Friday, November 18, 2011

Whanahuia Ora

11/11/11 Whanahuia range of the Ruahine - evening

A stunning campsite on the Whanahuia range on a lovely evening. John Nash and I climbed to the tops and Rangiwahia hut in the early afternoon and rather inclement weather. Late in the day the weather cleared and we quickly decided to pack up and head further up the range towards Mangahuia and camp. Our decision was validated by finding this small piece of flat gravel in the tussock. Just enough for our tent and a little room to sit, which is all we need. We are on the north side of the range looking into the valley know as Venison Gully and across to Deadman's Ridge with an unnamed stream running far below, we can listen to the muttering song up high.

We are being treated to one of the more spectacular sunsets I have been privileged to be part of in my time traveling in the Ruahine. The tussock is lit up to golden brown, then fiery red, in the distance the sun duels with the cloud and mist, treating us to a new vista like clicking through natures own digital camera in real time, and a slow moving bank of smokey cloud moves up the valley reminding us of a maunga taniwha as it crawls up the stream below poking and probing each gut and gully, then retreating back to the flat lands far below. John and I just sit here in the quiet silence of the mountains saying little even though we have not seen one another in some time.  Sometimes more is said not saying anything at all.

John earlier in the afternoon as we set up our little camp. Looking south east towards Mangahuia in the distance.

Settling in with a wee dram and the sunset.

The show begins.

Just a bit above our camp looking west toward the setting sun.

Looking down into Oroua valley the following day. Our destination, Triangle hut is a small red dot almost in the middle of the photo. A lovely spot, and though we could see it, was still many hours away.

Resting by a snow tarn as we make our way north before steeply heading down through the mud and treacherous footing down to the forest and the hut. A good place to refill our water bottles and have a snack before pressing on. A good place period.

Finally down into the high forest after a long battle with the descent. The sun came out and with still another hour or so very steeply down to the river time for some lunch (bagels, cheese, tomato, onion, and salami for me as John is a vegetarian), then a bit of a nap before pressing onwards. What's the hurry?

12/11/11 Triangle hut late afternoon
The rain gently patters on the tin roof, droplets drip slowly off the porch overhang as the Oroua river flows by. A cacophony of water surrounds us. I have seen, I have listened to this, many times before at this very spot, but it is always new, always different. I feel like I am home.
 John sleeps in his down bag as he was not feeling well today, another reason to take it slow and easy on the tops and down through the kaikawaka and tawhairaunui. I made John a few cups of tea and some hot soup and he was already feeling better, and what better spot to curl up in and dream. Sleep well e hoa!
So I have been just sitting here listening, brewing cups of tea in the billy, smiling and laughing. Gathered wood for the stove, and reflected on our day of traveling in the Ruahine. Mostly just smiling. This is my 9th visit here over the years. The hut book goes back to 2004 and the third entry is by John and I. It is barely a third full, so this is a place that is rarely visited, and being here 9 times in an honour I an humbled by. Pohangina Pete's name is here, as are a few others I have come to know in my time in these mountains. My time grows short, so moments like this take on even greater clarity and significance. One day I will be here forever.

John by the stone gorge a short meander up the river from the hut. The whole of the Oroua pours through this gorge, as can be seen by the place John stands. In 2004 the Oroua out on the flat lands flooded through rain up in here and caused untold millions of dollars in damage. The mountains are built for that. What is now farmland used to be "built" for that when it was just bush and forest. Now cleared and "productive" we blame Nature. This very spot tells a huge story.

Triangle hut just in the left side. In the hut book I found a poem I wrote back in 2008, my last visit here. One where I got stuck for 2 days when the river came up through incessant rain, and I sat watched the droplets fall off the porch.

"Hut day at Triangle"

I have used this day to my fullest ability
have run through the rain to use the facility
except in the course of that little caper
neglected to bring the toilet paper
I've chopped wood and stacked it quite high
more than enough for the next man by
sat on the porch just quietly thinking
about how many cups of tea I've been drinking
Rivulets of water drip down from the roof
offering me final and total proof
That a day spent here all toasty and warm
beats the hell out of being out there in that storm

Inside Triangle hut early evening.

Cooking tea. Fresh tomato, red onion and garlic, simmered to a sauce with tarragon and and a smidgen of rosemary, then served over pasta. Really roughing it!

13 November very early morning Triangle hut:
I sit on the porch with a strong mug of coffee and start to watch the mountain morning unfold. These are the days when John and I really have learned how to excel. A day of doing nothing with the whole day to do it. And feel no guilt, or remorse, or regret. To just have enjoyed these moments as much as we possibly can. Yet by the end of this day, the wood boxes will be full to over flowing, the hut cleaned, all the excess rubbish stuffed into bags we will carry out, which amounts to not much  here thankfully and gratefully. We will have walked up river and down, maybe even have tried to climb up some unexamined spur, (though I doubt that). And soon enough I shall be back sitting in this very spot as the sun passes over this valley far sooner than it does on the tops we camped upon. John and I will sit here with something stronger than this coffee in our tin mugs, and we will wonder where the day has gone.

