Monday, 31 March 2008

A toilet with a view- Fox Glacier

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The great aspect in staying in high mountain huts in New Zealand is the view you get from the toilets. My two favourite huts are Almer Hut on the upper Franz Josef Glacier and Chancellor Hut on the Fox Glacier shown above. From this hut, (bottom right in the photo) you can see across the glacier, farmland to the sea. Renarkable.
No constipated views from there.

The writer does not intend to get into toilet humour but rather promote the views from them.

Friday, 28 March 2008

Unquestionably the best captain New Zealand has had. Another Ed. Hillary ?

Sir Edmund Hillary died earlier this year and one cannot wonder, will New Zealand have another personailty and character of his stature ? Possibly not. But the man who I have been watching for years is Stephen Fleming. Unquestionably New Zealand greatest cricket Captain. After a rather indifferent start to his career, Australian Steve Rixon, who took over coaching the Black Caps in 1996, saw leadership qualities in him. And for 12 years New Zealand have seen this shy Cantabrian emerge as a great leader. Hillary was of a similar age, when he shot into the limelight after climbing Everest. At times a ruthless leader as people like Ed Cotter and Phillip Houghton will tell you, as they sometimes clashed with his ruthlessness. And in the following 20 years after Everest, he grew into a leader of men.
Fleming has the same ruthless streak as Hillary and proven leadership qualities and although he will cash in on his reputation in the business endorsement world, as did Hillary, let's hope he uses his skilful leadership experiences for the political, sporting or perhaps humanitarian betterment of New Zealand and the wider world. As my new guru Bill Nicol says, " Leadership is the exercise of personal initiative." Fleming is a highly creative person who lacks no personal initiative. The quote I like is "Fleming had become forthright in his answers and did not tolerate fools." These are hallmarks of leader, combined with empathy and good listening skills.

For a look at his career I borrow heavily from ysterday's Christchurch Press:

Stephen Fleming salutes after scoring 106 off 57 balls during the tsunami fundraising match in 2005. But how will New Zealand's team manage without the best captain it's ever had?

His final press conference over, Stephen Fleming leaves the McLean Park building only to be overwhelmed in a rapturous bear hug by one of the tea ladies at Napier.

"We'll miss you," she gushes as Fleming exits after his final innings of 66 for New Zealand earlier this week in an ultimately lost cause against England.

Yes, we are missing him already. Unquestionably the best captain New Zealand has had, one of its leading batsmen and probably its finest slips fielder.

Fleming's departure from the test ranks leaves a massive void, with the guessing games rife over who could take over the pivotal No. 3 position in the team.

The side has still yet to recover from the loss of opening-batting anchor Mark Richardson several seasons ago and Fleming's absence will be of a similar magnitude.

It is debatable whether Fleming, 35 this Tuesday, has gone too soon judging by the way he was consistently the best New Zealand batsman on show during the series.

His mind made up, he even opted out of an expected swansong visit to England for the second leg of the series, choosing to be with pregnant wife Kelly, who is due in June, and their young daughter Tayla.

Fleming spent his 14 years playing for New Zealand growing up under the public gaze.

It bore down harshly on him when he was one of the three New Zealand players who owned up to smoking a joint on just his second overseas tour to South Africa in 1994-95.

In many ways, the younger players who did fess up -- Fleming, Dion Nash and Matthew Hart -- and incurred a three-match suspension, gained greater respect for acknowledging their "crime" when other more senior players did not.

Fleming never captained Canterbury, where he began his career in the early 1990s, as Lee Germon was well ensconced in that role.

When Germon was deposed from the Black Caps mid-way through the 1996-97 season, Fleming was catapulted into the captaincy against England at a mere 23 years 319 days -- one of the youngest cricket captains in the world.

It has always been a moot point whether Fleming's growth as a batsman was stunted by having the leadership bestowed upon him. I believe that it was a burden he could have done without at that time.

Fleming grew into the role gradually, with the staunch support of Black Caps management, former secondary-school headmaster John Graham and Rixon, who helped harden him up. His photogenic looks helped him appeal to the younger generation and when the Graham-Rixon era ended, Fleming held the reins at the head of the team.

Some outstanding results were achieved: the Black Caps making the semi-finals of the World Cup in 1999 in England; and following that by beating England for just the second time in a test series on their home soil 2-1. New Zealand then won its first major overseas one-day Champions Trophy tournament in Kenya in 2000.

Yet Fleming also had to endure trenchant criticism when the team performed poorly. A New Zealand Herald editorial called for his sacking when New Zealand lost a home one-day series against lowly ranked, but at the time highly capable, Zimbabwe in 2001.

Fleming weathered the storms, often leading an injury-stricken side, lacking the depth of most countries, on the international stage.

He fronted up time and again to the media, gritting his teeth to repeated questioning about the Black Caps shortcomings. By this time Fleming had become forthright in his answers and did not tolerate fools.

Should Fleming get wind of what he believed was an unfairly balanced article, the correspondent would be rebuked with a sharp aside, at times in a public forum. Fleming often described the media as his hardest opponent.

I recall incurring Fleming's wrath on one occasion -- not unreasonably -- for an article. The cryptic post-conference comment of "you won't get any Christmas presents out of that" was directed straight at me.

Fleming was often in conflict with Auckland cricket writer Richard Boock, who castigated him for what he believed was effectively match-fixing a game in the 2001 tri-series in Australia with South Africa and New Zealand.

Fleming manipulated a go-slow by his batsmen against South Africa, excluding Australia from the final series -- which was a rare occasion. Fleming claimed he did nothing that was not within the rules of the competition.

Such tactics showed Fleming had developed a ruthless streak, also evident in specific field placements for certain batsmen -- such as having two fielders almost holding hands at point as a ploy to unsettle and dismiss Australian batsman Damien Martyn.

Fleming's toughness came through in the players' strike for better pay and conditions in 2002 against New Zealand Cricket. It is understood he was staunchly in the players' camp, which rankled with NZC given his lengthy leadership tenure and captain's allowance.

Being completely comfortable with the captaincy and having the trust of his team helped Fleming begin to achieve more as a batsman.

