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19280Re: Wild Wanganui Wilderness Adventure

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  • cott_doris
    Dec 8, 2006
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      As a lover of nature I very much enjoyed your story. I felt being
      right there.

      Doris







      --- In Sri_Chinmoy_Inspiration@yahoogroups.com, thomasfromnz
      <no_reply@...> wrote:
      >
      > It was a quiet Friday morning when about a dozen city-slickers from
      > the Sri Chinmoy Centre in Auckland hopped in their cars and
      embarked
      > on a journey into New Zealand's pristine native forest reserve on
      the
      > Wanganui river.
      >
      >
      > What was meant to be a 5 hour journey turned into an all-day
      affair as
      > we stopped in small town cafes to have a laugh and a cuppa, or
      played
      > roadside frisbee as we fed our cars at the service station. We
      finally
      > descended down into the Wanganui valley, surrounded by lush, green
      > flora on all sides. We passed through the occasional village, with
      > names like Jerusalem and Atene (a Maori transliteration of the word
      > "Athens"). With dusk fast approaching, we finally reached the
      > destination and made our way in groups of two across the river in a
      > makeshift flying fox, which also happened to be the name of the
      place
      > we were staying at.
      >
      > We arrived at an oasis of civilisation hidden in the mountains.
      There
      > were three homemade cottages on the banks of the river, like little
      > hobbit-homes. The friendly couple who lived there occupied one of
      the
      > houses, and the other two were rented out to travellers like
      > ourselves, including backpackers from all over the world. We
      settled
      > down in the peaceful depths of the night, and awoke to the sound of
      > roosters heralding the dawn.
      >
      >
      > We started our day bright and early with a communal meditation at 6
      > am, and then launched into a much-anticipated breakfast of first
      class
      > gruel. After wrestling and playing frisbee with the local dog named
      > Billy, most of us decided to explore the surrounding area. We ran
      up
      > the valley from our riverside cabin and through the thick, dark
      bush
      > to the top of a ridge. We continued running along the ridge for
      > another 20 minutes. The more adventurous among our crew decided to
      > bush-bash our way back down to the river which we could see snaking
      > its way through the valley below, making sure to keep well away
      from
      > any tracks.
      >
      > The four of us raced down the slope through thick foliage,
      immersing
      > ourselves in the sea of vegetation as we darted like primeval deer
      > through this half-forest, half-jungle paradise; scrambling over
      fallen
      > logs, sliding down cliffs, jumping across streams. Often we came
      > across twisted networks of vines. These proved to be both friend
      and
      > foe, as they sometimes threatened to trip us up or entangle us;
      but at
      > one point we had to rely on them to swing across to the other side
      of
      > a narrow ravine!
      >
      >
      > Early on in our downward descent I held on to a 30-foot Punga tree
      for
      > support. But appearances were deceptive, and the fragile arboreal
      > beast toppled over in front of me. "Timber!" I cried, trying
      > desperately to alert my comrades up ahead who fortunately escaped
      my
      > inadvertanent felling unscathed. "Never trust a Punga" became our
      > motto from then on in.
      >
      > There is an indescribable joy and freedom of being lost in the New
      > Zealand bush, coming face to face with the wild, the uncivilised,
      the
      > savage beauty of nature in its raw and untamed splendour. This bush
      > lay as a testament to the vigilence of nature, having proudly
      resisted
      > the relentless empire of man and machine. The babbling brooks, the
      > ancient bird-song and the silent wisdom of the trees; those gentle
      > life-giving beings who breathe in our waste in order to give us
      pure
      > air, all spoke of timeless wonders which called forth a part of us
      > half-buried ,the call of the blood, the call to the wilderness.
      >
      > Had this been our birthplace, this mystical cauldron of colliding
      and
      > flowing life-energies? Is this the womb where we crawled from our
      > animal slumber in long ages past, awakened by an urge which
      beckoned
      > us out into the open plains, to the high seas, and finally to build
      > our own vast jungles of concrete and steel? Were we not a creature
      of
      > the woods too, driven onward and inward by the relentless pursuit
      of
      > new frontiers?
