A weekend in the wild Kaimanawa Ranges


A few of our meditation group recently drove down to Turangi in the central North Island, overnighted in the spartan but friendly Turangi Motor Camp, then an early start up into the Kaimanawa Ranges for a weekend in the wild places.

We climbed the lovely track up onto the Urchin range, scooping handfuls of snow to melt and crunch in our mouths to save packing water, then lunch up by the trig in the alpine tops, a beautiful panorama of volcanoes, forests, lakes, the remnant virgin podocarps of Mt Pihanga a sad reminder of what was once a cathedral of great trees.
It’s a lovely easy hike along the alpine trail that takes you eventually to a fork – left and up onto the adjoining Umakerikeri range, or plunge down quite steeply into the Waipakihi River valley.  Down we went, an hour later setting up camp in the beech forest that mantles the river flats. The water achingly cold, clear, pure and prana-rich. After a winter’s rains and snows, the deadfall is sodden – getting a fire going with wet wood is something of an art, but eventually we managed, cooking dinner and huddling around the fire in minus 6 celsius temperatures, each breathe a plume of mist.
Meditating in the absolute silence, a sky filled with disheveled stars, now and then our native owl calling from the dark valleys and folds of hills.
I’ve wanted to travel light but crawling in to my sleeping bag, I’m hoping that forsaking some of the comforts won’t mean a freezing night. This far away from any road end, small mistakes can have big consequences.
At dawn, ice everywhere, tents and errant clothing left to dry frozen solid, only the huge old beech log placed over last night’s blaze is retaining embers to re-light the fire.
At midday after exploring the valley, it’s up the steep track onto the tops again, then a slow amble down to the road end, stopping many times to look at the magic of the forest, the unique local ecosystems of tiny fungi, mosses, plants that only exist in this forest, at this particular altitude, on this tree.
Here are a few photos from the very few taken, our small group of meditators once again sharing a few precious days in the remoter parts of a beautiful country.