The Mountain Returns
The mountains of the Central North Island Plateau (Tongariro National Park) have had a place in my heart since the mid 1970’s. This majestic wilderness landscape is now part of a Dual Status World Heritage Site – a status that recognises the park’s important Maori spiritual/cultural associations as well as its outstanding volcanic features.
I spent time on the Plateau on several occasions in the 70’s, travelling up from Wellington and staying in one or another of the DOC and Club huts around the mountains. I’ve painted, walked and beginner ski’d up there and the mystery, power and spirituality of the location have never left me in all the years since I moved away from Wellington.
At about 9000′ above sea level, this location is the summit of the North Island. All around, the land falls away, and the quality of light and clarity of the air have a huge spiritual impact, even aside from the wonderful scatter of volcanic peaks and craters that makes up the topography of the plateau itself.
As it happens, in June 2013 I took my first flight in many years from Kerikeri via Auckland to Christchurch to attend the NZ Post Children’s Book Awards ceremony. By some miracle, I managed to get a glimpse of the snow-clad peak of Mt Ngauruhoe standing out from the sea of white cloud, on the other side of the plane as we passed over the Plateau. It was a sad, fleeting moment: I now live at the northernmost end of the North Island, about 450 miles away…
I should state clearly that I love the place where I live now (above) – about 10 acres on a hillside below yet another volcanic outcrop. My parents bought it in 1970, I visited regularly and worked with them on the land, and since 1987 I have lived here. However, the winter of 2014 (June-August) turned out prolonged and very wet, and all of a sudden I realised that the time has come for me to move. I need less land, less humidity and a new adventure.
But where to go? Not just anywhere will do! It wasn’t very long before that answer came.
By chance in September 2014 as I was idly glancing through a travel supplement to the NZ Herald, I saw an article about Ohakune – a small town on the main trunk line about 12 miles south-west of Mt Ruapehu as the crow flies. It services one of Mt Ruapehu’s skifields – Turoa. I visited it years ago, and was intrigued to read how the town has developed since. Some Internet research followed and I am now working through the major task of preparing myself to move. It will probably take a little time for me to pull this off, but the promise of being back near those mountains will ease the regrets I’m likely to have about leaving my present home.