I check the forecast. Clear skies and a freezing south-easterly, snow down to 1100m not too far above the top of the route, possibility of frost on the rock or verglas. Numb fingers, frozen toes, an ice cream headache, chattering teeth, shivering legs.
Finally the yo-yo slapping world of lift and drop ceases. A lifetime encapsulated in fifteen bone jolting minutes. We cautiously crab our way forward off the lurching boat onto the slippery but stationary rocks. There is no time to adjust we’re straight into parting tree branches, untangling vine traps and edging round thick nests of ferns. I’m grateful for Pavlo. Not only has he driven us from Christchurch, he’s figured out how to get across the wind swept fiord and as the non-Kiwi he is, as far as the clouds of ravenous sand-flies are concerned, tasty. Continue reading “Getting a feel for the place”→
The star-spangled curtain of black has a circular window glowing cold white. Dew is busy condensing to frost. We’re so busy talking we fail to take the Taihape turn off and realise only when the sign for Wanganui is silhouetted by our headlights. With renewed focus we feel our way north spurning the main road to Waioru in favour of darkness. My soda water bottle lying on the floor of the car acts as a spirit level rolling left and right as we wind our way between hills. Detaching from the hill cover where the Pukeokahu and Mangahoata roads meet Grethe steers us left towards the Pukeokahu school and our campsite. A home-made sign directs us to a paddock where a cluster of shadowy tents stand to attention flanked neatly by cars. Viktor, our welcoming party of one, indicates the precise location of our respective tents. With the car engine extinguished the only sounds are Moreporks and the occasional bark of a dog.
It was love at first light. The trail weaves a connecting path through many toanga – the Waitakeres, home to our fast disappearing coastal rainforest including beautiful groves of kauri, rata and pohutakawa. Wild, isolated, rugged coastlines with dramatic cliff faces and the towering walls of sand dunes (black) of Bethells that contrast with the wild surf pasted sand beaches (white) and dangerous rips of Piha. The primordial, green, scrawny spine of a peninsula that marks the way to Whatipu. My childhood hero and adult inspiration, the guy on our five dollar note, Ed. Continue reading “Melting Moments”→
As child I looked forward to birthdays. What’s not to like? Lots of food of the type normally forbidden, lots of people not normally seen. If the birthday was mine, lots of new books to read. Lots of attention, and lots of mess. I didn’t have to clean up the mess. Somewhere along the way the appeal of celebrations of this nature started to fade. As an adult you get to eat whatever you like whenever you like, you see friends and family when it suits and you discover libraries. You get to clean up your own mess and realise it can be a difficult, stressful, protracted business. While I’d participate in other people’s milestone marking, marking my own milestones just didn’t seem important. Yeah I’m a year older, no big upside, no big deal.
The setting sun washes the Forbes Range in a pink rinse. From my vantage point just outside the red corrugated iron walls of Esquliant Bivvy the twin peaks of Earnslaw/Pikirakatahi and O’Leary have also acquired a rosy tinge. My eyes are drawn to the dark colossus known as Pluto Peak which dominates the foreground. On a mild, still summer evening it’s easy to forget how inhospitable mountains can be.
Mitre Peak is a drama queen. Everything about her shouts “look at me”. She is permanently posed for a close up, rising straight up out of a fiord like a lochness monster. On a rare clear sunny day she is riveting. In more typical pluvial Fiordland conditions she’s inscrutable inviting observers to engage their imagination to fill the gaps. You may catch glimpses of her through tendrils of mist, her head may emerge above the clouds, or her feet may be revealed but not her top.