Monday, January 19, 2009

Cave Creek

Its a gentle walk to Cave Creek, the limestone terrain appears rugged with its overgrown river flats and sharp escarpments, but the track is straight and wide. Someone tried to farm here once, but it was long ago. The lone podocarps they spared still support their full weight of kiekie, despite the exposure to the elements and groves of manuka have conquered the gorse recently. The ferns are prolific, and so are the dragon flys, and the robins. How can a bird be so tame, so cute and so hard to photograph?

The plaque on the track looks old, but its not. It was 1995 when a group of polytech students and an accompanying DOC officer died when a viewing platform collapsed. The plaque was erected in 1996, it lists those that died. It stands now near a corner of the regenerating manuka at a splitting of the track. I can't help but contemplate how this memory will one day be swallowed by the forest, long after time has claimed the families and survivors. Maybe that totara sprouting today in its ferny nursery will wrap and obscure the plaque, crack it and digest it in its weepy boughs. I have witnessed the ruins of Tikal in Guatemala and it is comforting to know that the forest will return and swallow us and our memories.

The track no longer diverts to a viewing platform, instead it descends deceptively to the ancient canyon. Although we are there at the sunniest time of day the temperature drops substantially, the roof is pillared rimu and rata, a stunning cathedral. Water seeps out of the ruffled cliffs in puddles. We are looking for somewhere to swim so we follow it downstream where water emerges from a narrow defile in the rock. I wade into the spring, grating against the sharp sides and roof, there is a raging torrent near here somewhere, I hear it. But you would have to be gollum to go further into the dark. I turn around, pull out the camera and wait for my friends to find me in the hole.

We eat lunch downstream further, as time again is short. Camembert on crackers a sensory celebration, moist and crunchy, soft and sharp. The girls swim briefly and we clamber again upstream, the reflected light plays havoc on the limestone walls, ripples dancing. We follow the track back out of the gully to the full heat of the day, through the manuka groves to the overgrown clearings. We are on our honeymoon but in such a timeless place, with such a tragic history, I can't morbidly help contemplating that this mortal coil is constructed with such fine and pliable wire. Let all adventurous souls rest in peace.


Ruahines said...

Kia ora Jamie,
Happy Honeymoon mate. My best wishes to you both. I had only been in NZ a few years when that tragedy occured. There must be a certain haunting quality to it now.

Jamie said...

Yeah for sure Robb,

Its haunting now, but I suspect it always has been, its an amazing place with cool cave air, limestone cliffs, towering trees and rays of sun. Its a place where the timelessness of nature is easy to discern.

Hope things are good mate


Bob McKerrow said...

Kia Ora Jamie

Haunting. I worked with Stephen O'Dea who was the DoC guy who died. My best mate in those days Bruce Watson resigned and took some responsibility for it. Tragic that all those young lives were lost. The bush and Mother earth will reclaim them.