Tuesday, 9 June 2015

Jumbo Circuit

Thursday 04/06/15
While Maggie was busy finishing up some work and taking a final Justin and I buckled down and tried to plan a trip through the Tararua mountain range for the weekend leaving the next morning. I found train tickets to Masterton and then a taxi that would take us from the station to the trailhead. We then went by the Docsite (Department of Conservation) and picked up hut tickets and maps, stopped by the train station to buy our tickets and then over to New World to pick up food for the trip. And in just a few hours we had a 4-day trip planned leaving the next morning at 8:25am!

Friday 05/06/15
We were up at around 630 and made the 30-minute trek to the train station with full packs. We met Maggie at McDonalds to grab a hunger buster and then headed into the train station to begin our journey. It was an hour and a half ride to Masterton. We passed through lower and upper hut, continued through farmland and beautiful countryside, passing small mountains covered in shrubs in full bloom giving the hillsides a beautiful yellow hue. A few trees had turned orangey yellow and were the only visual hints that autumn was upon us. We passed by the vast green fields of deer farms stopping only at tiny little roadside train stations, which consisted of only car parks and a platform, before reaching the end of the line in Masterton. As soon as we exited the train and grabbed our bags someone poked their head out of a door and said, “are you going to Holdsworth? Aiden right?” We hopped in the van and half an hour later we were at the trailhead!

We started up along the river passing over a large wooden bridge. The trail was very well developed and the foliage was unlike any I had seen thus far. It was a vibrant green with thick moss covering large trees that had an old powerful presence. Ferns were everywhere, small ground ferns were interspersed between the trees and massive tree ferns pushed up creating beautiful delicate circular patterns that brought a unique vibrancy and life to the canopy.

The trail split and we headed up the hillside towards Powell Hut. A little ways up we joined two trampers at a rocky overlook. They were long time friends. One had moved to the UK for 15 years and had just moved back to New Zealand. He had called is high school friend to tell him he was back and asked him what he was up to on the weekend and the other already had a tramp planned so they decided to go together on a tramp they had both walked many times but 15 years had passed since their last adventure together. This was their reunion hike. They were incredibly friendly and showed us gps gadgets on their phones and pointed out things to watch out for on their map. They headed off a different direction after wishing us luck on “the endless stairs”.
As we continued up the temperature dropped and thick mists and light rain started making its way through the thick mossy trees (Photo 1). The trail narrowed and the pitch increased dramatically. The cold light rain matched the feeling of the forest perfectly, every plant seemed to be in exactly where they wanted to be. All the moss was turgid with water and the forest felt robust and full while simultaneously seeming to relax into the cold day. After some time of steep climbing the endless stairs began. First just a few sets of 8 to 10 stairs. All the stairs were all roughly knee level and this repetition almost immediately gave my legs a deep burn to fight the cold. After a kilometer or so we hit the real challenge, the endless stairs our friends below had spoken of. As we looked up the trail we could see staircases stacked one after the other heading straight up the hillside before disappearing over a false summit or simply softly disintegrating into the mists above. The burn was ever-present and deep creating the beautiful opportunity to challenge my mind and not give credence to its false claims of true exhaustion. Each step was a new challenge that allowed me to push through the pain and fully own my bodies true ability. After some time the canopy gave way to an exposed ridgeline the light rain began to bounce off of our bodies and packs as it turned to sleet and hail. The winds picked up hinting that we were probably atop a mountain range but the mists held us close allowing us to see only a few meters around yet keeping the staircases above in full focus. We pushed on up the snow-covered ridgeline and were passed by a man with a small dog heading down the mountain he simply said that he had a fire waiting for us above. We continued up stairs for another 15 minutes or so and then rounded a corner to see Powell hut perched on the side of the mountain. Though we had only been hiking for two and a half hours we had gained more than 900 meters of elevation over only a few kilometers of track. This made the hut a lovely site to our tired bodies. We excitedly took off our wet gear and stoked the fire to warm up and relax. A little while later two other trampers and their lovely border collie Lexi (Photo 2) joined us. We sat by the fire all night taking breaks to look out over the far off city lights whenever the fog would clear, before heading off to sleep.

