Saturday, March 31, 2012


Back not too long before my 45th birthday, so almost 7 years ago anyway, I received a call from a staff member at DOC (Department of Conservation). The lady asked if I had recently lost an item of gear in the Ruahine. As I was planning my extended approaching birthday wander in the Ruahine I had already checked my gear and began gathering it around me. So I knew nothing major and of any real importance was missing, and told her no. Before I hung up I recalled my mate John had recently been in the Ruahine and so took her number and called John. He quickly verified he had lost his sleeping mat on his recent venture into the Ruahine. I rang back the DOC lady, described the item, and was then given the number of a man in Hawkes Bay, which lies very near the northern end of the Ruahine. I rang, and was answered by a man named Derek Pawson. Derek had found John's mat on the floor, under a bunk in Top Maropea hut. It is a small hut, and John was with other people, so not a hard mistake to make. In any case, Derek saw my name in the hut book just before John had arrived, and assumed it was either his or mine. Once we finished that business we had a grand chat about the Ruahine and mountains, music, and a few other easy subjects as well. He told me that the reason he rang and carried John's mat around in the Ruahine for 5 days was that he had seen my name in all the hut books so knew I was okay.  I recall hanging the phone up and thinking, "what a nice guy". I later found out Derek was a tramper extrodinaire in the Ruahine and Kaweka's and heavily involved in the Hawkes Bay Search and Rescue team.

A few weeks later John and I headed into the wintry and very cold Ruahine for the next 5 days in honour of my 45th mentioned above. We took the long way into Maropea Forks, over the tops in a bit of dodgy weather. So it took us 2 days to get there, and when we did, on my birthday, it was just wonderful. The experience, the place, and the company. Later in the evening I was in the hut preparing tea, and John quietly spoke from the porch that a couple of hunters were approaching from down the river. They turned out to be people we knew. Phil Hansen and his son, Nick, who had slowly hunted up the river that day. We had met them a few years prior when John and I during a storm took shelter in a hut, to find it occupied by two guys, Phil and his son. John and I were intending upon camping but the weather had us considering that option when I noticed John and Phil , who had been chatting, sort of had gone silent. It quickly turned out they knew one another. Phil had led groups of guys wanting to tramp into the hills way back in the 70's. Mostly in the Ruahine. Thirty some years ago. Turns out John was one of those kids. So after thirty years since they had seen one another John and Phil reconnect in the heart of the Ruahine. John is a master navigator, fire starter, solid presence in the mountains, and so I perked up to listen. We spent the afternoon drinking a few cups of tea and listening to John and Phil telling old stories of days now long gone. When the rain stopped John and I shouldered our swags and headed down river to camp. We always remembered that day, and it gave me a new healthy respect and appreciation of men who know more about mountains than I do. Most often I find it is best to just shut up and Listen.

My point is that once John called out from the same porch that it was Phil and Nick approaching, I just cracked up laughing, took our dinner off and put the billy on for a cuppa to welcome our guests. In the midst of the cup of tea, Phil started talking about a mate who had just been killed being hit on his push bike by a drunk driver. He said his name was Derek Pawson.

Once we all overcame our silence, and Phil and Nick understood that John and I also knew Derek, we all smiled and acknowledged the likelihood that somehow Derek was swirling about and understood it as well.

Below: Robb and John on that very day at Maropea Forks in July 2005. Winter and cold. Photo by Phil Hansen.


Marja said...

What a small world and what a bond between people with the same interests and experiences. I can understand the emotional impact and spiritual touch when one of that community has passed on. Thanks for a glimpse in these experiences of special people

Ruahines said...

Kia ora Marja - cheers! I was missing the mountains last evening and going through my little notebooks, and those pages brought back a lot of memories. Derek's name was, and still is in a lot of Ruahine hut books. And at Top Maropea I started a rock cairn in his honour at the same spot I buried the placenta of my son Charlie. Lots of connections there. It was pretty cool to be in that very remote hut and see the meeting between John and Phil after 30 years. That was pretty special. Hope you are well.

ghreeblestaff said...

The mountain stays a bit longer than the men, meanwhile the universe keeps serving up the vittles that keep humankind weaving the tapestry we see as life.
Such a synergy of crossings, as the warp twines with the weft, some strings small delicate, others large and intricate in themselves.
We seldom know when a twiny bit will end on this plane. That's part of the intensity of life and serves to add a bit of octane to our fuel; especially those of us who see, smell and feel a little bit too fully for a comfortable life within the syncline of society and need a little reminder now and again...
Amazing. Spectacular. Keep weaving, brother. It's a brilliant piece of cloth you are bringing together.

lph said...

Wonderful story Robb. Muir often wrote of telepathic energy when in the mountains. Although your experience might not be on quite the same wavelength, it can certainly classify as a strong statement to the power and the mystery of mountains.

Ruahines said...

Kia ora Adam,
I wish I had written that. Kia kaha brother.

Ruahines said...

Kia ora lph,
One can either choose to connect the dots or not. That night in Maropea Forks hut with the four of us having all these connections to each other, and Derek it was pretty easy to connect them. I sometimes feel that sense Muir was so in tune with. Just a closeness to the wild and the environment around me, how I move within it and relate to it. It truly becomes a living thing. And within that comes clarity of thought, as if just in those moments time slows down or even becomes irrelevant. I am in no doubt that Muir walked in that state far longer, and more often than I do or will. But they are cool moments to have, certainly enough to keep me gazing towards the mountains while out here. See you soon mate!

troutbirder said...

And it all ties together or small world as they say. Well done Robb

Ruahines said...

Kia ora TB,
Absolutely. Cheers e hoa.