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!