch emigrants
who are called who Jan all changed their name to John because Jan is a girls name here.
Anyway I see that you are well and wish you a happy weekend with a bit more sun than we had. Because the el nino we get a lot of rain this summer.Ka kite ano

Unknown said...

Robb and Gustav!

Wow. Together again. It's a funny thing when I think of how you both came into my life. I was full of expressing myself on my blog and now life has been a bit overwhelming where I can't quite put it all in writing like I used to.

But I'll be grateful for summer 2008 that brought you both into my life. It was kismet. It was what I needed, and this connection with New Zealand is growing in me. I'm planning a visit in a year or two and would love to hike as well (though I might be more of a reader than a fisherwoman, I'd love to sit on the banks of the river for awhile)

Hopefully I'll get to see it all through your eyes one day.

Much love to you, Gustav, and your family.

Ruahines said...

Kia ora KB,
Often times out here in the world I close my eyes and put myself in the mountains, on a ridge, by a stream, or sitting in the sun on some golden tops. It calms me. I am glad to read you do the same. Happy holidays to you and yours as well KB.

Ruahines said...

Kia ora Wilma,
Having dropped a few kilos has made a difference, even if slight, to my hip, and moreso to my ability to walk a bit more freely. So much so that I will keep it up in order to get away for a few days over Christmas on my own and going as light as possible.
Thank you for your most recent post, it was very moving for me, and for the words about my son. There are times I see that in there, part of the spark waiting to be lit. I hope he lights it. What else can I do? Thanks for being there Wilma.

Ruahines said...

Kia ora Marja,
Happy Holiday wishes to you as well. We had a lovely party encompassing both Thanksgiving and Tara's birthday. Gustav and I have a fair bit of time in the outdoors together so it was real cool to be there with him.
Indeed, the initial outlay for gear, at least good gear is not cheap, so choose wisely and don't be rushed.
When we first met Jan (Yahn), and he said his name I didn't get it, till I finally asked him what it was again. He was real good company, very knowledgeable and on the same sort of wavelength as Gustav and I, and I think he was glad of our company, if not the whiskey! I suspect I shall run into him again.
Happy holidays my friend. Skoal!

troutbirder said...

Would I love to go hiking in those mountains. My cousin in Portland spent some days hiking and troutfishing there as said it was fabulous. Lucky you!

Ruahines said...

Kia ora D'Arcy,
Yes, pretty cool eh! I miss your presence and the wisdom of your journey, but I certainly understand and respect your silence. The words are in there, and if they are ready to be shared you will know. I learned a lot about writing honestly through you and our exchanges, and count the connection made as relevant and true. You would have enjoyed the reunion and we did indeed raise a toast to you amongst the back drop of those mountains. My relationship with Guatav over the last 25 plus years has taught me that when amongst such treasures in our lives to not quibble, be mundane, or trivial, but rather live each moment as brightly as possible. That may read as a bit trite but I stand by it.
The Ruahines will be here my wonderful friend, and we shall see them through our eyes and souls.
I hope your sister is on the mend. Kia kaha my friend.

Ruahines said...

Kia ora TB,
Thanks. I reckon you would enjoy this place, and the trout! Though Minnesota/Wisconsin has a beauty all its own that I love dearly, it is this particular place which has captured my heart.

Bob McKerrow - Wayfarer said...

Kian Ora mate !

Another enjoyable read. Thanksgiving Day doesn't have much meaning for me but giving thanks to special people does.

Thanksgiving is a daily occurrence in my fragile world of disasters, poverty and greed, beauty and kindness.

Thanks to you and Tara Robb, for the kindness you have brought to this world.


Ruahines said...

Kia ora Bob,
Indeed, you more than most would appreciate the things we can truly find in our daily lives to be thankful for. In that way the meaning of what Thanksgiving was for me in a traditional sense has changed greatly since I have been here. I think it is a good thing to have those moments we are thankful for. Kia ora Bob, and my finest holiday greetings to you and yours my friend.

Ophelia Rising said...

Robb - I'm particularly struck, for some reason, by the view of the wild grass and flowers in the morning light - the one where you mention the first cup of tea. I want to stretch out in the sun there, and breath in the air, which I imagine is sweet and cool. And the view of the mountains - wonderful!

I'm so glad that you and Gus had the chance to meet up again and explore together. I wish, so much, that I had the opportunity to do things like this more often. But then again, I must make the opportunities for myself - it's all out there, it's just a matter of making it all happen.

Much, much love to you, and to your family.

Ruahines said...

Kia ora Ophelia,
That is exactly what struck me about that shot. The juxtaposition of the immediate sight, colours, and smell of grass, flowers, and fresh mountain air, set against that back drop. Many might find it a very ordinary photo with my little camera, but these are the ones which stay within me.
It was cool to catch up with Gustav, even if for those brief moments in the mountains. I felt many spirits there with us, yours included. As Van so eloquently sings, "These are the days of the Endless Summer"....
Much love to you and yours my wonderful friend.
Kia kaha!

Gustav said...


Just still kicking back and taking in all the memories with you, John Nash, and family and friends.

The best is yet to come.

Lynda Lehmann said...

ROBB - I thought of you when I read this article, and I think it'll resonate with you. The writing gets more specific and interesting on page 2, and I envisioned you there with your son.

If you chose to read it, I think you'll enjoy it. If not, that's fine. :)

Ruahines said...

Kia ora brother,
Fine memories indeed, ripening like fine wine. I shall look forward to our next series of hours.

Ruahines said...

Kia ora Lynda,
How incredibly thoughtful of you to think of me, and I shall look forward to reading it very soon. Cheers!

Paterika Hengreaves said...

Kia ora Robb

This is indeed a delightful post which provided me with an enjoyable read on Boxing Day. It is never too late for me to go back and read post which others have read when it is hot-off-the-press because, for me, the nature of your writings defy any sort of shelf-life. Nature in all its forms does provide us with many gifts for which we must be thankful even when mother nature spanks us for our uncaring behaviour. How effective will the upgrading of environmental laws have on mankinds'environmental behavior will be tested in the years ahead.

Thank you very much for sharing your thoughts and beautiful pictures.

Ruahines said...

Kia ora Paterika,
I think most places I visit via this medium, yours included, are treasure troves of beauty, information, stories, poetry, and real life. I spend a lot of time trawling back through posts on my favourite places, which only makes the present moment all the more relevant. I am so pleased to read you do the same.
I still worry about our wild places Paterika, and I fear at times our greed will out do our place here on Earth. I was on a drive and stopped beneath the wind mills in the foot hills of the Ruahine, and listened to these huge white pillars swishing in the wind, whooosh whoosh whoosh. New Zealand used to have the cheapest power for its citizens on the face of the earth. Now we are amongst the most expensive, many of our old people huddle in the cold during winter, children get sick. So exactly who does benefit from the pillars which swoosh round and round?
Kia ora Paterika. Kia ora for tuning in here, and Happy New Years to you and yours. I look forward to another year of connecting via our photos and words. Kia kaha.