Sunday, December 30, 2018

Ruahine Summer Tour 2018

16 December 2018
Top Maropea hut
Late afternoon.

I write these words sitting upon one of the benches we hauled up here in June to replace the ones which were burnt. I think back on that sleet filled, windy and cold weekend and packing these seats up to here and glad that I am now enjoying the benefits of them and that they are all in fine condition. It gives me a real connection to not only the tinana, or physical place but the wairua, spirit as well. It makes that hard journey bringing them here worthwhile in so many ways.

It is the first day of our annual summer tramp in the Ruahine. John and I hoisting our swags for around two decades now and this year joined for the second time by Pohangina Pete, whom I met in these ranges almost as long ago. Very appropriate company indeed. Three people bonded by the adhesive love of these mountains.

We changed our plans and reversed our six day loop when we reached the turnoff on Sunrise track to the Waipawa river. Rather than head down to the river, up the valley and over the saddle to Waikamaka hut we decided instead to head to Sunrise and over Armstrong saddle to here. The debate was mainly around the long gruelling river walk and nature of the terrain going down the other side of saddle, versus quickly getting to the tops and enjoying the fine weather on the way here, a relatively rare occurrence. We all concurred in the decision and here we are. (Completing our trip 6 days later on the Waipawa river validated the voracity of the decision made.)

It is very comforting and soul nourishing to be here after a lovely day on the tops enjoying the weather and the stillness that enables us to walk slowly and not only see the view but get a lesson in botany, bird life and entomological life John and I simply do not see. Dr. Pete is in his element. So are John and I in our own ways, but it is humbling to see how much we don’t see.

Pete and John heading up towards Top Maropea.

A rest before the drop to the hut. A rare occurence to get such a day.

On Camel Back spur near Top Maropea

Top Maropea. Benches in good shape. A pleasure to sit upon after a long day.

Sunrise over the Maropea valey. Ataahua!
17 December
Top Maropea

The sun is still searching for it’s way over the peaks at the head of the Maropea valley. Te Atua Mahuru, Remutupo, Orupu, Waikamaka, Puketaramea, and Maroparea all stretch and come to life. The emerging dawn sky is a flawless blue with just a breath of chilly wind. The river awaits!

I feel excited by the prospect of being on the Maropea river on a day such as this. To just let go of my thoughts and be on the river, to be with the river. And find that in letting go will come many reflections, questions, and maybe even a few revelations along the twists and turns of her shimmering beauty. What has changed in the river? What has changed in me? And where will the whio be?

Tupare (Leatherwood) in flower. Friend and foe.

The Maropea river

Morning tea must be soon!

The old tawhairaunui log. Still there amongst much change. Great place on a good day.

The waterfall. Not too far from Maropea Forks now!

John and Pete approaching from below the fall.

Time for a swim. Beautiful pool and highly refreshing/

Maropea Forks hut

17 December
Late Afternoon
Maropea Forks hut

We did indeed walk with the river under the flawless blue sky today. When a day like this shared, when the sunlight sparkles and shines on the clear water and illuminates the stones and pebbles like jewels, when the day is fine enough to go slowly and stop by the old tawhairanui log for lunch and to boil the billy, when we can stop and observe the whio, and when the day allows a leisurely swim in the pool of waterfall we have enjoyed a special day on the river. Such experiences become engrained within my very soul. The symphony of the river’s music changing with its ebb and flow.

And the river, as I have, has changed since I last was here almost exactly two years ago. So change was my common bond with the river today. A huge boulder, the size of a small truck, I used to linger at prior to a small rapid is now gone! Another near it tipped on its side. What must that have looked and sounded like? The river is far fuller of shingle and rock, other areas that used to be grassy toi-toi covered flats now gone. Dramatic changes synchronistic to the large boulders I have shifted within my own life.

We saw one whio higher up in the river. I know two years ago a pair was on this stretch of river near the hut and forks so hoping we see them. One fat trout was spotted in a deep green pool lazily lurking.

Now I am sitting on the porch of Maropea Forks hut with another cuppa full of sweet tea. Pete and John discuss green hooded orchids and the differences between butterflies and moths. Other conversations of my past visits seem to float amongst the fluttering of the tawhairuriki leaves.

The hut book here goes back to 2010. My first visit here was 20 years ago which certainly feels like a milestone. This is my 7th trip here since 2010. The first being with Taylor, or should write without Taylor, when he was lost on the river. The ghost of that old hut and that lonely night I spent there without my son lingers. After that I did two solo trips searching for some sort of relief or answers to that experience with Taylor. None have been forthcoming, aside from the realization that places we love can hold more than just happy memories, and perhaps should for that is true life. I feel a sense of clarity scribbling these words now, my wairua, my whanau both feel soothed.