Evening inside Triangle hut - The wood stove creaks and moans as it comes to life. Candle light accentuates, softens, and adds dignity to the already apparent charms of this back country hut as the sun sets on our second evening here on the Oroua river. Neither John or I were concerned with packing up and going anywhere today, particularly with the rain up here a fairly good indicator conditions would not be too pleasant up there. The frantic rushing we used to do, the 8, 9, 10 hour days on the go, the huge endless climbs and descents are for younger legs. At 51 and with a new hip I am content to stay here in spots I love so much and let them fold over me, and enjoy them on their own intimate terms. Like sitting in the high forests quietly and being absorbed by them, and in that stillness see the real forest revealed, so it is too by the rivers - the fact this charming little hut is here an added bonus. My legs are older indeed, but here my heart sings and my soul is young.

Back along the tops of the Whanahuia.

We had to stop on the tops to don warmer gear, but once we turned out of the wind it became calm and still once again. We stopped in the tussock for lunch and a lie down. The cloud rose up in the distance and revealed Te Hekenga, the first time we had seen it on this trip.

14/11/11 Rangi hut - evening. The sunsets in a brilliant show once again, just as it sets on this mountain experience. In the morning a 3 hour walk or so will bring us back to the car and soon back to the world. Though right now here in this moment that seems a long time away and we are content to linger here in the foolishness of things a while more.

15/11/11 morning - Ruapehu, Ngarahoe, and Tongariro, the volcanoes, shimmer in the distance. Taranaki glimmered further to the southwest as well, forced to flee there after fighting with Tongariro for the affection of the beautiful Pihanga. It is said that when Taranaki is covered in cloud it is weeping for it's lost love. It weeps often. I understand how he feels. As I get ready to head down this mountain I miss the Ruahine already.

Kia ora John, Kia ora Whanahuia, Kia ora Ruahine.


Donald said...

Great post Robb.

A champagne trip by the look of it - one you'll never ever forget!

> Sometimes more is said not saying anything at all.

... which so goes with the territory.

You capture the mood and ambiance so well with your words an images.



Anonymous said...

I miss the mountains. I'm taken by the beautiful sky. It's nice to see the flip side of the season and here your words. Thank you...

KB said...

Your words conveyed such peace and contentment. The mountains can be so tranquil, and you were treated to one of their quiet times. Here, we are heading into winter and our mountains have be tempests of furious weather. For that reason, I especially enjoyed reading of the serenity you found. I always also enjoy seeing such ancient looking forests and the long distance views of the hills, sunsets, and volcanoes.

We are going to Edward Abbey land, where there won't be snow to contend with but nature may still be tumultuous, in the next few days. What a change from the mountains!

Erika said...

Never mind beautiful photos, great price of writing, even though they undoubtedly are. Wotchu mean "My time grows short"??? I know (or hope) you probably mean your time in the mountains, but it doesn't allay my fears much when you follow it up with "One day I will be here forever". Too many more tunes to listen to, and mountains to climb - E

troutbirder said...

Beautifull description of a great outing, Robb. The pictures are spectacular and that first one..... oh my. :)

Ruahines said...

Kia ora Donald,
No champagne e hoa, but certainly a few fine wee drams of single malt whiskey.
I have been on mountain trips many times over many years with John, and it is good to have company where you feel in touch without words. Quite often I will leave John early and tramp most of the day on my own. Yet later on when we meet up it is as if we were together anyway. That is to be appreciated.

Ruahines said...

Kia ora LC,
Well, you were in my thoughts under that sky and along the clear river as well. Kia kaha e hoa. Keep the fire lit. Aroha,

Ruahines said...

Kia ora KB,
Travel well in the land of Ed. Carry water!
We had a lovely time on the tops, lucky to be under a slow moving low that didn't pack any real punch. Yet the threat of it was always there, which somehow adds to the aura. Kia kaha e hoa.

Ruahines said...

Kia ora E,
Just writing more metaphorically. The more I am amongst these places the more I understand the relative timelessness of nature in comparison to my own time amongst them. In the 10 times I have spent in the Whanahuia over the last 15 years I have seen subtle change that most would not even notice. I have seen massive change within myself most would notice. So I know that physically my time and ability to travel within this environment grows short. Even though I hope that may be another 10, 15, 20 years, even that is a mere microbe on a grain of dust in comparison to the measurement of time by Nature. More Tunes and mountains to come e hoa. Mauri ora!

Ruahines said...

Kia ora TB,
Cheers. That sunset over the tops really stunned John and I, we were absolutely delighted with our camp site and location. I commented to John as we headed out in the afternoon as the sky was clearing a bit that I had a feeling we would be in for an amazing light show. And we were. Hope those fall colours are treating you to lovely sights in Minnesota. Happy Thanksgiving.

Joe McCarthy said...

While I enjoyed the pictures and prose you shared from your journey, I had the same concern that Erika articulated about "My time grows short", and am glad to read your clarification.

It is, perhaps, consistent with one of my favorite lines from this post: "I am content to stay here in spots I love so much and let them fold over me, and enjoy them on their own intimate terms".

A few times while reading your notes from this trip, I found myself thinking about a phrase I first read in a book by Buddhist physician Jon Kabat-Zinn: "Don't just do something, sit there."