The test conversion rate of 50s to 100s, which at one stage stood at two tons and 31 half centuries -- the worst in world cricket -- began to rise. He ended on a 16 per cent conversion rate.

Fleming arguably played his most impressive test innings when scoring an unbeaten 274 in the strength-sapping heat and humidity of Colombo in 2003, with Sri Lankan spin-ball wizard Muttiah Muralitharan probing him hour after hour.

That came just after a spectacular unbeaten 134 against South Africa, probably his finest one-day innings, eliminating the home side at the 2003 World Cup in the republic.

Only Geoff Howarth and Jeremy Coney came close to matching Fleming's captaincy skills and they had the luxury of world-class players Richard Hadlee and Martin Crowe in their ranks during the 1980s.

Fleming often had to make do with moulding lesser mortals together, something for which he seemed to have a sixth sense. An intuitive fielding placement here, an inspirational bowling change there.

He finished a statesmanlike leader, highly respected, whose opinion was sought.

A rare chink in his composure came when he struggled to contain his hurt after having the prized test captaincy taken from him last year by the national selection panel after stepping down from the one-day leadership following the World Cup.

That rankled, but he decided to stick with the establishment and focus on a few goals he still wanted to achieve, like lifting his test average above 40, the benchmark of a quality batsman. It was appropriate that he did this in his final innings.

However, it wasn't all cricket and Fleming had other sporting interests, finding golf, where he is similarly adept with stick and ball, a good release of pressure. He has dabbled in horse ownership, including running a well-performed galloper, Dimondsontheinside. He also developed a fondness for quality red wines.

Fleming entered the commercial world and endorsed the merits of a deodorant and a brand of heat pump, and has done well for himself financially. He now lives in the affluent Wellington suburb, Khandallah.

From modest beginnings in Sydenham and being raised in a single-parent family, by his mum, Pauline, Fleming never had the trappings of privileged life as he worked his way to the top.

Pauline Fleming ensured Stephen never went without, being the whites-washer and providing transport in those formative years at Waltham Primary and Cashmere High School. There Fleming came into contact with Bob Carter, now assistant coach with the Black Caps, who steered him toward the Sydenham club where he started club cricket.

A gangly Fleming was pitched into the Canterbury ranks as a 17 year old in 1991-92, the youngest of a group of talented tyros such as Chris Cairns, Chris Harris and Nathan Astle, who all carved out careers for New Zealand.

Then provincial coach David Trist remembers saying to Crowe, who, at that time, was one of the world's premier batsmen: "Watch out, here's the heir apparent."

"He looked at me sideways, as if to say who could fill my shoes, but Crowe soon came to regard Fleming as something special.

"He had great natural ability wrapped up in a languid style. He also had an even mental state and a steady resolve," recalls Trist.

Fleming now moves straight into the burgeoning sports-business arena and with cricket a growth industry, courtesy of the success of the Twenty20 game, he has plenty of contacts to ensure he will be just as successful off the field.

North Korean food and fun in Jakarta

I love Asian food and last Wednesday I had such a great culinary treat, sampling delicious North Korean food in Jakarta for the first time. The service, the food, the music and atmosphere were outstanding.

Hyun-Ji and Bob (front) and Jeong with a charming North Korean waitress

A group of north Korean singers.
Jeong enjoying being served by a waitress

I am fortunate in having colleagues working with me from both North and South Korea. Jeong is from the South and Choe from the north. and on Wednesday night Hyun-Ji, who had just arrived from Seoul, joined us for a meal. So A kiwi, a north Korean and two from the south, were wooed by superb food, excellent music, and a delightful Gen Sing wine and stories from the north and south of the Korean Peninsula as we sat round the table eating everything from Octopus to pork.

A table full of north Korean food

Choe(behind) with Jeong and Hyun-Ji in front

For those who want to try out this delightful restaurant it is called: CHILBOSAN,
Komp.Plaza Kelapa Gading Permai (Inkopal) Blok C No. 79-80 Jalan Raya Boulevard Barat Kelapa Gadang Jakarta Utara. Enjoy the food and atmosphere

Wednesday, 26 March 2008

Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Balkhi-Rumi

Empty yourself from worrying
Think of who created the thought
Why do you stay in prison
When the door is wide open

Today I continue about the great city of Balkh and its province or state called Barctria. Th poem above is written by Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Balkhi-Rumi, one of my favourite poets since 1976 when I visited Balkh province for the first time. This was where Rumi was born in 1207 AD.
Between 1993 and 1996 when I was working in Afghanistan, I visited Balkh at least 10 times and it was on these journeys I read his poetry through and through, each time understanding a little more of his subtle strands of poetical weavings and powerful writings.

He not only was a great Persian poet but had a deep interest in Persian music, Persian philosophy, Sufi philosophy, and Sufi dance
Known as Mawlānā Jalāl-ad-Dīn Muhammad Balkhī[3] (Persian: محمد بلخى), but known to the English-speaking world simply as Rumi, (September 30, 1207–December 17, 1273), was a 13th century Persian (Tādjīk)[4][5] poet, Islamic jurist, and theologian.[6] Rumi is a descriptive name meaning "the Roman" since he lived most parts of his life in Anatolia which had been part of the Roman Empire until the Seljuq conquest two centuries earlier.

His birthplace and native language both indicate a Persian heritage. Due to quarrels between different dynasties in Khorāṣān, opposition to the Khwarizmid Shahs who were considered devious by Bahā ud-Dīn Wālad (Rumi's father) or fear of the impending Mongol cataclysm, his father decided to migrate westwards. Rumi's family traveled west, first performing the Hajj and eventually settling in the Anatolian city Konya (capital of the Seljuk Sultanate of Rum, now located in Turkey), where he lived most of his life, composed one of the crowning glories of Persian literature and profoundly affected the culture of the area.

He lived most of his life under the Sultanate of Rum, where he produced his worksand died in 1273 CE. He was buried in Konya and his shrine became a place of pilgrimage.Following his death, his followers and his son Sultan Walad founded the Mawlawīyah Sufi Order, also known as the order of the Whirling Dervishes, famous for its Sufi dance known as the samāʿ ceremony.