John and I then came to the old hut for the last time in 2013 for a few nights and on the way out we met Pete at Top Maropea. Another circle completed.

In 2015 I came to the then brand new hut with my other son Charlie. So to have the memories and echoes of both my sons here swirling about with the river’s song is a moving and real experience.

John and I then visited two years ago this very day for 2 more nights which brings me to today. I’m not quite sure how many that makes in total going back over 20 years but certainly enough to indicate I find this a very special spot in the Ruahine. And realize that here now I am less concerned about how many times in the past but rather simply enjoying the moments here right now. Another smile radiates through my entire being.

18 December
After sunrise
Maropea Forks hut

Another beautiful day comes to life. The birds have begun their rounds and the air seems fuller of birdsong than I recall in many years. The piwaiwaka, the titi pounamu, the miromiro are all here today. And as if on cue a lone whio landed in the pool by the little waterfall just across the river. There is again a slight chill to the morning air, and though much more of a wind it appears we are in for another hot mountain summer day.

Today we are heading over a connecting spur and ridge between the Maropea and Waikamaka valleys to Wakelings hut. I am going to head over there soon on my own. Though I have lost a lot of weight and feel very fit my pace is far slower than that of either John or Pete. And truth be written I look forward to the solitary walk and time immersed amongst the forest.

I woke up this morning thinking of Tara, feeling very refreshed. Usually when I am in the mountains, I have very vivid dreams of her. Of not being able to find her, or seeing her across a crowded room but unable to get to her, or she can’t see me. I’m sure there is a lot of meaning tangled in there but right now it feels like mountain therapy, along with work I have done out there, is revealing the truth that lies deep within. Moving my feet, breathing the mountain air, and being part of this environment has brought a certain degree of clarity. I hunger for more.

Early morning light and the symmetry of the trees.

18 December
Mid morning
Hidden in the forest

I am somewhere on the ridge connecting the Maropea valley to the Waikamaka. I'm hoping somewhere near the point where it drops to the river. My altimeter tells me I am still at 1257 metres and the hut on the river somewhere over 900 metres. So, there is a very steep drop ahead. However right now I sit in a sunny moss-covered spot on the forest floor. The accrued sweat dries. Though warm the wind whips over and in the shelter of the forest it is actually cold so this sunny wee spot beckoned strongly. Flies buzz lazily. I munch contentedly on a salami stick and drink my water. I am in no hurry. This ridge is longer than I recall and undulates from gentle to steep. Very synchronistic to my own life this year so I simply accept my toils.

Somewhere behind me Pete and John are catching up to me, their pace much faster than mine. I can wait here or go. In the mountains it boils down to simple choices.

The Waikamaka river below. Much steep work yet to be done.

In Waikamaka hut on a summer day. What to do?

Just the thing!

Pete and Robb

John and Robb. Ten years since our last visit here.

18 December
Wakelings hut

I am preparing our tea for the evening meal. Soaking shiitake mushrooms and shucking fresh peas. Pete is inside the hut writing and John has gone to meander by the river and stretch his legs. I sit here and smile at being in the company of friends who can go for a wander, do their own thing, then come together and enjoy that equally as well. I am relishing that in particular this year when the true value of friendship and what that really means to me has evolved. Quality far exceeds quantity.

I arrived here after finding that gruelling steep drop very shortly after my rest in the sunshine, and John and Pete arrived not long after. It was a very lazy afternoon, with a brief nap, a refreshing swim in a lovely pool near the hut, cups of tea or soup, conversation and making plans for our day tomorrow. We will be staying here so have the day to do whatever we wish. That is a very liberating feeling.

Right now, I have set down my peas and merely sit here writing and listening to the wind breeze through other tawhairaunui leaves in another mountain valley, as the river mutters by close below the slight rise the hut is built upon. Perhaps the music is the same as the Maropea, yet there are differences that bring a freshness and newness to what was familiar. Or maybe it is my own perception. What I do know is that right here, right now, my Te Whare Tapa Wha is okay. I’m okay.

Climbing through the forest to the Mokai Patea tops.
19 December
Early morning
Wakelings hut

I awoke this morning and had to lie there sleepily and work out what day it was and how long we have been in the mountains. I considered this a very good development. For it indicates I have moved into true Ruahine Time. That being the essential moment is the present one, and the only important measurement is lightness and dark. Which also means I have let go of outside distractions around stress or worry. That might be the greatest gift of being here. Thoughts I do have of home and my whanau are of love. I have no room right now for anything else. The river beckons.

According to the hut book no one has visited here since October, and only 7 other parties have been here this year. Four of those were flown in by helicopter. It's location and distance provide a natural barrier. So, it is a place that adds to these feelings of timelessness and solitude. I set my pen down and listen to the winds rustling through the tawhairanui leaves, the river muttering past in harmonic symphony. I take a drink of my rich dark coffee and smile at thoughts of the day ahead.

