Rangi Krishnan

Kaimai

4 December 2021
Kaimai
Top: Kaimai Ranges, New Zealand. Left: Mclarren's Falls. Right: Karangahake Gorge.

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It was a beautiful summer’s day and the family was visiting some good friends. We were hanging out in the conservatory area of Pat and Mill Sullivan’s home. The two dogs, terriers I think, were lounging on a sofa at one end and Mill was pouring tea at the other. An assortment of cakes and nibbles littered the small table and we helped ourselves to the sweet offerings. Bench seating lined the outer perimeter of the conservatory where my parents and we kids lounged while Pat and Mill found chairs for themselves near the table.

Pat was the athletic type, a tease and a charmer; always quick with a joke. He ran miles every day and he always seemed to be on the go. Mill was quite the opposite as I recall – a lovely lady who possibly had a balancing effect on the exuberance of her other half.

The conversation flowed easily and then Pat shifted the topic to doing a trek across the Kaimai Ranges. “Piece of cake”, I recall him saying all the while a mischievous smile played across his face. I had a feeling he may have been baiting the old man who was looking at him a bit perplexed.

“It’s only a seven hour trek. The women can drop us off on this side and pick us up on the other side with a picnic”, he continued. I looked over at my old man who was seriously weighing up this endeavour. I know that he used to walk miles when he was in India but that was many years ago now. I don’t recall him doing much walking when we were subsequently in Ethiopia. Since we moved to Tauranga, the farthest I’ve seen him trek is from the front doorstep to the car parked out on the drive. I knew I was pretty fit and keen but even I had doubts about trying to keep up with Pat; that man was in a league of his own. This was seriously a bad idea.

I watched dad’s face and I could tell he was reflecting upon his younger days. I knew in that moment what the inevitable outcome would be. “Okay. What do we need and when do we go?” Pat’s face lit up like a Christmas tree as he began to lay out the plan. I looked over at my mum who simply smiled and sipped her tea. Mill just shook her head and the two women continued their conversation.

A week or so later during a long weekend, my dad, Pat and I found ourselves being dropped off at some location near the impending climb. We watched as my mum and Mill drove off and I couldn’t help thinking it was a long walk home. Pat looked over at my old man and me and asked “Ready?” We both nodded.

“Right then”, he bellowed, turned and led the way. Dad followed close behind and I joined the trail at the rear. ‘This was going to be an adventure’ I told myself although the lingering thought in the back of my mind was, ‘We’re all going to die’.

About forty minutes in we began our climb. Pat had kept up a steady pace. It was probably slower than what he was used to but nonetheless more than a stroll for my old man. The grasslands gave way to bush and about half an hour later, we were in amongst the trees. It was beautiful. However, I have no sense of direction so I was also totally lost.

A short while later we stopped for a rest. Dad found himself a perch and a water bottle was shared around. I could see signs of weariness on Dad’s face but there was also something that suggested that this wasn’t going to beat him – certainly not in front of Pat who looked as fresh as the moment he had stepped out of the car. We chatted casually for a bit and then it was time to get going. The day was moving along and we still had several hours to trek, not to mention that it was our only way home now.

After several rest stops and four hours later, we arrived at what might have been about half way. The problem with climbing mountains is that there is no “straight up”. It all undulates up and down while making that steady upward climb. This was a place where the track, if you can call it that, sort of split off in two directions. Pat wasn’t quite sure so I worked my way down one of the routes and about twenty minutes later, arrived back to let the others know that it ended up in dense bush. The climb down had been a bit tricky and I was in need of a rest after the climb back up but the others were rested so onwards we continued.

It was late afternoon when the trees gave way to grass and further down, we could hear the flowing river. We continued our journey. I can’t remember if we crossed a road but a little while later we found mum and Mill settled on a blanket sipping tea. We joined the women and the picnic basket was most welcome as I was famished.

Dad didn’t say much. The weariness on his face told it all. He accepted a cuppa and a sandwich as he quietly sat looking towards the river. Pat, effervescent as ever, struck up a lively conversation with the women. I could only wonder as to where this man got all his energy from and weather I could have some of it. When it was time to head off, I watched the old man reluctantly raise himself up and march to the car which was parked up near the road about a ten minute walk away. If a stretcher had been offered, I have no doubt he would have accepted at this stage.

The next day I bounced out of bed and looked in on the old man. The look on his face suggested he was in quite some discomfort but he wasn’t going to let this beat him. Every muscle in his body was refusing to move and so there he lay for the rest of the day.

The following weekend we were back at the Sullivan’s home for tea and biscuits. Dad was back to his usual self and the efforts of the trek through the Kaimai’s now a memory. Pat looked over at him, that mischievous smile playing over his face again. “There’s another trek we can do next weekend” he suggested with a wink in my direction. Dad wasn’t falling for that this time as he shook his head to a chorus of laughter.


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