Friday, January 22, 2010


I have been having these strange dreams about the Ruahine as of late. The common theme seems to be walking amongst all the beauty and grace of the mountains, and most often with those whom I have been there with. We arrive at some far off destination and find loads people there, all sorts of noise and a confusing jumble of scrambling to find room. Last night it was just walking to Sunrise hut to find a road, cars and a petrol station up there! I wake up sweaty and filled with dread, then realize where I am. Separation anxiety perhaps? I hope so, but every day I keep waiting for this National government to show its true hand in regards to our wild places, and that combined with my own inability to Be There is leading to some very restless nights.

So it has been a real place of refuge to come here and peruse my library of experiences and recall the serenity and solitude such places still offer. The memories and sensations for instance of drinking from a mountain tarn high on the golden tussock tops of the main range as in the first photo. After a steep and sweaty climb up from Upper Makaroro valley to the tops these tarns are a welcome and beautiful sight, not to mention slaking a mighty thirst with the cold clear water. There are now signs at most of the huts which have water tanks warning of the risks of drinking untreated water, and there are those who will not drink from the streams, rivers, and tarns. I myself have never hesitated in my 17 years to simply slake my thirst in the handiest source nearby, and I recall a few times being extremely hot and thirsty with no water. A time with Nigel on a hot and steamy day on the Apiti track above Leon Kingvig hut. When we finally got down to the hut I literally staggered into the river and tried to drink it all. Or with Taylor and Jake on Parks Peak ridge, pictured above across from the tarn. It was a blazing hot summer day, and with two 9 year old boys on a long and undulating ridge we quickly ran out of water, resorting to squeezing drops of muddy moisture out of handfuls of moss. When we got to the old Parks Peak hut the sweet coolness of the nectar in that old tank was heaven. Those boys learned the real meaning of thirst that day - and I learned a bit more about tramping with young boys. Or the very first Ruahine tramp I ever did with Nigel and John in 1993. We climbed the dauntingly steep Gold Crown ridge, and on another hot summer day ran out of water long before we reached the car. I remember John and I standing on the ridge on the way down, far below us a shimmering ribbon of a waterfall which we could not reach. Fortunately we had left in the car a chilly bin, covered in ice and a six pack of beer. A cold beer never tasted quite so good as those, the best I ever had.

The old Parks Peak hut, and said water tank. In winter most often the tank was froze, and it is not an easy walk to get to, the area boggy and damp, yet it is place that I have been drawn to since my first visit there in 1997. I just stare as this photo evolves before my eyes, at the sights, sounds, the views of yonder, and moreso the amazing world of mosses, lichens, plants, tussocks, leatherwood, and twisted, gnarled and hearty mountain beech. This is the place perhaps more than any in these mountains which taught me to just slow down, to appreciate more my immediate world, all my being here in these few seconds, and really have a look around. You could be there forever and never see Everything. A place to just wander out to some point on the ridge and bash through a bit of forest, and find a place to just sit very still, Listen and Just Be. It is the most marvelous music ever. I will return here as soon as I can bear the 6 hour plus journey up this beautiful and yet arduous ridge.

Beauty is often in the eye of the beholder, and the Ruahine contains some 60 plus structures which could be called huts. I have been to 45 or so, some of my favourite spots numerous times, others only once. Above is Sparrowhawk bivouac - not a true hut in the sense the original structure was the back tiny portion. Really an emergency shelter placed just below the main range, and meant as a place to drop to when things are out of control, or getting close. There is enough room in that part for two sleeping bags, two bodies, a wee bit of gear, and that is it, and if you happened upon this place in such conditions you would consider yourself fortunate. The fact the front alcove has been added makes it a real bonus, it has a bench and a shelf to which to cook upon, and there are a few prime spots to pitch a tent if so desired. And the location itself is pretty sublime, high above the Makaroro valley and just a stones throw from the tops. Being situated in a little hollow gives it a unique almost micro climate out of the teeth of the nor'west gales common just above it. On this day John and I dropped down to it when the wind became too fierce up top and though our intention was to just have a cup of tea and lunch then carry on, the wind got even heavier and we decided to just stay the night. It was a fine afternoon and evening as we watched the clouds rip over safe in our little cocoon, and the next day, though still very windy and cold we carried onto Maropea Forks. I have never been back this way, but when I get my new hip I shall return. It calls out to me, an unreposing little gem.

An amazingly peaceful and calm early spring day at Lake Colenso. Nigel and I walked down into the basin containing the lake itself from Colenso hut, 20 minutes or above on a subsidiary branch of the Mangatera river. It is deep in the northern sector of the Ruahine, a reasonable walk from any direction, and a very unique and spiritual place. The Maori name for the lake is Kokopunui, as it was very productive source of kokopu, indigenous fish or trout, and there were apparently a few pa sites nearby established by local hapu for hunting, fishing, and gathering. With up to 150 metre cliffs surrounding the Kokopunui basin it is a wonderful view from high above it, a steep climb in and out of it, and a place of unique connection. I will return here as well. * My thanks to Kathy Ombler and her fine and often used guide - The Ruahine Forest Park. Still have my original copy from 1993!

The mighty stalwart beech - at some timeless moment to succumb to the irrestible flow and charms of the Pohangina river. Just above Ngamoko hut.