Saturday 06/06/15
We slept in until about 8:30 and had a leisurely morning and a large breakfast of wheatbix with scroggin, apples and peanut butter. We then packed up, took a moment to see the view that had been obscured the day before (Photo 3) and headed up the ridgeline towards Jumbo hut. The entire hike today was along a snow-covered ridgeline. We had been warned that this trail was marked but not very clear and mist and fog could almost completely obscure the trail from view. Another tramper warned us that the ridgeline gets very narrow, 2 to 3 meters wide at times, and winds can get up to 120 km per hour. With all this said it was a gorgeous clear day. We hiked up through the snow and to the Mt. Holdsworth summit at nearly 1500 meters. Holdsworth had a huge metal structure marking the summit covered with 3 or so inches of windblown ice. We continued on enjoying a day that seemed perfect for tramping with warm sun, frigid air and crisp vivid views. We happily scampered down the trail stopping only for stunning views with the exception of the time when we were stunned by MEGAWORM! This thing was by far the largest worm I have ever seen stretching out roughly a foot long. (Photo 4) We continued on and paused for an apple break at the summit of Mount Jumbo where it was shockingly cold (Photos 5 and 6) before heading down the ridgeline to Jumbo Hut. The whole hike took us 2 hours instead of the estimated 4 so we had tons of time left in the day. We had lunch and spoke to three girls who stopped in on their way up to Powell Hut. We decided to simply have a relaxed day and sit by the fire all afternoon. After an hour or so Lexi and her parents joined us at the hut and just after they arrived brisk winds and sleet began pummeling our little hut. One more lone tramper with a brilliant red beard joined us for the night. We got the wood stove crankin to fight the cold, had a lovely pasta dinner and then climbed the small ladder up to our little loft for the night. The winds were incredibly loud and powerful. They screamed down from the snowy peaks and over the roof less than a meter above our loft pelting the siding with snow and sleet. The wild cacophony wrapped our little cabin with a wild wonder that made our warm little loft all the more cozy and ushered me into a deep restful nights sleep.

Sunday 07/06/15
We slept in again today and had a leisurely breakfast sitting by the fire. It was just the three of us left in the hut as we packed our belongings and tidied up the hut (Photo 7) before hitting the trail once more. Today would be an even shorter day, as we only needed to go down roughly an hour and a half to the river and Atiwhakatu Hut. We descended down the incredibly steep mountainside using roots as steps and handles to keep us from falling. The forest quickly went from frozen alpine shrubs and ice covered grasses to thick lush green mosses and endless ferns. We made it down to Atiwhakatu Hut very quickly and dropped our packs and had lunch at a table near the river. After lunch we gathered and split wood in preparation for the nights fire and then headed up a different trail along the river for a day hike while the daylight lasted. We found a nice spot in the river with large mossy boulders and tree ferns (Photo 8). We sat for a while chatting and then decided to set up small rocks atop the boulders and tried to snipe them off by throwing the river rocks at our feet. After successfully knocking them all off we continued up through the very overgrown trail pausing for a few beautiful views, a tree throne and to allow Maggie to recover from giggle attacks brought on by Justin and my unbelievably chortlesome quips and general jocularity. We turned back to beat the darkness back to our hut. We were incredibly lucky to have the 26-bed hut completely to ourselves that night. After some time and a full team effort of scavenging for small dry kindling we finally got the damp wood to light and got a roaring fire going. The darkness filled the hut leaving almost nothing visible except the three amber specks from the incense I lit. I decided to light the candle I had found in a previous hut and the whole space came to life with a warm amber glow. We were all sitting on a mattress I had dragged in front of the wood stove. While sitting here we had the brilliant idea of lining tables up with each other from the back wall towards the fire to create a back support for another mattress to act as a makeshift couch. We lined up two long tables and then two benches perpendicular to them and it was exactly the right distance to make our couch. We sat down and all three of us immediately burst into uncontrollable giggles, as this was the most perfect, comfortable couch we had experienced. We opened the stove door to reveal stunning coals and sat there all night mesmerized by the perfection of the moment we had collectively created. We had dinner, hot chocolate and tea and the conversation would effortlessly flow from ruckus laughter, to quite contemplative confabulation, to silent wonder with our attention fixed on the stunning bright colors of the coals. This was one of the most perfect nights of my trip. All my senses were at peace and joyfully relishing the moment. The incense, the warmth from the fire, the light from the candle, the couch holding our tired content satiated bodies, and the deep feeling of belonging and companionship that I felt without question in the silence from the two delightful and profoundly inspiring people who I was lucky enough to share this night with. (Photo 9) After all drifting off to sleep on our couch we rallied enough to bring three mattresses to the front of the fire allowing us to sleep in the literal and figurative warmth we had created.

