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On the tops

On the tops

Winter time

Winter time
Time for doing


'Begin doing what you want to do NOW ! We are not living in eternity. We have only this moment, sparkling like a star in our hand- and melting like a snowflake'

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Return to N.Z.

From the diary............The roar 1998
1998 and it is my first roar for quite a number of years I am 45 years .old. I’ve arrived in N.Z. from OZ and I have decided to walk to Ngaawaparua hut.
Firstly I land at the Boyds hut by fixed wing. I have enough daylight left to check my new sako .308 rifle on the airstrip ,a three shot group and the Job is done, and now up to the hut for some tea. Everything looks just how I’d left it all those years ago. . Except this time I have no dog as company.
Soon the coal range is ablaze and tea is on the way. Man I’ve missed this kiwi bush. A Hurried breakfast while the valley is still waiting for the first rays of sun. It will have to wait a little longer this morning, as there is quite a thick fog down, Which should make for some interesting travel.
Sure enough the waist high tussock grass is wet and cold this hour of the morning. There are quite a few river crossings before the slog up and over to Tussock hut I muse. Actually it provided a great walk. Ideal when you’ve been away as long as I have. It helps to break you in gently. And so it proved to be this morning.
I drank in the scenery hungrily with my eyes, afraid that if I should blink .it might disappear forever. .With me this trip is a 3 piece fly rod, with which I hope to catch my first N.Z. Trout. The walk is full of nostalgic memories and they come flooding back vividly.
The terrain transitions from the open high desert like terrain of the upper Ngaruroro River. And now as I enter into the secret dense, Kaweka native bush, the first footsteps in over 17 years. Why have I been away so long?
The steep decent nearly over and I can at last catch a glimpse of Tussock hut, through the trees. I note the changes. My mind rolls back the years and I remember burning my foot at this hut so many years ago. 2nd degree burns, and helicopters ride out to Taupo hospital for Toby and me. But that as they say is another story!
I push open the door and can see immediately that the inside as been upgraded as well. Gone is the open fire that was an instrument to my burns. To be replaced by the very practical iron Aga types which when properly fed can throw out a ferocious heat.
A few twigs, some paper and the billy were soon bubbling. Man I was beginning to come alive. Always a good few minutes spent, with brew in hand and log book checking out the previous visitors, humorous stories, and hunting tales.
Then it was on with pack and rifle in hand, across that tussock wonderland, towards the Harkness hut. I was 20 minutes from the tussock hut, remembering bits and pieces when emotion took over. Without warning floods of tears coursed down my cheeks, obscuring my vision. I suppose I likened it to an emotional sauna. Whereby the tears where washing the years spent away out of my spiritual pores. Replacing my spirit .Complete once again. After the tears, my heart seemed to swell and soar in almost a painful way, and I felt a real elation. It was so very good to be back.
Arriving at the Harkness brought the reality of the changes over the year’s home to me. For there was a hut full of hunters there, with every sort of luxury you could possibly need. These boys had been flown in. There was no doubt about that. I’ve seen less booze in some pubs not to mention less food in some supermarkets, and also ammunition in some gun shops. However they were not short of hospitality either. And I soon had a mug full of hot tea, thrust into my grateful hands. I stayed for an hour or more, yarning away grateful for the brews, And the restbite for my unaccustomed muscles. However if I was to reach Ngaawapurua before nightfall I would have to be putting a into g fairly quickly.
My mind travelled through time again...... I remembered the time I had broken the stock of my sako222, at tussock and had to walk out to get it repaired. How I ‘d reached Kuripapango base camp that same day with little difficulty. And now, I was feeling pretty stuffed, half way along the track to Ngaawaparua. Times had changed all right.
There wasn’t much left of the day, when I saw the smoke lazily rising from the Ngaawapurua hut, and my mind cast back again over the years, to a hot late morning, about 11 .30 or so. And me and Toby where drifting in from the Manson country. We’d just crossed the bridge; or rather I had, as Toby preferred the swim across the ngaruroro. And this particular day he definitely had the right idea. On approaching the hut the dog became very keen. Head lifted, and quick sniffs, with that half closed eyed look of pure ecstasy.
Don’t be silly dog I chastised. Taking in the time and general heat of the day. Plus the general lack of cover, there was just no where to hide up. I dismissed the dog entirely.
We were passing through to Te puke, so it was a quick squizz at the hut book, sign it and shoot on through. The door was open, as I would soon be going through it again. When a loud drumming of hooves attracted my attention, and a deer shot past the doorway. [Which was in a different position then] .
By the time I had collected my rifle, the deer had found sanctuary in the all-encompassing bush. His marks where there though, the scuff marks were plain to see right to where he had skidded when he changed direction to follow the uphill grade.
We followed for some way. With the sika whistling but just keeping enough in front of us. After some time I called it off. A glance at my very smug looking mutt told all ,as we retreated back to the hut. Reminding me not to take him so cheaply again. .... And that reminds me of the first bit of guidance I had from Roupee van Der Voort when I arrived in the Kawekas. Never unload your rifle till you can touch the doorknob of the hut.
There were two men in residence, a very likeable father and son pairing, with a deer in the meat safe, they were enjoying some success as well.
It was evident after some yarning that things had changed big time in the Kawekas. Every hut would be booked out during the roar ,I was being told .
How we deercullers would have loved that! [Not]. But on the other hand I can also see why they, dispensed with the services of paid ground hunters. It certainly gives me a sense of privilege to think I had experienced the good times. I had my memories as they say.
