Thursday, January 20, 2011

Charlie meets Top Maropea and Tawhirimatea (God of Wind)

The sun begins to wane on a beautiful day at Top Maropea. The moon emerges over Remutopu and Oropu in the distance.

Charlie by the very shrunken tarn on Armstrong saddle.

13 Jan. 2011
Top Maropea - evening
Robb Kloss
Charlie Kloss

In the "backyard" at Top Maropea once again, and so soon back in the Ruahine after my last interaction. I like that. I am absorbing the last of the sun's warmth, crossing the saddle this afternoon the wind died, the clag lifted, and suddenly it was a glorious day.

And with me now lying stretched out in the sun yawning and napping is Charlie Kloss. To celebrate my 30th evening here at my favourite Ruahine spot with him makes my eyes brim as I write this. I can think of no other finer company to share this moment with me, aside from my other son Taylor. Introducing Charlie to this walk, this spot, Charlie's Cairn, to see him today and watch him endure a long walk and interact with these mountains, was, is, a Gift from the Ruahine. Such days are rare up there.

Taylor has been here many times, Tara has been here once, this is my 30th night here, and Charlie's first. This place has meaning for us. It is part of our story, part of our history. It is beautiful. This is a powerful place.

Charlie heading up "The Gut", climbing from the saddle to the top of Camel Back ridge the crux of the climb. Especially for young legs.

Charlie at the top of the ridge, tired and getting sore feet. Not too far to go now. Most of the problem with his feet we realized comes from the fact he rarely wears any shoes at all, much less for 5-6 hours climbing and dropping on such terrain. He may have been better off barefoot!

Camel Back ridge.

About to descend into Maropea valley.

Charlie sleeping in the afternoon sun like a little bear.

13 Jan. Top Maropea - evening

It is still light outside, but Charlie has now crawled into his sleeping bag and is fast asleep. I am going to have to rouse him for tea. It is a long day for 8 year old legs. I recall Taylor's 8 year old legs having been just as tired.

I watch my 30th sunset here. All are special, but some a little more so in the number they represent marking the passing of time, the people we are with, the moments I have shared here with these mountains, and still dreaming of heading down valley or up to those far off peaks in the morning. A spectacular crystal clear evening, the sky above a deep majestic blue, and the hues of light playing on the valley and peaks. After starting our day climbing into wind, cloud and mist the perfect stillness and colours seem all the more relevant. Nature's canvass about to be painted here for me once more. I can only smile and applaud.

Charlie got up for a feed of steak and broccoli, sat in front of the fire for a few minutes, then was soon back in his bag and fast asleep. He slept 11 hours.

The cairn Charlie is kneeling by marks the spot where I buried Charlie's placenta in the custom of whenua - connecting deeply to the land. At the time 8 years ago John Nash marked the moment by a moment of silence and putting a few small rocks to mark the spot after I had dug into the Ruahine earth with my bare hands and placed the connection between Charlie and his mother into the mountain earth. The pile of rocks has grown considerably since then, as has Charlie. It was a very emotional moment for me to connect the boy to the place.

This was late the next afternoon. I was observing with my camera the light begin to play on the valley and peaks while sitting on the ground, and I did not see Charlie slide next to me until I turned and saw him there. At the same instant the sunlight was just streaming down upon his cairn. As if the Ruahine had been observing him, and watching him over the past few days. There would be further tests ahead, but in this moment the mountains opened themselves to and welcomed Charlie. He is indeed connected here.

14 Jan. Top Maropea early morning

The steam rolls off my breath and it was a chilly evening. Top Maropea is a cold place at the best of times, in winter only very cold tolerant souls would stay here, and usually one never spends much time here idly on a winter morning. The coldest I ever experienced was -8 Celsius INSIDE the hut one July morning. And another time when a beautiful day turned into an all out blizzard by the time I got up from the creek 30 minutes below, and I spent an extra day and a half here. The water froze in the tank and I had to whittle wood chips into my billy, dry them over the stove, and slowly build a great fire, more to keep busy than to actually warm the hut. Ahh memories.... Still, as I sip my mug of strong coffee I smile at what this place represents to me - the real back country wilderness and the scope of what lies beyond here.

Charlie is still fast asleep, coming up on 11 hours now. His face poking out of his bag looks cherubic and beautiful.

There is not a cloud in the sky, nor a breath of wind. A great day to roam down to the creek and river and perhaps find a few pools to be embraced by.