Waikamaka valley and Ruahine tops

A happy man. A ways to go yet.

At Rongotea. Warmer gear required.

John with main Ruahine range behind. Pretty cool.

19 December
Wakelings hut

Pete left after breakfast and headed downriver towards Otukota to try and spot whio, which makes sense as we head up river in the morning. After another cup of strong coffee John and I decided to climb up to the open tops high above and the Mokai Patea ranges. The highest point in the Mokai, which are part of the Ruahine, is Rongotea at 1568 metres. That was our goal. It was quite warm and muggy by the river but by the time we had climbed through the forest into the tupare and tussock the wind had picked up and it was cold. We donned some warmer gear and continued onto the tops. The views of the Ruahine were spectacular, with nearly the whole range exposed in the distant blues and closer peaks and ridges of the tussock with its golden hues and greens’ leading to slips and spurs down the valleys far below. It was truly worth the sweaty climb and effort on a supposed “rest day”. We lingered at Rongotea until the chill of the wind had us heading back down. Even now here at the river I can close my eyes and see that view. I can sense the change in the river’s song as we climb away from it, steeply, and though with great exertion always surprised at how quickly the river drops away and the music of the water fades to hushed whisper. Or the excitement of seeing the big trees gives way to the stunted tawhairaunui and finally the tupare and tussock. The hard work of the climb brings the rewards of our efforts. John Muir was absolutely spot on…

“Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature's peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop away from you like the leaves of Autumn.”
  John Muir

Early morning on the Waikamaka

Misty morning with Te Atuaoparapara at head of the valley.

20 December
Waikamaka hut

The day begins to fade into our final evening of this summer roam in the Ruahine. I can’t help but wish we had a few more days here to linger in the mountains, yet one mixed with how much I look forward to seeing Tara and my whanau. After 6 days I notice myself feeling fitter and coming to settled terms with my ever-lightening pack, though also notice the blisters and other bumps and bruises gathered along the way. There is nothing for it but to just enjoy this last evening, these last moments of camaraderie with fine friends, and appreciate the long walk out tomorrow and our lives out there.

We were up and off early. Last evening it began to drizzle and during the night it rained in earnest for a long while. In the morning it had stopped but it remained overcast and smelling of rain at any moment. By the time it did start raining we were several hours up river. As there was little wind in the valley the rain didn’t bother us aside from making it a wee bit harder to decide which rocks to step upon for footing. The river was fairly low and few gorges I recall nearly swimming through years ago were perhaps hip deep at best. It is a beautiful river with a lot of deep clear pools but easily walked around in most cases. It is a fairly long walk which took me about 6 hours all up. We saw one lone whio again and spent a bit of time watching as Pete took a lot of photos and worked his way as close as he could. Eventually the whio tired of us and floated off with typical whio unerring grace and dignity.

And so here we are at Wakeling for our final afternoon. John reads, as I sit in the now emerged sun and write, as Pete is off pursuing other interesting things. In the background we can here thunder and see bruised clouds rolling in. It won’t worry us much either way.

I felt a twinge of anxiety start to well up inside me as I was walking up the river. It was raining fairly hard at the time and with adjusting to the footing on wet rocks the dull ache in my hip began to come to my present mind. I have battled anxiety this year, and have for my whole life without knowing it until recently. When I first came to the Ruahine I can recall getting worried about what might happen, particularly when lying in my sleeping bag at night, what if rivers flooded, or too much wind and cloud on the tops, what gear I had and so on. Eventually I think it was the mountains themselves that began to bring clarity to something I didn’t even know was occurring. That was by simply being in a place I loved, the Ruahine. It brought an inner peace and contentment – even if a thin layer – and soothed my jangled nerves and running thoughts. Only this year when developing recognition and strategies in dealing with it did I see that in the past. So today I simply focused on my breathing, on looking at the strengths I possess rather than my faults and weakness. I thought of the company of the friends I was with on the river and how they adapted themselves to my pace and my presence. And then I felt peaceful and calm totally cognizant of the moment and place and of the tears in my eyes, as they are now. These are the rare moments when mind, body, spirit, and those we love become supportive equally of each other. Te Whare Tapa Wha. Today on the river was one. Kia kaha!

One of many falls on the Waikamaka

Green pool and tawhairanui leaves shining. 

John and Pete walking up river


Pete photographing the whio. 

21 December 2018
Waikamaka hut

The dawn is a pallid dull grey and mist swirls about the ridges and higher peaks. Though it isn’t raining it feels as if the skies will burst forth with showers with the slightest provocation. Our task is fairly straight forward. Climb up the side creek below the hut, find the route leading out of it and climb up to Waipawa saddle, then climb down the other side to the Waipawa river and up it to re-join eventually with Sunrise track and complete our 6 day loop.

