Friday, May 28, 2010

Facing the Milky Way and myself

Sometimes on reflection I find I hold an idea or a concept for many years, then one day without much thought at all I act on it.

I decided one Monday morning recently to pack bivy gear and sleep out/see the sunrise from the top of the locally dominant Roys Peak [just across Roys Bay, which is the main bay and beach by the town centre of Wanaka]. I wanted also to descend east from the top and go over Mt Alpha and down into the Cardrona Valley to get home.

To begin the trip by walking up the normal tourist route I got dropped off mid afternoon [wishing to avoid the heat and conserve water].

The tramp up was uneventful. I did meet the last of the day trippers coming down but few were talkative. However the view compensated...

I did the last hour or two in the dark, and as I approached the top I contemplated whether to carry on onto the unknown ground, however I decided not to. So having found a flat area I dropped to my knees immediately striping off damp clothes that were next to my skin, while stuffing cold cuts of meat into my mouth so I'd be in the best possible shape to weather what was already a very cold night, followed by a biggish day.

I cooked my meal from the shelter of my bivy bag, and contemplated that trips this time of year require many hours in the sleeping bag to simply keep warm while waiting for daylight. And thus began a 12 hr. night.

I lay for many hours looking straight up at the Milky Way, with the Southern Cross almost directly overhead. It looked much darker than this shot from The sheer numbers of stars is boggling, but what is incomprehensible to me is the space, the void, that they populate. I defy anyone to be anything but humble in it's presence...

Part of me felt very alone and even a little scared - the effect of staring into the heavens in the gaps between what could barely be described as sleep, made me wonder if the nothingness that is everything, was now the norm., and I'd never see or feel our sun again. The concept of the infinity above me made our daily view of the world seem totally insignificant.

Most times in a bivy I'd poke as little of myself out of my sleeping bag and make a brew, but not this morning. From 5 am onwards was something to be simply endured, and at first light I crammed all in my bag, and quickly made this blurry shot from the summit and headed east...

Sunrise minutes away...

At last some sun...

The first 10 minutes found me descending down a much steeper slope than I'd bargained for on frozen ground, that was as hard as the hobs... Sure I was stiff and cold, but I was awake enough to realise that I'd glossed over what may lie ahead. Namely all those rocks in the far distance that make up Mt Alpha...

This view down Waterfall Creek fascinated me, and I marvelled that while I was feeling apprensively alive, the everyday world down there had not quiet woken up yet...

The ridge was getting to feel decidedly lonely and alpine in nature - this had not been part of my expectations, especially it came as a shock being so close to town! A cold wind at my back was putting me off making a brew and breakfast too, but my not doing it may have had more to do with now being impatient and a little apprehensive to perhaps dig into myself for the goods to deal with whatever difficulties lay ahead...

Now in amongst the bluffs with my ever enduring companion, the route was about to unfold for us - it was to be on the totally unwelcoming shady aspects of Mt Alpha. The ground was rock-solid, but I was thankful there was no powder snow underfoot...

In the midst of the bluffs, there were a couple of sketchy spots, one in particular involved a careful few steps across a gully that feed straight onto some nasty slabs - one of those places best dealt with by taking a deep breath, honouring the presence of a drop-off but putting it aside, then employing decisiveness so that should the footing be misjudged momentum would save the day.

When all said and done though, what was really faced was ourselves, and the view in there of Mt Aspiring far away on the left, and the closer Roys Peak to the right was worth a little minor digging into the inner resources...

The self perceived difficulties and doubts are left behind as I reached easy ground and took my first sit-down breather and looked back...

A tele shot of the big A, Mt Aspiring...

A rock cairn and a plastic bird mark the entry of the descent for souls coming in the other direction...

The Clutha Valley in the distance...

My descent is looking easy as it curves south into the Cardrona Valley...

Looking back Aspiring is neatly framed by Mt Alpha and Roys Peak...

Still a long way to go - it's 10.30 and I finally brew up and breakfast using the last of the 4 lts of water I budgeted for the alpine flavoured section...

Unexpectedly the surroundings became quite interesting - this seeming ancient termination of a plateau with it's deeply incised gullies drops down into the head of Spotts Creek, and little did I realise that soon I'd be down there as well...

And down in the head of Spotts Creek... well the route was on a very dilapidated and steep 4wd track that had it's share of annoying vegetation, turns in directions away from where I wanted to be, and washouts with long un-called for grinds up hills. Somehow the urge to make photos dropped away from me, and besides my ride was waiting for me at 2 pm - it was time to turn up the speed!

Next day it was all but a wonderful memory as I caught up with Tigor for coffee and a muffin at Soul Food...

notes: The route for this trip is marked with poles. Mt. runners sometimes do it in short order much faster than my own ramblings. Trampers, the few I've spoken with comment it's a long way and don't seem to like it's drawn out nature. My total time travelling with photos and not inc. eating was 10.5 hours

One thing for sure is, like the DOC warning signs at both ends say: it's exposed to the weather [1500-1640 mts above sea level]. Personally should snow be lying in shady aspects of Mt Alpha that too would be a significant and time consuming hazard to be turned into a difficulty by applying technique.

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Sunday, May 9, 2010

The practical health qualities and symbolic nature of water

Last week I posted a comment on Bob McKerrow's blog - he was writing about water quality in the context of his International Red Cross work:
"Such a simple thing pure water when you have tons of it. I was told years ago that the daily mortality rate of kid's from impure water is in the thousands, and that thought haunts me!"

Bob replied:
"Yes, we often take pure water for granted. UNICEF figures put children dying of water borne at at least 50,000 plus a day. Staggering".

