Friday, June 8, 2018

Mana Heke Iho - Inherent Dignity

"Nothing is at last sacred but the integrity of your own mind."
-Ralph Waldo Emerson

2 June 2018
Sunrise hut  Mid afternoon

I arrived here after a rather chilly walk up through the cloud and mist. It was drizzling when I left the car and shortly turned to rain and sleet as I trudged upwards to here.  While trying to be cognizant that I would be carrying a near 18 pound bench lashed to my pack, I also had to have gear and equipment for a 3 day winter tramp. Thus my load, both mentally and physically was very heavy. It has been over 5 months since I have spent any real quality time in the mountains, and combined with the duty of hauling this bench along to replace ones which had been at Top Maropea for 60 years, until being burnt, made it a tough effort. That someone chose to burn 60 year old seats in a mountain hut that is actually a Historical Site because they were cold still astounds me. The total disconnection, disrespect, and sheer self entitlement of such an act filled me with a melancholic gloom.
 I just wanted to be alone with my thoughts as I climbed slowly up here and reflect on my relationship with both Top Maropea and the Ruahine, perhaps find some inspirational insight that will soothe my soul. The truth is really I felt blank and simply felt the weight of that bench strapped on my back with each step. Maybe it was some type of penance and more sanguine and lucid thought will come as I sit by the fire with a cup of tea, or something stronger.
 In the morning I will head over the saddle to Top Maropea and be joined at some point by a few other lads hauling the other two benches. It is completely clagged in and grey with rain and sleet, though only a slight wisp of wind. It seems as if the mountains too feel the melancholy.

On the way up.
Late Afternoon..

 There was a wee break in the rain and I went out and sat amongst the tussock up where the track to the saddle begins. Though I could see no more than 10 metres in any direction I knew that Te Atuaoparapara loomed above to the southwest, and that Armstrong saddle was just to the north and the highpoint and start of Camelback spur directly to the west. The mere fact I knew they were there made their presence important and significant. Then as if the cloud lifted and those peaks and places suddenly appeared clear and vivid, the fog in my head lifted in the same momentary reflection. What came to mind was holistic model of Maori health and wellness developed by Sir Mason Durie, one I had learned the basics of in my Probation officer training and read more about on my own, that of Te Whare Tapa Wha. Simply explained meaning there are 4 dimensions to a person’s  well being, akin to the support of 4 legs of chair we might sit upon. If 1 or more of the legs is wobbly or broke it will not support us and we are out of balance. The 4 areas are:
1.    Taha Hinengaro – our mental health and well being
2.    Taha Tinana – our body and physical well being
3.    Taha Whanau – our family and relationship
4.    Taha Wairua – our Spiritual well being
 So sitting there all bundled up on a wee knoll of moss and tussock enjoying a wee dram with the tupare and stunted tawhairaunui as soothing, knowing, and wise companions, I realized the issue was with my own wairua.  The bruised and battering my own wairua, spirit, has taken was not so much related to the burning of the actual benches themselves.  They are simply representations of a place, and mountains, I love and have become connected to in so many ways. And perhaps it is simply being in these mountains again that has help lift my wairua. I suspect as well that the load I carried up here to begin restoring mana and karma to a place I love also has a role in my own spirts being lifted.

The rain has resumed in earnest and the temperature remains 0 degrees Celsius. Everything outside is still muted by the quiet mist. I am off to bed and in the morning I shall venture into the mist shrouded track over to Top Maropea. My Quiet Friend and I will travel together. A hint of breeze fluttering the waxy leaves of the tupare, greywacke rock falling down a slip like broken shards of glass, the rise and fall of my own breathing and heartbeat, and always on days like the one ahead the cacophony of water, plopping, dripping gathering and flowing into nearby waterfalls I will never see. It is hushed and quiet but never silent. Tihei Mauri Ora!

3 June 2018
Top Maropea hut

The rain and sleet picked up quite heavily during the night at Sunrise, joined by the odd blast of wind which had me nervously tossing and turning in my sleeping bag. Rain, cloud and sleet are not deal breakers on a route I know very well, but strong winds definitely can destroy the best laid plans. However when I awoke just before light it was fairly quiet and though it was drizzling steadily the winds were still with just an occasional gust. A few cups of coffee, some cabin bread and peanut butter, and I packed up and was on my way.

While I got very wet I was only hit by blasts of chilly wind when turned into the easterly cold wind and just plugged along through it. As I neared the middle section of Camel Back spur a small section of cloud cleared and across the valley a section of the snow covered tops emerged out of the mist for a few brief moments. (It was to be the only glimpse of any tops I would see all three days). Walking in the cold and mist was actually not uncomfortable travel given my heavy load. After the steep climb down through the forest I arrived at Top Maropea and unburdened myself of my heavy load. I said a Karakia for what was old and what is new and that Mana Heke Iho, or Inherent Dignity be restored to this mountain treasure. Then I just stood in silence and listened to the plopping drips of water all around me and thought of my connections to this place….

I, and the bench have arrived. Haere Mai! Welcome. Always glad to be here.

The original hut. Things still swirl here.