Rumi's work are written in the new Persian Language. New Persian (also called Dari-Persian or Dari), a widely understood vernacular of Middle Persian, has its linguistic origin in the Fars Province of modern Iran. A Dari-Persian literary renaissance (In the 8th/9th century) started in regions of Sistan, Khorasan and Transoxiana and by the 10th/11th century, it overtook Arabic as the literary and cultural language in the Persian Islamic world. Although Rumi's works were written in Persian, Rumi's importance is considered to transcend national and ethnic borders. His original works are widely read in the original language across the Persian-speaking world. Translations of his works are very popular in South Asian, Turkic, Arab and Western countries. His poetry has influenced Persian literature as well as Urdu, Bengali and Turkish literatures. His poems have been widely translated into many of the world's languages in various formats, and BBC News has described him as the "most popular poet in America".

Saturday, 22 March 2008

Balkh, a once splendid city

My last post was about Rab'ia of Balkh, a very courageous poetess. Balkh is one of the most splendid and famous cities in the ancient world. This week I want to discuss Balkh which is situated in northern Afghanistan. One of the oldest towns in the world, the city is also known as the birthplace of Prophet Zoroaster. The city later on gained wealth and fame as Bactria. Balkh is also known as the home of Rabia Balkhi, the first woman poet of Islamic period. Mauwlana Jalal-ud-din Balkhi (Rumi), the most distinguished Sufi poet of Afghanistan was also born in Balkh. City was also an important trade route in the ancient times. Location of Balkh is in northern Afghanistan , close to Mazar-i-Sharif.

The blue mosque in Balkh

Arabs arrived in the city during 8th century and marked it as an important trade center. Alexander the Great founded a Greek colony here and later the city was known as Bactra. During the whole period of Alexander the Great, the region was acclaimed for its great wealth and glory. In the early centuries the city was also renowned for its Buddhist monasteries and stupas. Later it attained great importance as the center of Islam. During the rule of the amanid Dynasty about 40 Friday mosques stood within the city. Balkh's glorious history ceased in 1220 A.D. when Genghis Khan invaded the city and and left it with ruins.

In 1850, Balkh became part of the unified kingdom of Afghanistan. The new city is now agricultural and commercial center of the city. Most of the part of the city is now in ruins. I will write further in the next few days.


Rabi'ah wrote her final poems with her blood on the wall of the bathroom until she died. This is the poem she wrote for her beloved Baktash, a Turkish slave.

"Your love caused me to be imprisoned again
My effort to keep this love as a secret was in vain
Love is as a sea with the shores you cannot see
And a wise can never swim in such a sea":

Translated by Manouchehr Saadat Noury: Montreal (Feb 14, 2005)

Rabi'ah's grave is just to the right of the picture. Women come from all over Afghanistan to visit her grave and tie ribbons on a tree growing over her grave, and pray for fertility, to have children and to have a healthy family.

Rabe'a Balkhi (Persian: رابعه بلخی), also called as Rabi'ah bint Kaab Quzdari or Ghozdary (in Persian: رابعه قزداری) , or just as Rabe'ah was most likely the first poetess in the History of Persian Poetry. She was born and died in Balkh, a city today in northern Afghanistan. The exact dates of her birth and death are unknown. But some evidences indicate she lived during the same period that Rudaki, the Father of Persian Poetry, was a court poet to Nasr II of Samanid (914-943).

Her name and biography appear in Jami's Nafahat-ol-Uns, Attar's Mathnaviyat and Aufi's Lubab ul-Albab. She was one of the first Afghan/Persian poets who wrote in modern Persian (Dari). Her father, Kaab, was a governor; when Kaab died, his son Haares, brother of Rabe’eh, became the governor. Haares had a Turkish slave named Baktash, with whom Rabe’eh was secretly in love. At a court party, Haares heard Rabe’eh's secret from Rudaki. He imprisoned Baktash in a well, cut the jugular vein of Rabe’eh and imprisoned her in a bathroom. She wrote her final poems with her blood on the wall of the bathroom until she died. Baktash escaped the well, and as soon as got the news about Rabe’eh, he went to the governor’s office and assassinated Haares. He then committed suicide.

Friday, 21 March 2008

Mt Tangkubanperahu for a birthday present

Ablai on his first climb at 8 years. The crater lake of Mt.Tangkubanperahu in the background

A week ago, Naila asked me "what do you want for your birthday ?" Thinking carefully, I responded, " a volcano, or at least to climb one on my birthday."

With my 8 year old son Ablai and my good North Korean friend Choe, the dream came true yesterday. Whew! what a slog. It doesn't get any easier as your birthdays fly by. But the joy of taking Ablai on his first climb, 3 hours from the crater rim to the highest point and back again, was a birthday present to remember forever. Also my colleague and friend Choe, who just arrived in Indonesia 3 weeks ago, was thrilled to climb a volcano and get out of Jakarta for the first time.

Mt. Tangkubanperahu erupted thousands of years ago damming the Citarum River and causing a vast lake. Two millenia ago, an earthquake opened crack in the side of the Lake and appeared in the Lake and drained leaving behind fertile alluvial deposits and and swampy ponds that have since been filled in.

This morning Ablai awoke and came running into the room, and said " Dad, look at the volcanoe we climbed yesterday." Sure enought there were the two main grouping of volcanoes on the horizon that you can see from Jakarta on a fine morning. Mt. Tangkubanperahu to the South East and Mt. Gede and Pangrano to the South West. For Ablai and I the view from our apartment has taken on more meaning and now we are thinking about climbing Mt. Gede and Pangrano, longer overnight climbs and more serious. Hopefully I will get two knee replacement soon so I can throw away the Voltaren and climb with speed and ease again like the old days.

The crater Lake and Mt Tangkubanperahu behind

Looking into the crater which belches steam and emits a strong suplhurous samell

Wednesday, 19 March 2008

Happy Nowruz

Nowrūz (Persian: نوروز, various local pronunciations and spellings) is the traditional Iranian new year holiday celebrated in Iran, Turkey, Azerbaijan, Afghanistan, Albania, Armenia, Georgia, the countries of Central Asia such as Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Kazakhstan, as well as among various other Iranian and Turkic people in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Pakistan, India, Northwestern China, the Caucasus, the Crimea,the Balkans and Malaysia and Indonesia.