My mood feels somewhat the same as the weather, a sense of melancholia envelopes me. It is not depression or even great sadness, but rather a lingering loneliness that will not be satiated until I again appear at the entrance to the Ruahine bearing a load on my back.

It has been a full six days of open tops, forested spurs and ridges, battling down and up side creeks and wandering along 3 different mountain rivers. We have had a full adult portion of the Ruahine. We have said Kia Ora to the whio, miro miro, piwaikwaka, titi pounamu, kereru, kareara, the trout, deer, and a myriad of insects, butterflies and moths I never had considered before.

Kia ora to Pete and John for their knowledge, experience, company and friendship.

Kia ora, most of all to the Ruahine…I’m not done here yet!

Unuhia, unuhia
 Unuhia ki te uru tapu nui
 Kia wātea, kia māmā, te ngākau, te tinana, te wairua i te ara takatā
Koia rā e Rongo, whakairia ake ki runga
 Kia tina! TINA! Hui e! TĀIKI E!

Draw on, draw on,
 Draw on the supreme sacredness
 To clear, to free the heart, the body and the spirit of mankind
 Rongo, suspended high above us (i.e. in ‘heaven’)
Draw together! Affirm!

Kia ora!

30 December 2018

Wednesday, December 5, 2018


             "When you find out that there was never anything in the dark side to be afraid of...Nothing is left but to love." - Alan Watts

25 November 2018
Rangiwahia hut

   Sitting here at Rangiwahia hut on my own. There is a chilly southerly blowing over in great gusts, shaking the hut which momentarily overwhelms the rain. Then it settles and the constant drumming of the downpour on the tin roof resumes. The soft hiss of my camp stove joins in, creating a sort of comforting lullabye, as it heats the billy full of water for another cup of sweet tea.

    My plan was to have some lunch and a cuppa here then travel along the Whananhuia tops to the tarns below Maungahuia and camp. However the windy southerly, the clagged in tops, and the rain are, once again, making staying here a very attractive option. And with the stormy weather meant to settle in for a few days I may have to re-think my whole 4 day trip. Still, aside from day walks, I haven't been in the hills since early June and hauling the benches up to Top Maropea. So it is just good to be here in the Ruahine, and even walking up in the rain was not unpleasant. Even less unpleasant to find the hut empty.

And as my stove does its work and the rain pelts down I sit here and scribble these words, stopping often to reflect, ponder, and gather my thoughts. And there are so very many thoughts to gather.

The stream 10 minutes or so below the hut and just inside the open tussock and tupare zone. On a good day

The same stream after 20 hours of constant rain.

The pool, normally quiet, peaceful, and a place to ponder

Such as on a day like this. 

After coming back from visiting my family in the States this past July, I found myself highly discombobulated. I know that saying goodbye to my mother impacted me like never before, and the anniversaries of the deaths of my brother and father loomed large, as did my normal anxieties and realizations in having two very different places in which I put my feet. The only common factor in both being me. As even in myself, my one presence, I felt like two very different people. I was feeling lost and out of touch, and quite simply not coping very well. There were other issues as well that had been lying there for years. My growing dependence on alcohol, ignoring my relationships, and past behaviours and traumas I have never acknowledged much less address in any meaningful sense. I may have pretended to at times, even thought I was being honest and truthful in trying to grasp my own self, only to slide back into old patterns as soon as the waters seemed calm

A few months after our return the watershed moment came with Tara. She'd had enough. She was done. I saw it her eyes and felt it in her voice. My growing untrustworthiness in being a partner, my continued and growing unavailability, my drinking and growing numbness.

And I realized I had absolutely no defense or valid response to any of it. None. So the dam burst, well and truly and there was no turning back. I began crying and didn't stop for weeks. And it felt unashamed, and I began to welcome the moments of tears. Tears that were welling up from the ages. Tears from the past and more tears from the present.

I quit drinking. I went to talk to someone and found more strength and support in seeking help with anxiety and depression than fearing what that might appear to look like to others, or to myself. I turned my attention to our long neglected whare, house, and all the things that needed to be done. I cleared the overgrown gardens, cleaned out and cleaned the gutters, moved the ultra-heavy clothesline to a better place, water blasted the entire house, driveway, footpaths, fences, barbeque area (water blasting is highly therapeutic), cleaned out the garage, cleaned all the windows and framework, pruned out and removed trees and bushes to the tune of 3 huge trailer loads. What I didn't do wasn't worth doing.

By the time I looked back a few weeks later a small degree of calmness and clarity arrived. The therapy was helping me to understand the deep seeded causes, and the relief of not feeling isolated was enormous. The biggest discovery was that this was my own self-care, to save me not my marriage, and though related they are very separate. The "therapy" with the whare? The hard work on our house merely a manifestation of what I had allowed our house, my life, our lives, to become. A messy, untidy unsafe and unloved environment.

