Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Up the mountain

I've been walking almost every day in the bush reserve of Mt Parihaka and Hotea River. It's a beautiful stand of native bush, with many kauri, some of which are pretty old, and an extensive nursery of 100 year old babies. On the way to the summit is an old pa site, an ancient Maori fortification. All that is left is the earthworks: pits and mounds and terraces and one hearth in what was once a whare (dwelling), all overgrown with bush but still visible under the greenery. The 'interpretive' signage is frustratingly sparse. There is a plan sketched and some general information about pa but the only specific information about this one is that when some European man stumbled onto it in 1842 all that was left were two posts and the earthworks. So it must be pretty old. Next time I go to the library I'll try and find out more about the pa on Parihaka.

At the top of the mountain (more of a hill really since it takes less than an hour to climb), there is a spectacularly ugly memorial to unspecified dead soldiers. Today when I arrived there was no one around, but a book was propped up against the memorial. A book! Alone in a park! Of course I had to check it out, for one thrilling moment I thought it might be my first wild Book Crossing experience. The emerald green cover had a kind of koro (curled fern frond) design and the title, in funky pomo font, was RealLife. I picked it up and a slip of paper fell out. A scripture quote and contact details. I looked more closely at the cover, in small print: The New Testament in Everyday Language.

Now, I've got nothing against the Bible at all, but firstly I do feel a much stronger affiliation with the Old Testament than the New (it's a Jew thing) so much so that presenting the Gospels without their foundation and context seems to me a lightweight kind of a read. And secondly, I'm sorry but the banality of the Good News Bibles I have flicked through in the past have prejudiced me against 'everyday language' translations. Give me a good contemporary erudite, or valid historical, translation and I'll quite happily reread my favourite bits (mostly in the Old, but there's some interesting stuff in the New too). But, this book? Fah! I put it back as I found it and walked over to sit on a nice shady park bench, cool off from my climb and amuse myself birdwatching.

Before long the peace was broken, the thrush squawked and flew off and two work men arrived. One proceeded to open one of the panels in the memorial (with much graunching and squealing of secret mechanisms) and squeeze his rather large self into the rather small space while the other provided helpful advice and comments, and investigated the book. I denied any responsibility for it's presence there when asked. And I believe that the men removed it as part of their maintenance activities.

Six tourists arrived and took over the viewing platform for twenty minutes or so, while I sat in the shade and looked for birds. How peaceful and quiet this is, I thought, lucky that I've never been here at the same time as a school group. It was a fateful premonition because minutes later the shrieks and shouts of young people with far too much energy after having run up a very steep hill began their unmistakable approach. As one, the tourists and I vacated the summit, as it was overtaken by lots of very excited children.

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