Nowruz marks the first day of spring and the beginning of the Iranian year as well as the beginning of the Bahá'í year.[1] It is celebrated on the day of the astronomical vernal equinox (start of spring in northern hemisphere), which usually occurs on the March 21st or the previous/following day depending on where it is observed.

As well as being a Zoroastrian holiday, it is also a holy day for adherents of Sufism as well as Bahá'í Faith. In Iran it is also referred to as an Eid festival, although it is not an Islamic feast. Shia Nizari Ismaili muslims, who trace their origins to Iran, celebrate the festival under the name Navroz. In their religious protocol, Navroz is officially recognized as an Eid, as with Eid ul-Fitr and Eid ul-Adha, although it involves a distinct set of religious ceremonies. Alawites also celebrate Nowruz.

The term Nooroz first appeared in Persian records in the second century AD, but it was also an important day during the time of the Achaemenids (c. 648-330 BC), where kings from different nations under the Persian empire used to bring gifts to the emperor (Shahanshah) of Persia on Nowruz.

I have celebrated Nowruz many times in Afghanistan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Bangladesh and India. It is probably celebrated with the most vigor in Mazar I Sharif in Afghanistan, where a huge fertility pole is raised with ribbons tied to it. Each ribbon represents someones prayers.

In Northern Afghanistan the feritliy pole is a pre-Islamic celebration seen as a phallic symbol. Around 20 to 21 March, the winter snows starts to melt and the celebrations and prayers are in the hope that the spring will bring plenty of water to nourish the crops and bring fertility to land and people.

Nowruz and the Spring Equinox

In Afghanistan, Nowroz festival is traditionally celebrated for 2 weeks. Preparations for Nowroz start several days beforehand, at least after Chaharshanbe Suri, the last Wednesday before the New Year. Among various traditions and customs, the most important one is :

Haft Mēwa: In Afghanistan, they prepare Haft Mēwa (Seven Fruits) instead of Haft Sin which is common in Iran. Haft Mewa is like a Fruit salad made from 7 different Dried fruits, served in their own syrup. The 7 dried fruits are: Raisin, Senjed (the dried fruit of the oleaster tree), Pistachio, Hazelnut, Prune (dry fruit of Apricot), Walnut and whether Almond or another species of Plum fruit.

Along with other customs and celebrations, normally a Buzkashi tournament is held. The Buzkashi matches take place in northern cities of Afghanistan and in Kabul.
In Mazar I Sharif they play Buskashi for the week following Nowroz

So happy Nowruz. The reason it is so important to me is that my birthday, 21 husually coincides with Nowruz. This celebration has certainly brought fertility to my life as I am the proud Father of seven wonderful children.


Vegan diet may help arthritis - study
Every day we are told how we can live longer, be healthier and have a better sex life.

Today, Reuters gave us some advice. A gluten-free vegan diet full of nuts, sunflower seeds, fruit and vegetables appears to offer protection against heart attacks and strokes for people with rheumatoid arthritis, Swedish researchers said.

At the risk of being politicalkly incorrect. I think this is a load of bollocks.

I have just come back from India and most of my friends on a vegetarian diet or a vegan diet seem so miserable. Likewise, my strict vegetarian friends here in Indonesia look as rigamortis has set in. i stayed with a vegan friend in Delhi and her refrigerator was full of parrot food, and when I asked how she survived, she said, I have a good meat meal every week.

The diet appeared to lower cholesterol and also affect the immune system, easing some symptoms associated with the painful joint condition, they said.

The study suggested diet could play an important role for people with rheumatoid arthritis who are often more prone to heart attacks, strokes and clogged arteries, said a team from Sweden's Karolinska Institute.

"These findings are compatible with previous results of vegetarian/vegan dietary regimens in non-rheumatoid arthritis subjects which have shown lower blood pressure, lower body mass index and lower incidence of cardiovascular disease," the researchers wrote in the journal Arthritis Research and Therapy.

About 20 million people worldwide have rheumatoid arthritis, an autoimmune disease caused when the body confuses healthy tissues for foreign substances and attacks itself.

In the study, Johan Frostegard of the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm and colleagues put 38 volunteers on gluten-free vegan foods and had the other 28 people eat a balanced but non-vegan diet for one year.

The people on the diet excluding animal products and gluten, found in wheat, rye and barley, had lower levels of low-density lipoprotein, or LDL, the so-called "bad cholesterol" which can lead to clogged arteries. They also lost weight while the volunteers on the other diet showed no change.

The researchers said further study was needed to determine the roles the different foods may play in offering protective benefits against heart attacks and strokes.

Last week Finnish researchers said a once-a-week generic pill to treat the disease significantly reduced the risk of heart attacks and strokes for people with the condition.

Recent studies have also showed that newer drugs that block an inflammatory protein called tumour necrosis factor, or TNF, were also effective at reducing heart attack and stroke risk for people with the condition.

Evidence suggests that LDL could be involved in improper immune system activation, the researchers said in the report, available freely online at

They said the volunteers on the vegan diet had lower levels of C reactive protein, a compound that indicates levels of inflammation in the body and which is linked with heart disease.

So according to the great researchers, what is research ?

Research is what I'm doing when I don't know what I'm doing."
- Wernher Von Braun (1912-1977)


Tuesday, 18 March 2008

The best book I've read this Century - SHANTARAM

I was a revolutionary who lost his ideals in heroin, a philosopher who lost his integrity in crime, and a poet who lost his soul in a maximum security prison.”