Kaikawaka in the misty and rain filled forest

Even in the mist a path is revealed

"As I watch you
take that 
first drawing sip
my chest
in anticipation
of too much talk
with too little substance
the face I love
becoming slack
those mostly kind
brown eyes
I am...
to a blurry shape
on this couch to be ranted at
yelled over
or sentimentalized
either way
I don't exist
for you
the tinkling 
of ice."

written by Tara Kloss

In a period such as this reassessment of everything comes into play. Relationships, friendships, social media, eating, and for me drinking. There is no ego left. There is no place left to hide either. I had slipped slowly and comfortably into a separate existence for the most part. Sitting in my comfy chair numbing myself against pain, and the reality of what it was doing to me and to the people I love most. I'm currently in a place where alcohol has no place for me. I know full well the allure of the ice tray, the sound of the cubes tinkling in the glass, the glug of the pour of my whiskey and searching for the that perfect zone of exhilaration and absence of pain with measured pulls at my glass. That perfect numbness. It doesn't last long, like the whiskey, and there is always more ice, and more whiskey. See the problem?

I haven't had alcohol in that comfy chair, or any other chair for that matter for nearly two months now.

So, while I know all to well what the whole process with the booze feels like, before, during, and after, what I am finding unfamiliar, and new, is sitting with discomfort, pain, and having to feel the reality of it all. It lets me know I am alive, it makes me realize what I must own, and what I need to acknowledge and then either let go or learn to live with.

And here I am, alone in the Ruahine on a stormy afternoon. It seems, and feels, appropriate. Yet I feel invigorated and alive. I had a fairly heavy pack on, with my tent, as intend to stay out 4 days. I noticed immediately another effect of no booze and better eating. That being carrying over 20 less kilo’s of body weight. And though tomorrow will be a far tougher test, it was apparent how much better I felt both going uphill and more so down. I just walked lighter and easier, better balanced and fitter feeling. I arrived here in a little over 2 hours which is far faster than the past years of slow plodding. And while I wouldn’t describe myself as moving fast I certainly felt less clumsy and more in tune. I am lighter both mentally and physically.

I have written in the past of the concept of Te Whare Tapa Wha, a Maori focused view of our health. The whare, known as Te Whare Tapa Whā, has four walls and each wall represents a different dimension of health. Right now, in this moment, my own Te Whare Tapa Wha, feels in the best condition it has been, well, perhaps ever!

The Four Walls:

1.    Wairua (Spirit) …My own developing spirituality has always been nature focused. I am realizing now, here, how much easier it is alone, and yet how crucial it is to bring that with me elsewhere and around those I love. There is little point to Wairua unless it shines within. I have not. In particular with receiving the aroha, love, of those I profess to love with genuine grace and presence. For me, it is to realize my own vulnerability is not a weakness, but rather strength. And to have wairua be a sense of lightness.
2.    Tinana (Physical well being) …I am lighter. Certainly physically. I have been physically fitter, but never fitter in conjunction with the opposite 3 walls of my whare. Which means my foundations are firmer, better rooted. Or at least the newly poured cement is setting.

3.    Hinengaro (Mental well being)…I can scribble words here on these pages, but none will do justice to the reality of my mental well being. I have really only begun to pay attention to the importance of my own self-care. I have only just acknowledged and owned the hurt I have caused. Or hurt I have had caused to me, to the past and present pain, trauma and what that has left in it’s wake. I have only recently allowed myself to the feel the shame and tears of weaknesses that have led me to such places, and also the strengths I never knew I had in merely coping. To reach out for help, to be vulnerable without fear of weakness, and constantly seek to be a better man. To seek integrity.

4.    Whanau (Family) …Tara, Taylor, Charlie, Monique, Noah, family here, and my family back in Wisconsin. I have not been very good at making this the most important wall of all, though if the other 3 are out of whack it all is out of form. A very circular and connected system. What I appreciate most is the noticing of even small changes and new behaviours by them merely observing.

Tara watches and wonders. As she should, she also has her own self-care to ponder and figure out, her own demons to wrestle with, her own healing to undertake. And for her to not be absorbed by my own battles. She needs to that on her own, as do I, then focus on our relationship. As she described it as the raw nerve that still jangles between us. 

26 November 6:00am

The rain is still coming down. It has beat on the roof measured and steady all night. The barometer remains low and flat indicating little change ahead. The winds have mostly died off in the stillness of the grey misty morning.

So, do I go or retreat to fight another day? Though I know the route very well it is more the thought of a touch 5 plus hour grind and arriving to find the Oroua in a raging torrent, the hut in in sight across the way. That thought has me glancing towards the plains and car far below. And to what awaits there.