      >
      > Despite its wild and rugged appearance, the New Zealand bush is
      almost
      > as soft and friendly as that iconic local animal, the mild-mannered
      > sheep. Unlike our slightly larger neighbouring island across the
      > Tasman, our wilderness is empty of snakes, lethal spiders,
      reptilian
      > man-eaters and poisonous fish. Nevertheless, we had taken a plunge
      > into the unknown. Our controlled fall down the cliff took us
      finally
      > to a stream. Our clothing splattered with mud and sweat, we
      rejoiced
      > at having found our bearings. Our journey now became harder, as we
      > navigated the slippery banks of the stream. Often the only thing
      > stopping us from plunging down into a watery abyss were a few vines
      > and tree roots which we clung desperately to for support.
      >
      > We embarked on this journey for what must have been about an hour,
      > before finally catching up to the glorious Wanganui river. I was
      the
      > third to reach the river; entry was via a small trickling
      waterfall.
      > In my eagerness to launch ahead I slipped on the mouth of the
      > waterfall and starting sliding on my back all the way down. There
      was
      > no stopping my downward momentum so I simply surrendered to the
      flow,
      > before plunging unceremoniously knee-deep in the river, looking
      like a
      > stunned mullet, just in time for a photo op from the enthusiastic
      > paparazzi member of our crew. I stared into the murky brown depths
      of
      > the river. A spider stared back, while waltzing like an eight-
      legged
      > magician on top of the water.
      >
      >
      > We surveyed the landscape ahead and plotted our next maneouvre.
      Here
      > we were in a deep valley. Bare, forboding cliffs of slippery clay
      rose
      > up for yards on either side of the waters. There was only one way
      out,
      > and that was into the river. We waded hesitantly into the water,
      not
      > quite prepared for the icy cold immersion. The tallest member of
      our
      > pack was the first to test the depths. He lay himself out flat with
      > hands and feet on either side of the cliff-face, in a vain attempt
      to
      > stay dry. But the river soon widened out and he too had to face the
      > deep freeze.
      >
      > We trekked onward, the path ahead of us beginning to ever-
      increasingly
      > resemble an Amazonian river. Would great big eels and ravenous
      piranha
      > rise up from the depths to tear us asunder? Might some prehistoric
      > beast be lurking in these nether regions awaiting its next meal? Or
      > had we nothing to fear but fear itself? The river stretched on
      > endlessly ahead. Would we be forced to spend the night out here?
      Would
      > we ever make it home? What if we were heading towards a great big
      > waterfall? As dehydration started to kick in, I found myself
      drinking
      > from a natural faucet caused by a small creek meeting its end at
      the
      > riverbank. Hopefully it wasn't too polluted. Fortunately, we were
      > closer to home than we thought. About an hour later we rounded a
      bend
      > and came out into the open, with the road in sight. The flying fox
      > cable which we had travelled across the day before was only half a
      > kilometre away in the distance. We made our way back.
      >
      > Later that day we returned to the same spot for a game of frisbee
      in
      > the mud. The surface we were playing on was basically quicksand,
      which
      > made running around difficult to say the least. I coated myself
      > thoroughly in mud to keep off the sandflies. I also invented a game
      > called "mud-diving", which was like long jump but you have to
      plunge
      > belly-first into the quicksand. An excellent time was had by all,
      and
      > we returned to basecamp thouroughly exhausted.
      > Canadian Mark cooking up a storm.
      > Mark cooks up a storm!
      >
      > One of the cabins was dedicated to an iconic Kiwi bard who had
      lived
      > in the area during the latter part of his life. His photographs and
      > portraits decorated the walls. He spoke to us from beyond the
      grave,
      > his writing scrawled on the wall in dark green ink:
      >
      > "Alone we are born
      > And die alone
      > Yet see the red-gold cirrus
      > over snow-mountain shine.
      >
      > Upon the upland road
      > Ride easy, stranger
      > Surrender to the sky
      > Your heart of anger."
      >
      > - James K. Baxter.
      >
      > The next day we packed up and took the flying fox back across to
      our
      > vehicles, returning to the life of responsibility and duty and
      leaving
      > paradise behind.
      >
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