Monday 08/06/15
We woke up had a hearty breakfast of wheatbix with apples, peanut butter, scroggin, hot chocolate mix, and chocolate bars. We then went to the river where we stood out on rocks and soaked up the sun and our surroundings for half an hour or so. We then tidied up the hut, set up some incense for the next trampers and headed back down the trail along the river towards the car park.

It was a stunning day with bright clear sunlight beaming from above. The track took us through thick lush forests that were almost tropical in feel. Through tree fern forests and passed massive moss covered trees that towered above us. (Photo 10) It took us on single person swinging cable bridges over beautiful mountain streams, across winding slatted wooden walkways through marshy valleys and then up to a sunlit ridgeline trail (Photo 11) looking down on the river before emptying us back into Donnelly flat and finally the car park. We sat in the sun by the river and had an apple and peanut butter as we waited for our taxi. We were then whisked away back to the Masterton train station and then back to Wellington. We gathered our bags and went up to D4 to grab a dirty beer before going our separate ways to unpack and clean up. We reconvened for fish n chips at the Mount Vic Chippery to feed our tired bodies and give a wonderful end cap to our journey. Thank you Justin and Maggie for being genuine incredibly people, I feel honored to have you as friends. And thank you to everyone else who showed interested in my life by reading this.

Photo 1 - Mossy Misty Forest

Photo 2 - Lexi

Photo 3 - View From Powell Hut

Photo 4 - MEGAWORM

Photo 5 - View From Mt. Jumbo

Photo 6 - Us Atop Mt. Jumbo

Photo 7 - Jumbo Hut (With Our Loft)

Photo 8 - Our River Spot

Photo 9 - Atiwhakatu Hut (Maggie Sitting, Justin Sleeping)

Photo 10 - Me With A Gian Tree

Photo 11 - Trail Back To The Car Park

Finished My Classes, TP Results Are In and My Friend the Fountain

Finishing Classes
I have finished up my classes and it is a strange feeling. I had each class only 12 times and looking back on them already feels kind of like a dream. My final printmaking class was particularly surreal. All we had to do was turn in our final prints and then we were free to go. I was the only person who had finished prior to that class so everyone else was furiously working trying to finish and I simply handed my work in. My professor looked at my final prints and smiled saying I nailed the colors, which was something we had discussed earlier. Then in that moment it hit me that this was my last class. I wouldn’t run into my professor around campus or be able to swing by his office if I wanted to chat. We both seemed to simultaneously have this realization. He seemed sad and we both sat there for a moment not knowing how to say goodbye. I thanked him for all he had taught me and shared how grateful I was to have been introduced to printmaking. He was incredibly humble saying all the work came from within me he was just there if I got stuck. But in my opinion that is a sign of a truly great teacher. I was guided and learned the skills enough to be able to confidently create my own works but had an unbelievable safety net if I needed it. He said I could easily start an etsy or ebay selling my prints and thanked me for my hard work telling me that the studio was always open to me whenever I would come back. As I left the very familiar and beautiful bittersweet feeling, that fully encompasses gratitude for an amazing experience and sadness, which I have grown to love as I take it to be a strong sign of an experience being important and having value in my life. And John and printmaking have both been very valuable to me. Thank you John.  