It was one very psyched up hunter, wolfing down the porridge next morning and picking up the virgin sako 308, and heading across the walk-wire. I’d made a couple of hundred feet elevation, enough to drown out the busy Ngaruroro, when I heard my first roar. Way down and what seemed to be across the river. A Jap and going well too.... Ah it was so good to be back.
It was getting on for noon and I’d been dozing. A Sika hind bolted along the terrace in front of me. I suppose I could have got a snap shot away but the first problem to be addressed was that I was moving far to fast. I should have had that shot at a standing animal.
Minutes later, I was approaching a very big slip. Which was mostly covered in second growth. I was about to take a couple more steps to look over the lip and have a more generous view. When a shrill whistle disturbed the silence, sounding unusually loud. Without further delay I made 3 or 4 quick strides to the edge of the slip. The whistling continued, but try as I might, I was not able locate the Jap.
She was Some-where in the middle of the slip …but where? Stones rattling there she was with Bambi in tow making a U-turn at the apex of the slip. Hurtling along one of the few open areas. This time my snap shot was on. One fluent movement the merging hairs of the leupold 1-4 traversed the length of the hind. Squeezing the feather light trigger of the stubby barreled Sako the moment there was a suggestion of daylight ahead of it’s nose.
For a fraction of a second I’d thought I’d squeezed too soon. Boompha, the falling body and flailing legs however told a different story. The Bambi made one more body length with her momentum and was swallowed up, by heavy bush on the other side of the slip. The range would have been a 100 yards +and it took me a few minutes to relocate the deer. But at last there she was, the first deer in a long while.
I was surprised to find later whilst dressing the animal out that she was still lactating. In fact I don’t remember ever having come across a Bambi in the rutting months before. Let alone one still being weaned. I now had my camp meat, the hunter had truly returned.
I was to shoot another couple of animals for the trip but alas no trophy material. The wasps however, where a shock to the system as far as I can remember I don’t think there were any when I was with the forest service.
It was next to impossible to try and process the meat anywhere near the hut. Far betters to wait till after dark and do the job by lamplight.
But the real highlight of the trip was to follow. The track back to tussock was uneventful, reaching there, mid afternoon. After an early start from Ngaawapurua. The hut was empty as I’d left it, and I was pleased to have my last night there to myself. I was due to fly out in the afternoon, of the next day. So the plan was to wave the evening hunt, and get up early in the morning for a poke around.
The morning dawned clear as a bell The hint was that it was going to be blue skies and sunshine, to farewell me on this great trip. A hasty decision, I’d lugged this rod from oz. Surely it was time to make full use of it. The weather being so fine, was the determining factor. Hell I’m going fly-fishing! Packing the rucksack in record time, and it was off to the Ngaruroro, to spend the morning.
The vistas of open tussock country greeted me on emerging into the Ngaruroro valley. Below me meandered the river itself in its infant stage, narrow, clear, fresh and high tussock bank to bank. Just the start of it’s long journey to the coast. There was quite a stiff breeze picking up. Tossing the yellow tussock this way and that and contrasting with the blue ribbon of the “Toddler ”Ngaruroro, and the still bluer sky.
It indeed was an awesome sight, and when you add to that the feeling that you have it all to yourself. Is it any wonder that the emotion over flows at times?
I dropped my pack and rifle by a conspicuous bush loaded up the rod with large hopper dry fly, and about 12’ of tippet in front of a sage 6 weight forward line. I then proceeded to explore downstream with the intention of fishing back to my gear. The water chattered away in the rapids and grew serene and tranquil in the pools. It was always gin clear and a pristine freshness pervaded all.
There were trout too, at least one in every pool, languishing deep in the turquoise pools or feeding gently in the riffles. The tussock grasses where bone dry, and with every step I would disturb endless amounts of hoppers. Some hurling themselves into the busy river, to be borne away destined to end up in a big trout’s belly. Eventually I curtailed my adventures downstream, as I did not want to wander too far from my gear. The river was becoming more gorge orientated ,and also by travelling down the river I was putting down too many fish. So now with the sun in my face I proceeded to fish my way back. At times having to cross and recross the cooling waters. Eventually I came to the tail of a very long pool. Resident there, were 3 big rainbows, about 18 ins, from the surface and as many ins. Apart. They swayed this way and that, forever scanning the stretch of water in front of them in the hope of spying some morsel or other.
The stiff breeze would blow intermittently and ripple the surface and shield them from inquisitive eyes.
Whilst making ready ,one then shortly, another of the fish darted with some purpose upstream, I could barely see the remaining trout, as I made my false casts. The breeze was really getting up now, and I had to direct my fly into the wind. So as not to line the trout. The wind was my ally this day, as the hopper landed a couple of feet upstream of the rainbow and was floating naturally over him. By now the fish was invisible, but the sudden splash relieved the tension. I gathered the slack line as fast as I could, the line went taught. It trembled slightly and then the sage 6-weight rod bent savagely into action. The fish angrily shook his head and tore off downstream leaping out of the water. He next returned and this time blatted upstream, wow I had some fish on here.
The fight lasted some minutes, but eventually I coaxed him up to the surface, where I could see what a really good hook hold I had, right in the scissors. I relaxed a bit then and managed a few photos from the camera that was around my neck. I then played the trout gently into the waiting net. I guessed that he weighed around the 7 lb. Mark. The sun glinted off the greens and purples of the rainbow trout’s flanks. Not for nothing are these fish named rainbows I thought.
It was one very contented man that snatched a mini siesta, lying against his pack in the autumn sunshine, alone in the upper reaches of the Ngaruroro River,
Then pack on and the gentle trudge up to the Boyd hut to await my fixed wing taxi, out of paradise.

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view from "Riverstone Cabin"

view from "Riverstone Cabin"
Hope River