When a book starts like that, you can’t help being intrigued. Shantaram of David Gregory Roberts grabbed my interest the moment I picked it up. I had just returned form a 3 week holiday in India 14 days ago and I had India on my brain. Reading this book etched India firmly in my heart. His quote about the Indian heart explains it all.
“That’s how we keep this crazy place together - with the heart…. India is the heart. It’s the heart that keeps us together. There’s no place with people, like my people, Lin. There’s no heart like the INDIAN HEART.”
This is one book that I never wanted to end, but it ended last night but for me it was a beginning, a beginning of savouring the quotes from the greatest writer of this centurty. Prove me wrong ?
To me, Shantaram serves as a deeply enriching and engaging testament to the indestructible nature of human spirit.
It describes the experiences of an Australian prisoner, who makes his lucky escape to India, and has his share of queer experiences like living in Slums, in Arthur Road Prison, Afghanisthan. Shantaram brings out the humane side of the Lin who couldn’t help but fall in love with innocence of people and led his life in abandon savoring each and every tide of life in his own stride. As his life entwined with engaging characters like Prabhakar, Karla, Didler, Abdullah, Khaderbhai, Qasim Ali, his journey delectably brings out the perseverance of human character against all odds, and his pathological optimism in humanity.

Of all the characters, Prabakar,Khaderbai and Karla are stuck in my heart and mind forever. I would love to have them as Father, son and lover, in that order. Karla totally captivated me with her charm, daring and femininity. As books on India go, it ranks slightly ahead of The Chamber of Perfumes and A Nation of Fools: two great books on India written about the same time as Shantarama.

Monday, 17 March 2008

Where have all the glaciers gone ?

During the past 45 years I have spent a lot of time walking on glaciers, looking at glaciers and studying glaciers. Above is a photo of the mighty Fox Glacier in New Zealand that I took 3 years ago. Today I was alarmed to read in a report from Oslo
that a thaw of the world's glaciers has accelerated to a new record with some of the biggest losses within Europe, in a worrying sign of climate change, the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) said on Sunday.

"Meltdown in the mountains," UNEP said in a statement, saying that a retreat of glaciers from the Andes to the Arctic should add urgency to UN negotiations on working out a new treaty by the end of 2009 to combat global warming.
"Data from close to 30 reference glaciers in nine mountain ranges indicate that between the years 2004-2005 and 2005-2006 the average rate of melting and thinning more than doubled," it said.
Some of the biggest losses were in Europe -- in the Alps, the Pyrenees and the Nordic region -- according to the UNEP-backed World Glacier Monitoring Service (WGMS) at the University of Zurich in Switzerland.

"The latest figures are part of what appears to be an accelerating trend with no apparent end in sight," WGMS director Wilfried Haeberli said in a statement.
The estimates, based on measuring the thickness of glacier ice, indicated an average loss of about 1.5 metres (5 ft) in 2006, up from just over half a metre in 2005. UNEP said that the thinning was the fastest since monitoring began.

Since 1980, glaciers have thinned by about 11.5 metres in a retreat blamed by the UN Climate Panel mainly on human use of fossil fuels.
The thaw could disrupt everything from farming -- millions of people in Asia depend on seasonal melt water from the Himalayas -- and power generation to winter sports. The thaw could also raise world sea levels.

UNEP said glaciers were among the clearest indicators of global warming. "There are many canaries emerging in the climate change coal mine. The glaciers are perhaps among those making the most noise," said Achim Steiner, head of UNEP.

Among big losers, Norway's Breidalblikkbrea glacier thinned by almost 3.1 metres during 2006 compared with 0.3 metres in 2005 and France's Ossoue glacier in the Pyrenees thinned by nearly 3 metres versus around 2.7 metres in 2005. In the Alps, Italy's Malavalle glacier thinned by 1.4 metres in 2006 versus 0.9 in 2005. In Austria, the Grosser Goldbergkees glacier thinned by 1.2 metres in 2006 versus 0.3 in 2005.

Of almost 30 reference glaciers only one -- the Echaurren Norte in Chile -- thickened in 2006 compared to 2005. The WGMS monitors about 100 glaciers in total.
Some glaciers, such as Bolivia's Chacaltaya glacier, Canada's Place glacier, India's Hamtah glacier and the US Daniels and Yawning glaciers shrank less in 2006 than in 2005.

Steiner said that governments had agreed to work out by the end of 2009 a new pact to succeed the UN's Kyoto Protocol, which binds developed nations except the United States to curb emissions of greenhouse gases.

"Otherwise, and like the glaciers, our room for manoeuvre and the opportunity to act may simply melt away," he said. A first set of UN negotiations on a new climate treaty will be held in Bangkok from March 31-April 4.

Friday, 14 March 2008

Bangkok - The Afghan Buddha

Afghan Buddha

Hadn’t heard that phrase for a while
”It’s OK mate, she’ll be right”
He said with a broad Maori smile
“Should be home t’murra night.”

As painted girls watched or are they dolls
In the hotel the waitress smiled
Every time she filled my glass
And it was a genuine smile
As she went about here work

Bangkok is like a porcelain shop
After Afghanistan, and I wonder
If they will break like China dolls
If I touch them

The Kalashnikovs are quiet here
Russian, not Chinese, like the dolls
Under the pacific shadow of Buddhism
But in Kabul the rockets reign
And women hide under Burkha
Then the next day its mini-skirts in Bangkok

The sleeping Buddha lies silent
While the Muezzin shouts in Kabul
Burning my eardrums but not my brain
Which is convinced about God
And his love

20 December 1995

In my last post I mentioned I have just returned from Bangkok and that the first time I went there was in 1975. The most profound effect Bangkok had on me when I passed through in late 1995 after two years in Afghanistan. After the bloodshed and killing I experienced in Afghanistan, Bangkok was so calm. The poem above was written to compare Afghanistan to Bangkok at that tragic juncture in time. Interestingly, Buddhism reached Afghanistan long before it reached Thailand. The dichotomies of this world puzzle me and poetry is the only way I can express it

Thursday, 13 March 2008

Back from Bangkok

I just got back from Bangkok today and it must be about my 20th visit since my first visit there in 1975, en route from Vietnam to India. I usually stay in Sukhimvit and love walking and soaking in the sights, smells, noise and colour. When I get time over the weekend I will tell you a little more about the visit and my love of Thailand.

Thursday, 6 March 2008

A beautiful flower to start the day

Golden Torch Heliconia

This morning I went cycling with my two boys and in the garden saw some beautiful yellow flowers blooming. They grow so well at this time of year.

