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  • Writer's pictureClaire Champion

Scaling Mount Te Aroha with Dad

It has been an extremely sombre time in my life over the last couple of months. I have taken a break from the blog to reflect and regroup. My beloved father, Vic, passed away in mid-April, and our whole family has been shocked and devastated.

 

Nothing prepares you for the strength of grief and how it can propel you into a surreal vortex of longing and sadness.

 

To help bring the light back into this dark situation, I have been reminiscing about adventures I had with my dad. In 2007-2008 we went on an extended holiday to New Zealand and stayed with friends for a time. This was on the North Island and while there we climbed the local landmark, Mount Te Aroha.

 

The following anecdote captures the day of our climb. I hope you enjoy reading – let me know in the comments section. Until next time, take care of yourselves and your loved ones.


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The idea had been in our minds to set about walking up the mountain that cradles the town of Te Aroha, in the north island of New Zealand. My Dad and I both said that we just couldn’t reside in this area without making a trip up there.

 

It was Auckland Anniversary Day, Monday 28th January 2008, and we set off about 7.30am to beat the considerable heat. The temperature had been hitting 30 degrees Celsius most days from the start of the year, so we knew we would have to take it steady on our path upwards. As we wound our way around the mount the sweat literally poured off us. However, there was some cloud cover, so we didn’t feel the full force of the sun. We had a big bottle of water with us, so we sipped from it every 20 minutes or so.

 

On our way we encountered the remains of the Tui mines, a significant reminder of the area’s history. The mining site was shut down in the 1970s, and at the time we were walking up the mountain there were plans to seal the mine entrance completely and re-establish the top area with environmental landscaping.

 

When we had reached about two thirds of the way we decided to change tack and go via the bush track that we came to. This is called the Dog Kennel Flat Track and was definitely the best move. Although we had to clamber over tree stumps, branches, and the occasional rock, we found it very much the cooler option. We had the silver ferns, the national symbol of New Zealand, shielding us from the descent on one side and creating the cool atmosphere on the other.

 

As we approached the apex of the mountain the final stage was peppered with wooden steps covered over with chicken wire. It was a safety feature I appreciated. Then we looked up and we were finally there, at the summit. This was marked out by the radio tower and attendant power structure. We had made the walk in two hours exactly, which I felt was impressive for novices to this terrain and to the conditions. The views we held before us were breath-taking and truly fantastic. They were certainly a just reward for the relatively arduous climb. Although geographically we stood at a land-rise near the bottom of the Earth, it really did feel that we were on top of the world. Surveying all before us, we could perceive the width of the North Island and we saw the coasts either side of us. In the distance sat islands and boats that seemed to be so close. A patchwork of farmland spread like a carpet, interspersed with the surrounding towns of Te Aroha, Morrinsville, Paeroa, and beyond. As it was so blatantly staring back at us, we began to study the dimensions of the colossal radio tower. It stands at 450ft high and is an impressive transmitter.

 

It was time to fuel up and regain some of the energy and fluid we had lost through the climb, so we broke out a couple of snack bars and drank more water. We took some essential photos of the beautiful views and of each other. It felt like a celebration of scaling this awe-inspiring mountain.

 

As we were about to commence our descent, we encountered two women who were obviously experienced hill climbers. They were equipped with small backpacks and tramping poles. Also they had maps, which was fortunate for us as we found out from them that the mountain stands at 950 metres high. We also asked them about alternative tracks and routes, so we could vary our walk. They informed us of their plans to scale Mount Taranaki, on the west coast of the island. They were in a select group of walkers who would climb that mountain and were in training for the event. Our conversation lasted a fair while and it was good to speak to fellow trampers.

 

We took our leave and started to pick up the bush track the women had advised. Near the entrance of the path there was a shirtless young guy with a backpack nearly the size of me! We greeted each other and then he asked us the time. Once he knew he decided to dash off ahead and we didn’t see him again. However, we met other groups of people on our way down and encountered a couple of hard-out hill-runners. One such man was from Switzerland and was in training for a mountain marathon. I still don’t know how he ran all that way, as we saw him another couple of times after that.

 

Our descent was a steady one, as we didn’t want to go rushing downhill and risk tripping or falling. It was infinitely better than going by road again, as it was getting to the hottest part of the day. The bush track was completely sheltered by trees, ferns, and shrubs. The tree stumps and branches aided us, much like on parts of our ascent.

 

We were constantly passing or stopping for people, and we must have seen around fifty or so on the route. Amongst these were citizens of the area, as well as visitors like us. We stopped for a large group of Japanese tourists and exchanged greetings with them. As we were on the last leg of the descent, we saw a guy sitting on a bench who joked that everyone thought he was on the way down, but in fact he was resting on his way upwards. Of course, with it being so hot at that time (around 12.30pm) we didn’t blame him for taking a breather. Once we had passed him, we saw a viewing platform with a signpost detailing the tracks and distances. This also marked the opening of the track we were on, and it came out onto the back roads of Te Aroha. Dad and I had completed our awe-inspiring and memorable journey.

Dad at the Tui Mine, Te Aroha, New Zealand
Dad on Mount Te Aroha, New Zealand
View from Mount Te Aroha, New Zealand

 

 

 

 

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