Wishing you many more hikes - and sits - in the 10, 15, 20 or [hopefully] more years you have left to enjoy - and share your enjoyment of - the mountains.

ghreeblestaff said...

Sage experience and unplumbed words; the shadows cast are enough alone to begin new journeys without rising from my seat.
And be assured that the shadows are long 'round here. What more? I wish I could give some wordy body to my feelings right now, so instead,
Thank you, Robb.

Anne-Marie said...

I'm glad to read of another magical trip in to the Ruahine for you. It sounds like it was pretty special. Hope you are well and happy.

Bob McKerrow - Wayfarer said...

I really enjoyed this post. Kia Kaha!

Bob (Ropate)

Ruahines said...

Kia ora Joe e hoa,
I am learning still to just travel slowly and surely in these mountains and really SEE them. It is interesting to me that time wise travelling slowly and deliberately that I arrive at destinations not too far off the pace I did when rushing about. My next goal is a camp in the high forest just in the zone between the tree line and the open tops where I can just sit all day and be part of it as you refer to. I think there is great energy in these places and to truly understand it you have to simply be there and literally allow yourself to absorb it. It is simple to write that but much harder to really let ourselves let go and do. I am still learning.
Wishing you and yours a beautiful Thanksgiving. Aroha to you all.

Ruahines said...

Kia ora Adam,
Please know my good sir, that I carry your wairua with me here in these ranges. So that while you may be in the shadows there, on this side of the world where the days are now long you are here. Kia kaha! Mauri Ora!

Ruahines said...

Kia ora Anne-Marie,
Always cool to read from you. I am well thank you, gearing up for Tara's uni graduation tomorrow! Looks like things in Whanganui are finding you in a very cool place. Nice!
I was indeed another special trip into the Ruahine. They are a place of magic for me and every trip there merely confirms that.
Wishing you a lovely holiday season in advance.

Ruahines said...

Kia ora Bob,

Marja said...

Wow you really had a magnificent show and a first class seat. What a privilage to be so close to natures spectacular surprises.
Great post

Ruahines said...

Kia ora Marja,
I adore the way you put that. We did, and it was. I hope you and yours are well e hoa. We have had a lot going on here in our family with Tara graduating from uni, teenagers, life, ect. - so I have been a bit removed from the world of here. May the upcoming holiday Yuletide Season be safe, healthy, and comforting. Kia kaha e hoa.

pohanginapete said...

Some beautiful photographs here, Robb, and the trip sounds like a classic — other than John being a little crook of course. I'm sure he really appreciated hHaving a good mate there to feed him tea and soup.

Looking forward to catching up with everyone when I return, and maybe sharing another journey like this with you and John.

Ruahines said...

Kia ora Pete,
Cheers e hoa, it was a very good trip indeed. We toasted you tin cups in hand watching that sunset, and both John and I commented many times over the days on how much more aware of the insect life all around us, how much more we noticed and watched than we would have before those days spent in the Makaroro with you. John is a pretty tough guy, and though he felt little like putting a heavy pack on and walking through rugged country for the day, he just took his time and never complained, and the weather was in our favour, very still low pressure but the rain did not fall till we literally crossed the Oroua to the hut.
Enjoy the rest of your time in Patagonia, and please get in touch when you are back in Aotearoa for dinner and a Yuletide cheer. John and I are planning a few days up in the hills sometime early new year - would be fitting to perhaps have visit the Pohangina and Ngamoko with you as well.

kylie said...

hi robb,
i'm just here to thank you for dropping by my blog a while back, its taken me so long to reply that i reckon you will have given up looking!
i didnt know that there were no dry areas in new zealand but it makes sense that some were alcohol free by default. i told pa's story much as it has been told to me and i suppose inaccuracies have crept in.
we had the six o'clock swill here in australia and i could be imagining it but i suspect that changed in (the time of) my memory.

always good to see your pictures and to be reassured that at least one person desires a life of reflection and appreciation

my congratulations to Tara and best wishes to the family for the upcoming holidays


Unknown said...

Hey Robb

Great to discover that you are writing again mate.

Have a great summer aye.


Ruahines said...

Kia ora Kylie,
I have a bit sporadic myself with the online stuff, as we have a few issues happening in our family. I wish you and yours Peace over the holidays, and hopefully a bit of Nature as well. Sometimes it does seem to like the only place anything makes real sense is in the mountains - and that is both a lovely thing, and possibly lonely as well. Kia kaha e hoa.

Ruahines said...

Kia ora Jamie,
Good to read from you mate. Been enjoying following your big adventure amongst the Himilaya's - enjoy the rest of your trip and travel safely.

MikeM said...

Hi-ho, Robb. What wonderful photos, and thanks for sharing (as usual). I'm feeling homesick to see and read about all these places again. :)

As you know I recently spent my first night camping on top of the Ruahine Range during a brief trip back, though not in quite such golden circumstances. I'll have to try again in the future.

Cheers for now.

vegetablej said...

Hi Robb:

Happy New Year to you and your family! I came across this antique video of Van Morrison that might give you a chuckle.