This flower has the classic look - a gold upright spike above dark green leaves. Great for the tropical look, and to bring almost instant colour and height to your garden.

Common names for the genus include lobster-claw and false bird-of-paradise, the latter from their close similarity to the bird-of-paradise flowers. Heliconia flowers are mostly hidden by the large, colourful specialised leaves called bracts. Thriving in full sun to semi-shade, the bracts may be produced most of the year but more particularly in the warmest months. Individual inflorescences last for many weeks, even when cut, making them an important cut flower for the floral trade. Heliconias are related to bananas, cannas and gingers and traditionally have been included in the Banana Family.

Wednesday, 5 March 2008

Maori Mountaineers of South Westland - New Zealand

Between 1990 and 1993 I did considerable research on the subject of Maori Mountaineers in New Zealand. The amazing discovery I made was that one small community in South Westland,New Zealand, in Heretaniwha (Bruce Bay), Hunts Beach, Mahitahi and Jacobs River, together made a huge contribution to New Zealand mountain exploration. I published this in the 1993 New Zealand Alpine Journal.

Bruce Bay was where most of the Maori mountaineers lived. Supplies would come in by ship and be unloaded by smaller boats.

Photographs of families at Bruce Bay waiting for the monthly supply ship.

They lived in a remote corner of South Westland in small settlements of Heretaniwha (Bruce Bay), Hunts Beach, Mahitahi/Makaawhio and Jacobs River and together made a huge contribution to New Zealand mountain exploration. Most are descendents of Te Koeti Turanga.
Colonial historians and explorers undervalued the contribution of Maori guides and companions and writers such as Charlie Douglas, Edward Fitzgerald, Arthur P. Harper and John Pascoe, clearly denigrated the Maori role in mountain exploration and later, mountain guiding. Gerhard Mueller and Thomas Brunner were notable exceptions. Mueller writes with brotherly love about his companions Kere Tutuko and Werita Tainui, and valued their skills and friendship. ‘To Ekehu I owe my life — he is a faithful and attached servant,’ wrote the ever humble Brunner. 2
So many early writers missed out key information which would have proved so clearly that the Maori were ex-perienced mountain people. Take Gerhard Mueller’s friend Kere Tutoko. 3
In 1835, as a 12-year-old, he travelled up the Grey River, on to Kotuku and up the Taramakau River to Harpers Pass, down the North Branch of the
Hurunui, past Lake Sumner, until it reached the Waitohi tributary and so onto Kaiapohia (Kaiapoi). Yet writ ers like Arthur P. Harper, in his book Memories of Mountains and Men, write of the first crossing of the Southern Alps in 1857, when the Maori had been crossing the Main Divide for centuries. This is typical of many reports of colonial exploration where Europeans were not discovering, rather retracing existing Maori routes.The outdoor skills of the South Westland Maori were not confined to the bush and mountains; they also travelled regularly along the coastline by canoe. Kere Tutuko, his brother-in-law Te Koeti Turanga(painting below) and his grandfather Tuarohe, were highly-skilled canoe builders. .
Records show that they made regular sea voyages from Bruce Bay to Te Horo and Anita Bay in Milford Sound.3
The inquisitive exploratory spirit of the early Maori took them to all the remote corners of the South Island, and they quickly gained first-hand knowledge of snow and ice

The mana and beauty of the Pounamu was an added attraction to cross the Divide again and again, all the while gathering further alpine experience. Their pre-European glossary of snow and ice, whilst not as comprehensive as the Inuit (Eskimo), certainly proved that they had rubbed their paraerae (sandals) on the high mountain passes. Whenuahuka described the permanent snow on the high peaks and hukapapa was the name for the huge snowfields. The snow slides from the high peaks were hukamania, and as they grew and took on avalanche proportions, they became hukahoro. The glaciers that drained the snowfields were called hukapo, the glacial sediment waiparahoaka and the snow-fed water, waihuka. Kipakanui, or ice, was seen in the shady valleys in winter, and the thick ice which never saw the sun was named waiuka, meaning solid water. 5
One of the first Europeans to record contact with Chief Te Koeti Turanga, who married Ripeka Patiere, daughter of Tutuko, was Gerhard Mueller, in October 1865, when he stayed at Bruce Bay. lThe first contact modern mountaineers had with the Te Koeti family was in 1895 when the British mountaineer Edward Fitzgerald, with his Swiss guide Mattius Zurbriggen, met Dan Te Koeti, one of four brothers, at the Scott’s homestead in the Karangarua River valley. Fitzgerald was impressed from the outset: ‘Certainly if his physique is a typical instance of that of the Maori race, a fine race of alpine guides might be cultivated from them.’ 6
This was a prophetic statement from the astute Fitzgerald as Dan and his two brothers Mark and Butler (Buck) Te Koeti, all became guides and mountain men in every sense.Dan Te Koeti accompanied Fitzgerald, Zurbriggen and Arthur P. Harper for the next leg of their journey which took them down the Karangarua River to the sea, along the coast to Gillespies Beach and up the Fox Glacier to Chancellor Ridge. Fitzgerald, not known for his favourable comment about New Zealand mountaineers, comments of Dan’s ability, ‘I was surprised to see how well he walked on the ice where he seemed to be quite at home, though I understood that this was the first time he had ever attempted in his life’ ... and later ‘He was an immensely powerful lad; indeed I was told by Scott that he had carried iron pipes, weighing 140 lbs, up a steep hill in the neighbourhood of the homestead.’ 6
What Fitzgerald didn’t realise was that Dan had spent a 1ot of his time as a shepherd for Andrew Scott grazing sheep in alpine vegetation in areas up to 5000 ft. He discovered much new land, some of it snow covered, so he wasn’t a stranger to snow. One feature he discovered as a shepherd was an alpine lake, situated at just over 4000ft and feeding into the Makawhio (Jacobs) River. Arthur P. Harper named the lake after Dan, Lake Rototekoiti.3

The misspelling of Te Koeti still appears on today’s maps.

