Saturday, October 23, 2010

Waiata o te tawhairauriki ( Song of the Beech)

17 October 2010

Robb - solo
Parks Peak hut
The wind howls over the hut like a thousand freight trains that never slow down, shaking and rattling the hut at its moorings. So much so I cannot even hear the rain bouncing on the tin roof. No matter, inside the hut I have the fire going just quietly, I have a cup of tea in hand, I am dry, warm, and well. Originally I was headed for another part of the mountains, but then saw the weather forecast calling for gale force winds and rain, and that is not even in the mountains! So I instead, on the basis of my now eleven trips up and along that long steep arduous, but oh so beautiful ridge, knew I would be relatively protected from the elements by the tough and gnarly tawhairauriki (mountain beech) whom would ward off the most intense of the wind, as they do all their lives. It was a decision based upon experience and knowledge of these mountains. I feel good about that. It meant a longer, tougher walk with a very heavy 4-5 day pack, and one I felt a bit wary of with my new hip to be honest. It is a long ridge, a long day in the saddle. In the more exposed places today I could feel the ground rolling underneath me as the beech battled with the wind, I heard trees falling over in the forest. And I did huff and puff up that ridge, stop at times and gather myself for the next steep climb. Almost 6 hours. I am here.

Looking down into Makaroro valley from the ridge

Winding through the tawhairauriki. A wonderful place I am always glad to see. A long climb is past.

A section of Parks Peak ridge, the constant up amongst the up and down nature of the ridge can be seen.

"Sitting here now at Park's Peak hut

I might consider a form of Heaven
I've walked up that steep ridge a few times now
By latest count eleven
I've done it alone
I've done it with mates
I've done it with my son and his friend
The one common factor in all the above
that bloody ridge never seems to end
Though now I am here full of good cheer
Planning my next mountain trip
I may have walked slow
I may huff and puff
but it ain't from no pain in my hip"

The mountain meadow outside Parks Peak hut. A plethora of alpine plants, lichens, moss, tupare, and tawhairauriki.

The wind still howls over, but the rain stopped and the sun came out, allowing me to get outside and roam this lovely high mountain meadow a wee bit. At the other end of the meadow lies the site of the old Parks Peak hut, an old 4 bunk affair, small, cold, with a cranky wood stove and dubious wood supply. But how I loved that hut, was always glad to see it's orange roof appear, knowing the walk was done and the billy would soon be boiling. I gaze across to where it was through the rain streaked window of this new comparatively luxurious hut at the other end of the meadow. I loved that old hut, yet I have now created memories here in this one as well. I am falling in love again at the other end of the high mountain meadow.
Looking down into the Makaroro valley and the main Ruahine range up above. My destination lies down at the bottom of the valley on the Makaroro river.

Upper Makaroro hut

I was up long before sunrise and headed out just as it got light enough to see. I wanted to be in the forest early as it came to life for the day. I could barely stand upright in the gale outside the hut and was glad to retreat into the forest and starting heading down to the valley. The light of the new dawn cast an ethereal pallor upon the forest, and as I headed further down into the big trees I began to hear the tawhairanui moaning as they swayed and sighed in the wind. The forest had a raw wild ancient feel to it. Storms always heighten the character of the mountains. I walked very slowly, and just let myself go into the energy swirling about. Even walking very deliberately it seemed like I arrived here in mere moments. I guess I did.

It is still windy down here by the river and it is very cold, the sun comes out, then goes away, and the rain chases me back to the hut. I am content to just roam the river flats, and hope a whio will grace me with it's presence and say Kia ora! I can just watch the sunlight play upon the clear cold water, and slake my thirst from her sweet nectar. And at the hut I have my book awaiting, Naked in Eden, written by my friend Robin. A story of her move to the Australian rain forest and becoming Connected to the Earth, Becoming Wild. It is a brave and moving story as she unfolds into her real being. I feel connected to her as I roam amongst this wild place quietly and reflect upon her words. An amazing place to interact with the written word.

Climbing down the final spur to Upper Makaroro hut. I love the horoeka (lancewood) in front of the photo. It has been there since I first made it down here years ago, and continues to grow and cling to life on the eroding cliff face from which it has grown. Always good to see and hear the muttering river after the climb down, see the hut, and greet an old friend. Almost there.

The other direction, a bit lower. How cool to see the colours of the river emerge. Though this is no place to take ones eye of the ball. Ruahine drops to rivers are invariably steep, often becoming near vertical as the final 100 metres or so approach.

The forest sidling along side the tawhairauriki grove after a severe climb out of the valley. A sublime part of the forest.

Evening - Upper Makaroro

The rain still splatters on the tin roof, the wood fire quietly taking the edge off the damp cold. The sun, even in summer, does not take long to leave this narrow part of the valley behind. It adds to the remoteness.

I sat down by the river today when ever I could get out amongst the sun. I sat in front of the emerald pool where the river has bunched up beneath the cliffs, before releasing into a calm flat run where I can gaze through the clear water as if it is not even there and see the colour of each stone, each pebble, then she steadies herself for the long drop ahead where it gathers strength and is doing Her work gouging out the valley even deeper. Then she winds around a corner with the graceful presence of a ballerina, leaving me stunned and wondering what is around that wonderful bend. Mountain rivers will do that to you. I can content myself today knowing that I have been around that lovely bend many times now.

It is pretty cool to return to these wild rugged mountains and know I have history here, that I have climbed up and down both sides of this valley, up and down the river, seen the whio fly by this very spot. My heart bursts! Every moment here is new.

19/10/10 Parks Peak

I crossed the river, her song loud, clear and soothing, and then I put my boots on and just there Listening. Then I began the long, arduous, steep climb back up to here. About an hour in, the track meets a large long grove of old growth tawhairauriki, ambles along side for awhile before steeply heading back up the spur to the ridge. Moments to enjoy. I just waited for the living breathing forest to tap me upon my shoulder and tell me to stop and just be here. The symmetry and energy of the big trees, the glens of fern, and the mosses and lichens lighting the path ahead, connects me with my own Wildness, and though I am far and high above the mountain river, I still hear her in my heart.

My gear is dry on the line above the fire. My boots, upside down and drying out, have earned their keep over these four days in the mountains. I am warm. I have seen no one for days since I left my car and crossed the flooded river. I have roamed these stormy wonderful mountains. I am here!



Thursday, October 7, 2010

Mountain Time

Come take my hand
Sit with me
We shall take refuge
from the din
Just for a few moments
we shall live
by the sound
of the river
and let the colours of her moods
be the only measure
of mountain time