I'm having trouble getting my head around this figure! Even if it was 10/day I'd be "haunted"!

So since us humans are evolving at an ever increasing rate we must keep in mind as we nominate "zero tolerance" for so many things now, that this figure needs to be significantly reduced - to zero, that's my vote on water quality - and it's do-able!

There is still plenty of it around here, and it's pretty pure despite our Lake Wanaka being so full of what is essentially flood water...

Last week I was posting about our New Zealand Goverment's intent on mining in our National Parks and Conservation Estate, and mid week I was discussing this with one of my friends - he's a bird tour guide and every year or two does significant yachting voyages in the Pacific, and on his travels he's formed an opinion I'd like to share: that the most insidious thing re. these mining proposals is not so much the holes in the ground, scars on the landscape or rivers being ruined as they drain these areas, but that because so many other countries follow New Zealand's lead on so many issues that they'll say "oh, well lets rip up our own mountains [and degrade our water] - if it's OK for New Zealand to do it, we'll follow suit". [I just saw on TV yesterday: UK hung elections - they were checking out how we handled this a few years back]

Of course what will be glossed over I can guarantee, is when and how the environment will be restored - river catchments made healthy, as they feed our lakes and oceans!

As Bob has said: "water is first and deserves a gold rating".

Sort of makes me wonder: why do we have so many New Zealand Government Departments, yet none seem to have the sole focus of water quality and water health!

So how can we help: for starters we must make sure we preserve natural environments like this, as an inspiration and model the world can follow...

It's been my life's experience that when I dream during my sleep and water is part of the dream, that this symbolises, and is a solid guide to my emotional state. So I'm sort of wondering how I'll process these words during tonight's slumber. Will the dream be a worriesome adventure of staying safe and out of the way of brown turbulent flows and mud avalanches, or will I be floating on a turquoise ocean aboard a sparkling white yacht, under a pure blue sky!?

A few hours ago a first time viewer of this image I made yesterday stated it reminded her of the underworld. But I'd say it's that other place where we can ponder the context of knowledge gained and not just the content, which we tend to interpret so erroneously if we exclude the context of the information. Our egos love content organised in a nice linear fashion, but this is only a small part of establishing awareness, which in turn helps establish a universal truth that shines in the light...

There is a reverse side to everything, and while it maybe a play on words, reflection on just water alone will reveal there is another world that we can be inclined to ignore all to often, and I'm reminded too, as I write, that our bodies are apparently 70% comprised of water!

Water and rock - we cannot compress the former, and it will wear away rock. It is a true life source and force stronger than rock, yet in our living we allow the vanity of polluting it. This is crazy, and 50,000 children a day can attest to this as they suffer their way to a premature death!

We can lead the world if we can bring into our lives the tranquility and balance evident in nature by keeping this fair land, a land that many look to for inspiration and that visitors so try to emigrate too, as pristine as we possibly can. Then we'll go some ways towards drawing awareness to quality of life...

And we can be playful too...

Wisdom is said to grow by evaluating the context of all perceptions and knowledge that we garner from life, and filing it in our heads as provisional.

Water has content: it can be alive and oxygen rich, pollution free, or "dead". But it's really the context of what we have and could loose so easily, that we need to be very much aware of!

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Sunday, May 2, 2010

Water water everywhere... and submission[s]

Lots and lots of rain in the past week flooded Lake Wanaka, and was quite a worry for a day or two as anxious locals wondered if we'd have a repeat of the event several years ago that flooded many shops. However at the critical time it eased off, and now we've all been enjoying the autumn colours again.

For myself I'm in awe of nature, and while I loved it's display of disdain for the mundane affairs of us mortals, I am glad no one suffered too much.

From a photographer's perspective it's pretty nice to see water right in the trees and scrubs. Mostly this time of year it's all rocks and gravel around the lake edge...

We'll all be supplementing this winter's firewood supply with driftwood...

Fisherman don't have to walk to... let alone stand by the water at present...

After such extreme weather it's amazing how tranquil it is now...



In recent blogs I've commented on the silly attempts our current New Zealand National Government is making to open up National Parks and Conservation areas to mining. Then this morning on the National Radio I was listening to an interview with the United Nation's High Commissioner Richard Toll [spelling?].

He articulated many good things about New Zealand and Australia's contributions to the well being of this planet and apart from noting the unexpectedly high [for me] amounts of money given to the various causes, I had time to ponder that we do indeed lead by example in so many fields.

So why does our current Govt. insist on compromising our lands locked up in perpetuity? What sort of an example is this to set to a world that struggles in so many areas to rise above insane behaviour - not only wars, but ruining the very air and water we need to survive!

It can only be that big egos are involved. Pity really... we need good ideas, but also the maturity to give realistic values to them.

Our local paper the Otago Daily Times published an interesting report recently on the International Union of Conservation for Nature (IUCN), criticism of our Government, and this union is the world's oldest and largest environmental network.

Then came this interesting photo embedded in an article on mining in Central Otago. A photo that for me makes me think of just what a mess mining makes of our precious landscapes.

We are after all mostly talking about holes in the ground here! Some of the biggest earners are full of water and we know some of them as the Southern Lakes. It's hard to fathom how a few jobs in that other hole, the one already having money poured into it, can bring more earnings than tourists coming especially to see the natural holes, the rivers that fill them, and the mountains and glaciers that give birth to these life sustaining rivers.

Submissions close Tuesday 4th May at 5pm.

Jerry Brownlee needs to get this message! Please do your bit:

You can do an on-line submission from a choice of three different templates, or refer to submission guides for your own submission. The more personalised the better.

Thanks for the heads up Bruce

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