Saturday, August 25, 2018


Maori Dictionary - Tangata whenua

1. (verb) -  to be natural, at home, comfortable.
Ki te tīmata mai te ako i te reo i te wā e nohinohi tonu ana ngā tamariki, ka kōrero Māori ngā tamariki rā, ka mau, ā, ka tangata whenua te reo ki roto i a rātou. / If learning the language begins when children are little, those children will speak Māori and the language will be natural to them.

  2. (verb) (-tia) to be naturalised, acclimatise, established, adapted.
Ko tēnei rākau kua tangata whenuatia ki ēnei motu  / This tree has become naturalized in these islands.

3. (noun) local people, hosts, indigenous people - people born of the whenua, i.e. of the placenta and of the land where the people's ancestors have lived and where their placenta are buried.
Ko te tangata whenua te hunga pupuri i te mana o tētahi whenua. / The tangata whenua are the people who have authority in a particular place.

Thoughts of having put my mokopuna’s (grandson’s) feet upon the Ruahine has been stewing within over the past week. The significance continues to grow as I reflect upon him being the third generation of Kloss men to step foot upon its temperamental yet beautiful valleys, rivers, streams, ridges and golden tussock. I am Manuhuri, Visitor, to this land. Even though I have lived here close to half my lifetime, my original place lies elsewhere. Yet over time my relationship with this country and certainly the Ruahine has become close to the first two definitions of tangata whenua listed above. My sense of place belongs here as well. And though Noah’s feet have only walked a short distance into those mountains, there are steps there for him. There are memories there for him that swirl in the in the forest breeze, or flutter the waxy leaves of the tupare up high. That is a fine legacy should he choose to find it one day.

Reflections also come to mind of both my sons and their place in this story and in my heart. Thoughts of both my sons and different moments shared with each. The common element with both is the Ruahine. And me. I was neither the same man, nor the same father with either of my sons. How could I be? The one piece of true knowledge I have gained over time is that my own growth is never stagnant. I have never arrived. The process constantly evolves and unfolds. So now my mokopuna, grandson, awaits to be introduced in full to these mountains, and my own continuing unfolding. Lessons that bind fathers to sons, brother to brother, brother to uncle, and grandfather to grandson. Like an ancient grove of tawhairauriki deep in a mountain forest so our own roots live, then die, yet nourish the next generations. 

With Taylor and Nigel on Taylor's first trip to Top Maropea.

Taylor's frst fire at Top Maropea
I first set foot in the Ruahine in late 1993. I was invited by a friend I had met here in New Zealand to go on a day tramp with and his mate up Gold Crown ridge. His mate turned out to be John Nash, whom I am still tramping with to this day and whom has become a treasured friend. Which in itself is noteworthy for me. I had never experienced anything like it. The walk across farmland with the ranges looming above, and then starting up the unbelievably steep and relentless Gold crown spur. Yet climbing up into that forest, seeing the dripping mosses and lichens, and breathing deeply  the earthy aroma of Aotearoa, the fantastic twisted and unreal shapes of the tawhairauriki, was like nothing in my experience. I was mesmerized. Gaining the ridge we ambled down towards Park Peak ridge for some time before having to turn around. Being a hot day we ran out of water and I recall vividly climbing down with John. Far below us we could see the green clarity of deep pools in the stream below us and the hushed sound of the water out of reach. Fortunately back at the car we had a chilly bin full of ice and beer. Some of the finest beer I have ever chugged!  Since that day I have done countless tramps into the Ruahine. Some of those linger more than others and at the top of that list are the ones which placed the feet of my own two sons upon the hallowed ground of the Ruahine.

Taylor on his first trip to Top Maropea.


12 January 2001
Top Maropea hut

Here at Top Maropea. Once again with Nigel, but also, in a presence that makes my heart swell, Taylor Quinn Gustav Kloss, entering his name into the hutbook and entering the Ruahine mountains on his first real adventure at age 7.

This has been, perhaps, my finest day as a father, both in guiding his young legs on a long day and a fairly daunting stretch of open tops and down to here in cloudy, misty and very wet conditions. It took us 6 hours of walking all up. We arrived at Sunrise in decidedly poxy weather but after a rest. A hearty lunch and a group discussion we packed up and set out in the rain for Top Maropea at 3:00pm. Taylor negotiated a wee tricky bit of tramping in very good cheer. I am bursting with pride!
 We now sit in front of the fire. Our bellies are full of steak, rice and broccoli and about to indulge in hot cocoa with pieces of chocolate stirred in. Staring at the fire and letting the days memories wash over us. Not sure what the morning will bring but tonite we are together, safe, warm and smiling.
 10 March 2001
Gold Creek hut
Abridged story…after a long of just Taylor and I getting into Gold Creek hut:

As we approached the empty hut we could see far below us, we were both wet and tired, and I too, knew we had put in a good day. Now soon we would have a safe, dry place, plenty of good food, hot drinks, dry warm clothes and especially good company. It took us over 6 plus hours to arrive here but we soon had the fire and a supply of very dry wood cranked up and roaring in the wood stove.
 Taylor organized all our supplies on the small hut table, then went and dragged in some more wood and then went to the creek to fill our water bottles and billies. Then I heard him down by the creek, playing the games that seven year old boys play in such places as a wild mountain creek. I stayed in the hut, reading the hut book which went back to the 1980’s. No one has been here for over 3 months. With the rain bouncing on the tin roof, the sound of the creek outside, and the excited voice of my son it felt like a magical, remote place indeed. Later we got dinner ready and Taylor stirred our potatoes while I got our sausages and gravy. We ate in great contentment, just enjoying our little home for the night.
 Taylor drifted off to sleep still talking and mumbling about the day till all I heard was his gentle breathing, the plops of the rain on the roof, the crackles and pops of the dying fire.

We awoke just before sunrise. After a breakfast of Hopple Popple, which consists of bacon, eggs, potatoes, onoin, garlic green pepper and cheese, all coming together in a big feast. It is delicous and we ate with great gusto. The sky outside was now a deep brilliant blue. Everything felt right. I repacked our gear and made Taylor's load as light as possible. I decided we would head own the creek to the river instea of climbing back up to the ridge. The park topo map indicated it was shorter, though a few mixed reviews in the hut book had me somewhat dubious. Still, it was a beautiful morning, we had all day, and I knew that eventually we had to meet the river.

Taylor thought it was a grand idea, until 15 minutes in when he slipped and fell head first into the cold water and got soaked.Within an hour I arrived at the conclusion I had made the wrong decision. The creek falls pretty steeply from the hut. This means lots of fast water but worse, a large number of waterfalls, some as high as 15 feet or so, and lots of log jams to scramble over or around. It was tough going. A lot of falls I had to climb down, leave my pack, go back up and get Taylor's pack, take that down, then help Taylor down the fall as well. It was all a bit nerve wracking, never mind tiring. At the biggest fall I looked up to see Taylor's lip trembling and then crying saying, "It's too big! It's too dangerous! I want my mummy!" I climbed up and we had a big cuddle and just let him have a cry. Then I explained as softly as I could we had to carry on. I didn't tell him I was scared too.

I held his hand in the fast water and over the slippery rocks and we soon came to a rhythm getting down the creek. At one point I slipped over and fell flat on my face, banging my arm hard on a rock. It hurt! Taylor came rushing over to cuddle me and make sure I was okay. In the bush we take care of each other.

That walk down the creek took us 5 hours. Finally the creek opened up and we could see the upper ridge we had been on the day prior. We stopped at the first sunny spot we came across and had a rest. We munched on cashews and drank water from the stream. We didn't say much. We didn't have to say much. Even though we had both scared in the stream, for different reasons, we helped each other through, we made it together. Possibly we both learned something about ourselves, each other, trust and love. I know I did.

One moment stood out in particular for me. We came around a bend after our rest and su
ddenly the sun was shining on brilliantly on the water, highlighting the green clearness of the pools, and each pebble shone and glowed like jewells. The big trees loomed and the bush a thousand shades of green, while high overhead we had glimpses of the open tops far above. The whole scene was vivid and alive with colour and energy. "It looks like a painting!", Taylor shouted. He was seeing exactly what I saw and summed it up far better.

We stopped in at Craig's hut after crossing the main Makaroro river for a hot brew, dry socks and a rest. Taylor had put in a long day, longer than yesterday, and was getting tired and looking forward to the car and hot chips in Dannevirke. We still had a 30 minute walk down the old logging road and a final river crossing to the car. Once there I loaded up our gear, started the car and drove towards the farm gate. By the time I opened and closed the gate Taylor was fast asleep. he had walked almost 8 hours today. Not bad for a 7 year old. 

I drove home as my son slept. Listened to Van Morrison and ran the past few days around in my head. Lots of lessons learned. Some good moments, some hard ones too, a few laughs and a few tears. Together with my son. We never had those hot chips in Dannevirke. I carried him into the house when we got home. Still fast asleep. 

Charlie's first trip to Top Maropea. 

13 Jan. 2011 Top Maropea

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.

Camel Back spur. About to drop to the hut.

Charlie by the cairn underneath which his placenta is buried. Connecting him to the Whenua, Land.

A ways to go yet.

The ridge across Camel Back spur leading to Te Atua Para Para.
14 Jan. 2011

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, The God of Wind, he met the Ruahine....

And of course it was Charlie whom accompanied me on my very first trip bak to the Ruahine after having my hip replaced. To be honest I was full of anxiety prior to that trip, simply not knowing how it would go, or if those connection to this place were even real. He was so kind and gentle with me over those two days, much like when I fell in the river with Taylor and he came rushing to my aid. I felt loved and cared for by my sons. That is a wonderful feeling.