Charlie and I spent some time in the morning gathering up tawharauriki for our evening fire, and more for the hut as well. It is good for him to learn how to give back to the ambiance of these places. Arriving at a hut after a long walk to find it clean, tidy, and well stocked with wood is such a nice feeling.

We then headed down through the lovely sunlit forest to the creek.

The waterfall just above the point where the "track" drops nearly vertical to the creek.

A simply gorgeous little waterfall.

Even at very low flow the pool is ice cold, crystal clear, and over my head in its depth near the fall.

One Kloss embraced by the mountain water.

And another as well. The look on Charlie's face pretty much says it all.

14 Jan. Early evening

Charlie has had a real taste of a Ruahine hut day today. Not doing really anything in particular at all, but suddenly the day has past. We did a few hut duties, had a wander in the forest to the creek, had a swim, threw rocks in a few pools, and just lie around in the sun talking. A different world than out there. Just these moments. No television, computers, video games or play stations. Just us and the mountains.

I hope he absorbs some of this, as I hope Taylor has as well, and somewhere along the path of his life remembers the simple pleasures on offer here, a gift for him to open when he is ready.

Now the fire crackles and hisses, dinner is done, and Charlie tries out MY sleeping bag for size.

It is good to see his body clock respond to the rhythms of the mountains, and even though it is still light out he is tired and yawning. Me, I am just going to sit here for awhile and stare into the fire, and smile at the bountiful memories these past few days have brought to me. That warms me more than this crackling little fire.

15 Jan. early morning

To have spent 10 plus days in the Ruahine over the past 2 plus weeks has put a shine upon my soul. I feel wild and connected, yet also somewhat melancholic as this time draws to a close.

The wind has come up over night and I am about to wake up Charlie and get over the saddle early before it gets up too much. I am just trying to linger in this quiet and relish each taste of these last moments. I miss this place already.

This photo was made by Charlie just after we had emerged from the forest onto the open Camel Back ridge before climbing it and dropping to the saddle. It made the hair on my arms stand up as in my experience that ethereal hue to the light and sky, and the wind blowing above meant danger. The wind picked up stronger, though in gusts and bursts, and I hurried Charlie along to The Gut, where I knew we would be sheltered and could see the whole route from the saddle to the protection of Buttercup Hollow and Sunrise hut. From the saddle to the hut is only 15 minutes or so, but also the most narrow, open, and exposed section. When the wind blows from the northwest, which it most often does here, it funnels through the valley above the mountains literally pulling down the high winds which have been rolling over the open sea and narrow island gathering strength. Often it makes the saddle uncrossable, and most often makes it windy. My concern observing the route from The Gut was just how much wind was on that final stretch. I have been knocked down there in the past, and while not so worried about me, I was about Charlie and I could see the anxiousness upon his face. This was wind already such as he had never before seen. The mountains had a final test indeed.

When we got below the saddle the wind really began to howl relentlessly. I had Charlie hang on to my pack straps which I had looped together, and I was getting shoved around pretty good, and then I felt him go off his feet. I quickly pushed him into a bit of tupare and scrub on the lee side of the wind, just enough so that our heads were out of it as we lay on the ground. Charlie was scared and crying. I knew instinctively I had to let him rest and gather himself. I thought very clearly and calmly as I stroked his head, and after a few minutes he looked up at me. I told him what we had to do. I strapped my poles and his to my pack, and the second the wind howled a fraction less, we were on our feet and off. I had Charlie in a death grip by the arm and literally dragged and pulled him as I fought through the wind. A couple times I looked back and literally saw his feet off the ground. There is a little tunnel in the tupare and tawhairauriki which lean decidedly against the nor'west wind a few hundred metres before the actual track drops to the hut. Once I saw that approach my heart lifted, I knew we had made it. I pulled Charlie ahead of me and down into the tunnel. The wind stopped and we were in sudden calm, which is somewhat disorienting after being in a blowing gale. I yelled and whooped and screamed. We were alive and we were living! Charlie started staggering down the rough track the wrong way and I called him back. His eyes were wild and unfocused. I pulled him to me and hugged him and told him I loved him, how proud I was of him, how hard I know that was for him, and the courage it took. It may have been my proudest moment as a father. Since that moment Charlie and I know something more, about each other, about these mountains. He is indeed connected to the Ruahine. He met Tawhirimatea, he met the Ruahine.