The above photo, courtesy of the New Zealand Deer Stalkers Association, is Top Maropea in 1959. I came across it and just sat staring at it. It seemed to speak to me, almost as if waiting for me to discover it. How many nights, or hut bound afternoons waiting out a storm, or even fine ones lazing about doing not much at all, have I wondered about this place, the men whom have spent time here culling deer, the storms this hut has withstood, the changes in the mountains it has been witness to observe.
 A hut was first proposed for the area in 1956 with the site chosen by NZFS field officers Evan Meredith and Des Torrance. In early 1958 a tent site was set up and 14 loads of materials were parachuted in by fixed wing airplane. It was built in one week in Feb. 1958 by NZFS bush carpenters Jan van de Lagemaat, Des Torrance and Bob Norton. It was built before hut construction was standardised and as such this hut had its own special uniqueness.
 The hut was less than two years old when this photo above was observed. Though it has been refurbished, most of the structure today is the original hut seen above. The chimney, roof, guttering, interior lining, and fireplace all have been replaced, and the hut has been designated as an historical land mark, one of the original cullers huts in the North Island, and certainly the Ruahine.
It was not, apparently, the most popular place amongst the cullers to pull duty in. It is relatively high at 1242 meters, burnable wood for a fire hard to come by for a night, much less to cook on and warm one's self morning and night day after day. Also observing the above photo and noticeable lack of a water tank to capture rain off the roof, getting a drink or boiling the billy would have been the best part of an hours journey to and from the stream far below the hut. In winter, after the fire dies, it is like sleeping in a refrigerator.
 Still, this place calls to me and always will. I have seen it on the most sublime of days and nights.  On blue sky sunlit days when flies buzz lazily in the air, and cool clear nights when stars light up the skies. I have woken up and got my stuff packed and dressed at 3:00am when I thought the hut was going to be blown away. I have had to stay extra days and ration out my food supply because of raging blizzards. I have seen the snow glow translucent on the surrounding peaks on a full moon. I have just sat in the hut contemplating, looking out the fly specked window, the rain beating down on the tin roof. I have had many wee drams in my tin cup, a candle illuminated in the hut window with the smell of wood smoke in the air as I sit outside observing the scene. My sons Taylor and Charlie have both shared this place with me, and Charlie's placenta is buried here. Tara has been here with me at a time I needed her most. I have shared the charms of this place with many special friends, and spent many nights as well in the solitude of my own company.
 So this photo echoes strongly for me. As if I can sense men like Des, Evan, Jan and Bob still have their spirits swirling about the place and understand exactly why those bloody benches were indeed so important.

Taylor and I in 2001. On the way to Maropea Forks. 

Taylor at Top Maropea in 2011. Little did we know the trip ahead!

An absolutely awesome fire, well built and well earned.

Charlie at Top Maropea. One of my favourite moments in the Ruahine. His placenta is buried beneath that cairn the sunlight shines upon. I took it, and still do, as a sign from Papatuanuku, Mother Earth, that all was correct.

Charlie in front of a well built Top Maropea fire.

Charlie. On the way to Maropea Forks. Another good fire.

Tara. I would carry a bottle of red wine in for no else in the entire world. Enough said.

2008 and the celebration of the 25th night spent under this orange roof.

All three benches have arrived. A fine evening!

3 June Top Maropea
 I am now joined now by the other two benches hauled in by David Dodge and T.J, and Tyson. I met David at Upper Makaroro back in 2001 when he was a young lad. I was with an American friend and he was there with a mate fly fishing. One evening we shared a freshly caught rainbow trout that fed the four of us. Ten years ago or so I was spending a few days at Top Maropea and doing some day trips. I was down on the Maropea river on a lovely day strolling along when I saw two guys come around a bend staggering under heavy loads and large Red Stag head. It was David and he immediately recognized me from our time at Upper Makaroro. We climbed back up to Top Maropea and renewed our acquaintance over cups of tea. We have remained friends ever since. The person with him was Tyson. So the connections are very relevant and very strong. Tyson had a snow boarding accident a few years ago and broke his back. This is his first trip into the Ruahine since then. It seems significant he is here and representative of the healing process for all of us. Kia ora!
 It is still raining and we sit inside by the fire as these new seats become part of their new whare.  We sit in the ambiance of a job well done, laughing and telling Ruahine stories, sharing our food and several well earned drams of very nice whiskey.
 I am proud and honoured to be here with these gentlemen and share this moment. The new seats look and feel like they belong and with their long journey over the misty mountain terrain they have truly gained character. Mission accomplished.

David, TJ, and Tyson on Camel Back spur. Weather conditions not pleasant.

Nice job lads!

When it is wet, cold, and no firewood there is work to be done.

Home Sweet Home!

Meeting David Dodge at Upper Makaroro back in 2001. The trout was tasty.

David Dodge and I in 2018. Kia kaha e hoa!

Tyson and David Dodge hauling out that deer from Top Maropea way back when.

The view from the "backyard" at Top Maropea. To appreciate it most sitting on a nice bench and contemplation is required.

4 June: Sunrise Hut
Still raining but across the saddle. I have chosen to remain behind while the other fellahs walk ahead. Once here there is no more risk involved. Just a big walk down the mountain to my car. So I just wanted to stay behind and reflect a bit. To all the times I have been here doing just this. To all the times I have managed to cross the saddle and venture beyond. And those I have not.  To all those I have crossed that saddle with. Each equally important. And now, as I sit here alone with stean blowing off my breath, I know the efforts of many have added up to a meaningful experience. 

E hara taku toa
i te toa takitahi,
he toa takitini,

My strength is not
as an individual
but as a collective.