4 June 2010

Sunrise hut - late afternoon
Robb Kloss
Charlie Kloss

I have pulled out my little notebook a few different times in the past few hours here at Sunrise hut to try and gather the thoughts running around inside my head, but each time till now I have failed to put pen to paper. I could only stare out at this place, and even if only here at Sunrise today that is a huge step, and a wonderful place to be as I reunite with the Ruahine. I came here back in October of 2009 with Taylor, and on a stormy day where crossing the saddle was not an option we stayed here and had the place to ourselves. Today as I sit here on the porch I watch a well used swan dry garment once worn by Taylor as a little boy, now filled by another little boy, Charlie, buzzing about the tussock and tarn looking for ice and snow and taking in this huge new environment. His first over night trip into these mountains, age 7, the age I first took Taylor beyond here to Top Maropea, the first of many trips for his young legs. I sit and stare at Charlie, yet I think of Taylor and that time gone in the blink of an eye. And, of course, this is also a homecoming and a first for me. My first connection here since November of last year, and my first outing with this new tin hip. Wow!

I am feeling a bit overwhelmed, stunned to have walked up here with a reasonably heavy pack, and discover the joys of walking which I have not experienced for almost 5 years now as I look back. To actually enjoy walking and climbing rather than it being simply an arduous and painful price to pay for being here. As I walked today I kept waiting for those signs to flare up, which they did not. I felt light and giddy, walked slow, steady, and easily instead of a painful lumbering gait. I walked with a smile upon my face rather the mask of grimace I have been used to. I felt like I was having some sort of a religious experience. Maybe it was I just felt normal.

5 June Sunrise hut - just after sunrise
As I sat with a cup of coffee before sunrise I saw Charlie stir and then wake up, (he had over 11 hours of sound sleep). So for the first time in my life I watched the sunrise in the mountains with my youngest son. How wealthy was I in that moment, sitting on the porch of this place, the only ones in the world watching the sunrise from here, Charlie snuggled into me and my arm around him.

My thoughts cannot help but wish we were heading in deeper into the Ruahine for many days, but this first journey for us both was more prudent and the results satisfying. Charlie and I will experience that, differently perhaps than I did with Taylor. I want to one day come with both my boys together. But to be here now, not just with Charlie, but with this new hip, to have set my mind to getting back here, to have accomplished that, to know they will still be the part of my life I need so much. I can only bow my head in Thanks. Kia kaha!

Charlie and I outside Top Maropea.


“Going to the mountains is going home.”
― John Muir
Today was an important one. Certainly in my life and one that one day, when I am mere dust, my grandson might see as relevant to how his life is unfolding. I hope so. Today Tara and I took our moko out to the Ruahine. His first steps into a sacred and special range of mountains. The third generation of Kloss feet to be placed there. A distinct honour and a humble privilege. We walked only a very short distance into the forest along the Number 1 Line track out in Pohangina valley. Up to the huge Rimu tree. We said a Karakia and stared at this ageless giant . Noah loved it and got quite stroppy when we had to leave. He kissed the giant goodbye. My sun is setting and his only begun to rise. On the short walk back to the car all I could think of are the possibilities we have in the few short years ahead when our lives intersect with real meaning.

Noah and Tara


“I have learned that to be with those I like is enough”
― Walt Whitman
A favourite moment from placing my grandsons feet in the Ruahine. Noah found a cozy spot and sat nestled and happy. It seemed the roots of the stately old Rimu were giving him a cuddle and pleased for the company. He sat there for a long time. I joined him and told him of a few places I love in these mountains and hope to show him. He just sat and looked around, listened and it all felt very comfortable, very natural. Like sitting along a river on a beautiful calm day, or resting after climbing a long steep spur with a treasured mate. The smiles always tell the story. A simple dream I hold onto is to one day and one evening climb up and to Top Maropea with my sons and grandson. The completion of a huge circle in my tiny life.  Tihei Mauri Ora!  (top photo)

What a privilege it has been to be able to first be introduced to place that has become so important to my own well being and learning its charms and character one step at a time. Then being able to introduce my own sons to that place, to have experiences there we will always share. And now my mokopuna, grandson. What might await? For Taylor and Charlie even if they do not have the same passion and yearning for the Ruahine, or any wild place, as I do, so be it. At least they know they are there. And like a dusty hidden present forgotten on some shelf it will always be there to discover and open. Tihei Mauri Ora!

“We have such a brief opportunity to pass on to our children our love for this Earth, and to tell our stories. These are the moments when the world is made whole. In my children's memories, the adventures we've had together in nature will always exist.”

― Richard Louv, Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder

Kia ora!