Robb and the ever barefoot Charlie.



Marja said...

wow a story full of emotions. I loved how the pile of rocks have grown as charlie did and I loved the catch of sunlight in the picture and of course the magnificent one of Charlie.
What a scary experience to be out in that wind. Happy you survived that well such experiences do bring people together. I see you have spend your holidays well.
Arohanui Marja

Dave said...

Wow, man. What a great -- and heartwarming -- story!

Donald said...

Dear Robb

Beautiful story and photos. All the days there of late have obviously taken you to deeper levels - the sort where you become 'lite'.

What a memorable trip and story. Thanks for sharing it.



Lynda Lehmann said...

What a long and majestic trek you had! No wonder Charlie's feet were sore. He must have huge calluses.

The view over Maropea valley is breathtaking. As is the waterfall....

What a special thing, to finally go with your son to the spot where his placenta is buried.

Thanks for sharing your heartfelt experience, which tonight looks especially wonderful to me--because it's FREEZING here!

troutbirder said...

Treasure the moment Robb. These time of growing up pass by so quickly. I cherish my time in the BWCA and flyfishing Montana with my two sons....

Anonymous said...

Magnificent! Those photos are even more stunning enlarged as big and bold as possible. Thanks Robb for sharing this - very dramatic and touching. Those mountains, although we talk of Mother Nature, have an overpowering male energy -ancient, wise and testing, and boy, did they put Charlie to the test.
A mystical post Robb, full of the practicalities of dealing with it. I would find some of those places looming and frightening, but then I'm easily intimidated by that kind of energy.It takes bravery and experience - so impressed by Charlie, and your care, skill and guidance.

Ruahines said...

Kia ora Marja,
I always am brightened when arriving at Top Maropea, set down my pack, hot and sweaty. Even on cold wintry days the climb down thru the forest is steep and hard, getting into some fresh gear, putting the billy on for a cuppa, and wandering out into the "backyard" to see Charlie's Cairn growing and thriving. Now even more connected.
That experience in the wind will bond us forever. Kia kaha e hoa.

Ruahines said...

Kia ora Dave,
Cheers, we were gone for 3 days but somehow it seemed much much longer than that and I was proud and honoured to have Charlie as my companion in such a place.
Ka kite ano,

Ruahines said...

Kia ora Donald,
You got it e hoa! As I wrote even packing up to leave I really wanted to head in deeper. That awareness after many days becomes so attuned and I just wanted to ride it out. We just let go of so much, and what is really important, both in there and out here become so vivid.
Hope you are well my friend. The thought of some time in the mountains with you either down there or up here is a fine one. We could add a few interesting characters as well I am sure :)
Kia kaha e hoa.

Ruahines said...

Kia ora Lynda,
Glad to "warm" you up a bit. As I write this I have been bed ridden for almost a week with horrible flu chest infection thing, and just up and about a bit today. In the blazing heat of our summer not very fun!
Charlie has an incredible capacity to walk barefoot, and I probably should have tried it. I have not seen shoes on his feet since we have been back, and even in winter he most often goes shoeless. Just the way it is - save us a bit of money :)
The Maropea is indeed such a special unique place. With your artists eye you would find endless joy there I am sure, particularly the micro world which you do so well.
It was so special to finally connect the dots of Charlie's Cairn and Charlie. It makes the most special spot of all in the Ruahine even more special. Kia kaha my friend. Stay warm.

Ruahines said...

Kia ora TB,
I close my eyes now and those moments are still vivid and alive. I can hear the wind, then the silence, see the wildness in Charlies eyes, and his closeness to me. I hope when I close my for the final time that will still be there. Kia kaha e hoa!

Ruahines said...

Kia ora Pam,
I am so glad you are able to enlarge all the photos - it used to be only the first one would do that, so really glad that is now happening through no doing of my own.
Mystical is a good word for the mountains and that trip with Charlie. I wrote above we were gone for 3 days but it seemed much longer than that, maybe that had something to do with my own soul being more connected to mountain time during that period. Charlie met the energy indeed! The mountains are always teaching, we just have to observe and listen. Kia kaha e hoa.

tracey axnick said...

Lovely post, Robb. I know this was special for you, and I know it was also very special for your son... he will remember these moments for the rest of his life, I have no doubt.

Thank you for sharing your story, these images, and your heart with us. This was very touching.

Mary said...