Oriental Bay Fountain (from my journal)
After finishing up all my classes I am left with a sad, reflective feeling and have a strange amount of free time. I have felt drawn to go sit down at Oriental Bay and be quiet and reflect on my experiences. I am sitting watching the Crown Fountain shoot sheets of colorful water droplets up into the air and then watching them fall in sheets that float gently through the air. (Photos) Each color shift has my heart sink, not with sadness but with beauty. The colors are so rich that I easily get lost in them. I feel as though I will miss the waterfront and living so close the bay. I will miss the long clouds soaring low across the skies. They are strikingly powerful yet elegant and graceful, and thin enough to almost always allow the moon to shine through encompassing it in a rainbow. I will also certainly miss this fountain. It has such a powerful presence. Watching it puts me in a meditative place that always allows me to relax and feel what is within me easily and fully. It feels like a supportive loving friend that silently holds me through gaze alone. Currently it is supporting me in feeling many strong emotions. But it allows them to just be with no advice, without trying to change anything or make me feel better. It is just present with me doing its thing. I am struck be this amazing feeling that I found a home on the other side of the world and this has me feel more connected to the world as a whole. I am not just a part of a small place that I grew up but I am a part of this whole planet and much more. It has me feeling on even a deeper level that I will always be ok, even on the other side of the world from “home”. The city lights reflect in the still bay and my friend the fountain continues doing its thing. I look forward to the next time I get to spend time with this fountain and feel confident that we will have more time together down the road. Do you ever feel moments from the future in the present, kind of like a reverse déjà vu? That is how I feel right now. I feel myself here in the future. I can feel my body and a sense of returning home and quietly reconnecting with an old friend. A large cargo ship is now effortlessly gliding behind the fountain causing soft white reflections and glassy smooth waves from its wake.

I just moved up to the top of a building that overlooks the bay and the fountain from above. A few moments after moving the fountain turned off. And as I watched the final drops softly land on the surface of the bay. I felt a sadness as thought a friend had left too soon. Then only moments later a fully tatted guy in a hoodie emerged from the shadows and walked up to me startling me because I couldn’t hear him with my earbuds in. I quickly removed them and greeted him asking how he was doing tonight and he then said, “great man, want a cigarette?” I told him no but thanked him as cigarettes are very pricey. I was struck by how genuine and caring his tone was. He then looked at me and said, “Holy shit! This is a sick view eh?” I told him he should come back when the fountain is on. He said, “I certainly will, have a great night bro.” He then disappeared just as quickly as he had appeared. It was a simple encounter but it brightened my spirits considerably and put a huge smile on my face and into my heart. You never know when you will be gifted with a connection. I thought I was totally alone and then a guy, who most would consider to be stereotypically sketchy, comes up to me and offers me a cigarette and was incredibly present with me for a moment. As soon as one friend left for the night another immediately arrived just to remind me that anything can happen. I love this life!

TP Results Are In!
On a completely different note I have been flabbergasted by the sheer amount of toilet paper my three-person flat seems to use. So this week I decided to actually do a study to see how much we used in one full week. And the results are in. In 7 days my 3-person-flat used…. Drumrolll…. Ten and a half rolls of toilet paper! Meaning each of us uses a half a roll a day! (Which is definitely not the case for me) I have no idea how this happens but it seems to be about the pace I have imagined all semester long.

New Coffee Shop!
I walked into the Preservatorium on a warm sunny windy day in wellington and the man behind the counter said “from north Carolina right? I remember you came in the other day with another guy.” I was very impressed as this is only my second time in here. We had a wonderful little interaction he told me he had a friend that went to a camp outside of Raleigh. It is amazing how much like home wellington feels at times. I am sitting here looking over this little coffee shop with a feeling of belonging, comfort and contentment. I feel joyful with excitement bubbling through my body. It is also endlessly entertaining to watch people fight against the wind to open the door and then see their reaction as the wind slams it behind them. The intense wind adds to the cozy warm feeling within this little shop.

That is all for now just a quick little update. I hope everyone is doing well! Thanks for reading.

Random Purse

I decided to try and weave a purse out of the Harakeke leaves for fun and this is what I ended up with!

Maori Final Carving

Here are a few photos of my Maori final. It is a carving based around the idea of whakaapa and I will happily discuss it with anyone interested in learning about it but at this time I do not feel drawn to try and type about the concept as it doesn't feel like it would do it justice.