Two years later, in October 1894, Ruera Te Naihi, another relative of the Te Koeti brothers, also known as Bill the Maori, joined Charlie Douglas and Arthur P. Harper on their exploration of the Karangarua.
Douglas, struck by ill health again, left Harper and Ruera Te Naihi (photo left) to complete the exploration of the Karangarua and the Twain glaciers that drained the snowfields were called hukapo, the glacial sediment waiparahoaka and the snow-fed water, waihuka. Kipakanui, or ice, was seen in the shady valleys in winter, and the thick ice which never saw the sun was named waiuka, meaning solid water. 5
One of the first Europeans to record contact with Chief Te Koeti Turanga, who married Ripeka Patiere, daughter of Tutuko, was Gerhard Mueller, in October 1865, when he stayed at Bruce Bay. l
The first contact modern mountaineers had with the Te Koeti family was in 1895 when the British mountaineer Edward Fitzgerald, with his Swiss guide Mattius Zurbriggen, met Dan Te Koeti, one of four brothers, at the Scott’s homestead in the Karangarua River valley. Fitzgerald was impressed from the outset: ‘Certainly if his physique is a typical instance of that of the Maori race, a fine race of alpine guides might be cultivated from them.’ 6
This was a prophetic statement from the astute Fitzgerald as Dan and his two brothers Mark and Butler (Buck) Te Koeti, all became guides and mountain men in every sense.Dan Te Koeti accompanied Fitzgerald, Zurbriggen and Arthur P. Harper for the next leg of their journey which took them down the Karangarua River to the sea, along the coast to Gillespies Beach and up the Fox Glacier to
Chancellor Ridge. Fitzgerald, not known for his favourable comment about New Zealand mountaineers, comments of Dan’s ability, ‘I was surprised to see how well he walked on the ice where he seemed to be quite at home, though I understood that this was the first time he had ever attempted in his life’ ... and later ‘He was an immensely powerful lad; indeed I was told by Scott that he had carried iron pipes, weighing 140 lbs, up a steep hill in the neighbourhood of the homestead.’ 6
What Fitzgerald didn’t realise was that Dan had spent a 1ot of his time as a shepherd for Andrew Scott grazing sheep in alpine vegetation in areas up to 5000 ft. He discovered much new land, some of it snow covered, so he wasn’t a stranger to snow. One feature he discovered as a shepherd was an alpine lake, situated at just over 4000ft and feeding into the Makawhio (Jacobs) River. Arthur P. Harper named the lake after Dan, Lake Rototekoiti.3

The misspelling of Te Koeti still appears on today’s maps.

Two years later, in October 1894, Ruera Te Naihi, another relative of the Te Koeti brothers, also known as Bill the Maori, joined Charlie Douglas and Arthur P. Harper on their exploration of the Karangarua. Douglas, struck by ill health again, left Harper and Ruera Te Naihi to complete the exploration of the Karangarua and the Twain
valleys and they returned to Scott’s homestead the following year after 19 weeks in the hi1ls.7

Hapū members at Makaawhio in 1906

Trish McCormack, in her book, The Maori in Westland. 81982 writes:’ Ruera Te Naihi’s assistance to Arthur P. Harper in packing loads and procuring food has largely been forgot-ten’… and later … ‘From Harper’s account of this expedition some of the sterling characteristics of his Maori companion emerge. Unfortunately Harper showed a somewhat condescending attitude to Bill, in view of the the fact that he was not a highly skilled mountaineer like himself.’Ruera Te Naihi later became a ferryman at the Waiatoto River, but was tragically drowned some years later.
The next to make his mark in mountaineering was Butler Te Koeti, brother of Dan, Mark and George. In 1905, fellow South Westlander and close friend Guide Peter Graham, invited Butler to work with him as a guide at the Hermitage. The Maori families of Bruce Bay, Hunt’s Beach, Mahitahi and Jacksons Bay had, over the years, become close friends of the Graham family. This relationship started in the mid 1860s when David Millar Graham, father of guides Peter and Alec Graham, was shipwrecked at Jackson Bay after rowing and sailing round the South Island in an open whaler. Both Peter and Alec Graham acknowledge this in their respective books.9, 10A quote from Alec’s book shows their respect:‘Fortunately for them there were a few Maoris at the Bay and to their kindness they owed their lives. The Maoris helped them make a Mai-Mai and provided them food. My father never forgot their kindness and ever after had the greatest respect and kindness for the Maoris.’

In 1905, Butler Te Koeti and Peter Graham guided Annie Lindon onto Glacier Dome and also took her on the third crossing of Barron Saddle. One of the legendary feats he left was his crossing of Copland Pass from the Hermitage to Jacobs River in 15 hours when there was no formed Copland track. After spending a night with friends and family he returned to the Hermitage the next day again via the Copland Pass. 8

Roads were almost non-existant in South Westland, and beaches such as Gillespie's beach were used as roads.

Unfortunately, a number of Butler Te Koeti’s mountaineering achievements went either unrecorded, or need to be unravelled from being recorded incorrectly. In the publication, Jubilee History of South Canterbury, by Anderson, his name is recorded as B. Kosti, 8and to future generations it would be easy to surmise that Kosti was an Italian guide.Butler Te Koeti enjoyed his mountain guiding and later brought his young nephew George Bannister, who was just 17 at the time, to work at the Hermitage. George quickly teamed up with fellow South Westlander and guide Darby Thomson of Ross, who knew the Te Koeti and Bannister families well. George Bannister quickly learnt the trade of mountain guiding with the first traverse of Nun’s Veil, the fourth ascent of Elie de Beaumont, seventh ascent of Footstool, the third ascent of Walter and Green, 8 but his great moment was yet to come.
In February 1912, Samuel Turner returned to the Hermitage to attempt his second ascent of Mount Cook, this time by the Linda Glacier route. He chose, for his guides, Darby Thomson, who climbed Mt Cook five times before his untimely death on Mt Cook in 1914, and l8-year-old George Bannister. In the early afternoon of 27 February, 1912, George Bannister stepped onto the summit of Mount Cook, and looked towards his birth place.