Robb, this is incredible. I'm in awe of you, and of Charlie. I think you have done an incredible thing for him, in sharing this place, in allowing him to experience for himself the awe-inspiring strength and wisdom of the mountains. Wisdom, because an experience like this is such a life-lesson, in so many ways. You are an amazing father for your insight, and your sharing of such a thing with him.

The lesson being, in my estimation, that life is beautiful and full of large gusts that might blow you far away at any moment, but even during these gusts and wild moments, or perhaps because of them, life becomes rich and full and alive. That true living is in the experience of a genuine life, connected to all other things and beings on earth - and connected to earth, herself. That is something that can only be taught by an experience like this, I think. People can talk and read and discuss it, but in the actual physical journey to a place, and to be challenged, in a sense, by a thing far more powerful and large than oneself, makes it that much more real to a person. Charlie is fortunate in this way. He is fortunate that he has you for a father.

This would make a wonderful chapter for your book! :)



Ruahines said...

Kia ora Tracey,
Thanks for stopping by, always so cool to read from folks whom have been around awhile. I have been checking in quietly at your place as of late.
I know I will remember those moments with Charlie, and I am sure you are right about him as well. We have been very close since then, even more so than before. Home with both my boys this evening, and just got Charlie out of the bath as he was infested with head lice! Yucckk!! The toil of parenting eh! A moment I soon not remember. :) Kia kaha Tracey, my hugs to you and your beautiful family.

Ruahines said...

Kia ora Mary,
That is a beautiful compliment and I accept it humbly and thankfully.
I saw all you wrote in Charlie's eyes after we emerged from the wind. I was seeing it before then. But it is easy to accept the mountain Gift's in sunshine and gentle breezes upon us. It is when she shows us her hardened fiercer side that the real lessons are learned - at least for me. I think Charlie saw that, understood it, and is still batting that around in his head. He still stays pretty close to me when he can. That is why I want to get him out again soon. His eyes when they cleared, and he realized he was safe and what he had done were so alive and so beautiful. I still get emotional recalling that moment.
I think I am more fortunate to have those boys as my sons than they for me as a father.
Kia ora Mary, you too are an old and trusted friend via this medium. Funny after all we have been through with Robin way back when, and I have never actually met you or her in person, yet that does not matter. I felt your presence way back years ago when I wrote your name in that hut book after the Ruahine wind farm battle. That was very real to me. I write this as if you are here.
My finest hug and best offerings to a peaceful and healthy year to you and your beautiful, lovely family. Kia ora for tuning in for so long to my ravings. Kia kaha e hoa.
Aroha always,

KB said...

What a journey. From the big climb to the hut, to Charlie's cairn, to swimming in the pool under the waterfall, and finally to the trial by the wind. Nature teaches us many lessons about coping with forces beyond our control. That gale probably gave Charlie his first glimpse of the awesome force of nature and bonded him even more strongly to you.

I know the feeling of missing a place before I leave. I feel it every autumn when I know that the "big storm" is coming and a place will be inaccessible for months to come. I sit and enjoy one last time and hope that I'm still on this Earth when the place can be visited again.

Thank you for your story - I enjoy reading of your summer adventures while we are eagerly anticipating ours.

I'm glad that Charlie's arm healed so fast. Oh, to be so young again.

Kia Kaha!

Nature Nut /JJ Loch said...

My most favorite post of all, Robb!!! What a beautiful father/son adventure. I do hope you publish a book one day. :D

You transported me to a great time and place of inspiration.

Cheers, JJ

Ruahines said...

Kia ora KB,
Sorry it has taken me so long to respond. This is my busy time with work and for the next few months :(
Hope all is well with you and friends and I will be around to check up in due course.
I really am coming to believe that Charlie and I underwent some sort of transformation into a deeper level of understanding each other, or some sort of intuitive connection. He can just look at me and within a few words summarize how I am feeling, especially when I am sad or melancholy. He gets it since we went to the mountains and the wind. His arm being broke seems ages ago now.Stay warm! Spring is on it's way. Kia kaha!

Ruahines said...

Kia ora JJ,
Thanks JJ and trust you and Jeff are also warm and toasty. Glad you enjoyed this post as it is one of my favourites as well to be honest. Need to get my older boy back out there now! Kia kaha my friend,

Barbara Martin said...

Facing the elements in the mountains can be quite daunting, especially for children. An awesome post, being with you during every word read. Such magnificent photos of the terrain. That is wilderness personified.