It was a special moment — he was the first Maori to climb Aoraki, pictured above. It was a perfect day and it is quite likely he would have seen Mt Tutoko in the distance, named after his great-grandfather. His client, Samuel Turner, describes the moment: ‘lt was a glorious day and a more glorious view. It pleased Bannister so much that he could not attempt a description. It was the tirst time a Maori had reached the summit of Aorangi, Cloudpiercer, or the long white cloud, as his forefathers called it, and afterwards called Mount Cook; but although most of New Zealand is now owned by white men, some of whom do not know the consideration due to the native race, nevertheless the mountains were never bought from the Maoris, and must belong to that race still.’ 11George Bannister must have mourned the loss of his friend and fellow guide Darby Thomson when he was killed by an avalanche on the Linda Glacier, while descending Mt Cook in 1914. It was also the year George walked
from Bruce Bay to Hokitika to enlist for the First World War, only to be told by the doctor he had flat feet and would never be able to do long route marches. George promptly walked back home, completing the 400km walk
in about a week.l2 However, nine others of his extended family were accepted to fight for their country. Two of them became famous when Butler Te Koeti and Dave Bannister competed in an unofficial world wood chopping championship in Niepe Forest in France on 9 April, 1916. The reigning world champion axeman, serving in the Canadian Army, challenged the best axeman in the British Empire. He wasn’t to know that two New Zealand Maori from South Westland had been wood chopping all their lives. The crowd was stunned when the brash Canadian lumberjack was beaten. Butler was placed first and Dave second.
George Bannister was later recorded as doing the first ascent of the high peak Mt Lyttle with Tom Sheeran in 1931 while he was building the Douglas Rock Hut in the Copland Valley. Guide Mick Bowie tells of the way the hut was constructed.‘They selected suitable totara trees, felled them, and somehow took them to a large rock about quarter of a mile from the hut site. Here they arranged a sawing pit, cut them with a pit saw into lengths and thicknesses needed, and without waiting for the timber to dry, carried the boards back to the site, and built the hut. The roofing iron was taken up the valley by packhorse.’
Mick Bowie also recounts the story of George Bannister carrying a 100 pound roll of malthoid on his back and treating it like a feather. Mick, carrying only a small pack himself, had trouble keeping up with George on the journey from Welcome Flat to Douglas Rock.
Perhaps the last comments on George Bannister are best left to an outstanding female climber of that era, Dora De Beer of Dunedin, who wrote the following in the 1954 New Zealand Alpine Club Journal about Lyttle Peak, Navigator Range.‘George was a gentle, attractive giant, partly Maori. He had been a guide, and was at the time working on the new hut erected to replace the old bivouac at Douglas Rock. He helped cut the track up the Ruera, and once at least, George visited our camp (1931) there bringing mail and stores, also a delicious soda loaf he had baked in a camp oven. He died a short time afterward, and the rock in the Ruera (Bannister’s Rock) we named after him.’ 13
George Bannister is buried in the Whataroa cemetery, alongside members of the other great West Coast guiding family, the Grahams. And, on a fine day the high peaks they spent so much of their time near, watch over the graveyard. Jim and Bill Bannister, both brothers of George, contributed to the mountain scene. Jim was on the third ascent of Mt Sefton with Darby Thomson and Samuel Turner and Bill worked on the first Hooker Bridge.Bill Bannister’s trade as a bridge builder had taken him all over the country, and his work on the Hooker bridge was one he recalled fondly. In 1914, while his brother George was guiding at the Hermitage, Bill built the first wooden bridge over the Hooker. The bridge was carried away in an ice-flooded river in 1927. Bill’s son, Jack Bannister, still living at Mahitahi in South Westland, clearly remembers working with members of his own family and Dan, Mark and Butler Te Koeti, cutting tracks up the Copland Valley. “The tracks were so wide you could have driven a jeep up them,” he said. 12
For a number of South Westland Maori families it could be said that the Copland Valley was their second home for many years. They cut the early tracks, built the first Douglas Rock hut and were involved with subsequent
hut building at Welcome Flat, track upgrading, rescues and recreational hunting. But when the occasion was right, family climbing had its place.
Bob Wilson,* (* Bob died in late October 1991, shortly after proof-reading and approving this article) formerly of Hunts Beach and now living at Haast, recounts a story of a double crossing of the Copland Pass, when he was 12 years old, with Butler Te Koeti. “We were in at Douglas Rock hut and the conditions must have been right. Butler suggested we go over the Copland. We left very early in the morning, crossed the pass and went down to the Hooker Valley, recrossed the pass back to Douglas Rock and down to Welcome Flat late in the evening where our horses were waiting.
We rode back in the dark to Bruce Bay, arriving about 2
In under 24 hours a 12-year-old boy had crossed the Copland Pass twice. The family history is full of amazing endurance feats — remembered by the old people, Mick Te Koeti, Bob and Kelly Wilson and Jack Bannister — but few have been written down.
Perhaps the most readily recalled name in Maori mountaineering is Joe Fluerty. In 1926, some entries began to appear in the Glacier Hotel visitor’s book under this name; the comment ‘packing stores’. Thus starts the illustrious guiding career of George Bannister’s cousin, a larger-than-life character, with a quick wit who soon became a master of step-cutting, learning much from Alec and Peter Graham. Surviving movie film footage shows the sheer brilliance of Joe’s step cutting in one sequence as he cuts up a vertical ice wall. The other outstanding mountain guide of the 1930s,Jack Cox, pays tribute to Joe’s skills, “I learned the art of step cutting on the daily glacier trips, with much help from Joe Fluerty who was a master of all climbing skills.” 14
People liked Joe Fluerty. His trips were fun, safe and comments in hut books written by his clients, record great enjoyment and fun on his trips. There is a wealth of information available on Joe Fluerty, who in his 18 year guiding career, touched the lives of so many people.Joe started off his career by packing tins of kerosene and food to huts, glacier guiding and guided ascents of peaks like Moltke, Roon, Drummond and St Mildred, before graduating to the high peaks.Horo Koau, later named Mt Tasman by European settlers, is a mountain of special significance to the Maori
people of South Westland. It stands supreme over all the others, including Aoraki (Mt Cook) and is clearly visible from most parts of South Westland on a fine day. As a boy and young man, the view of Horo Koau became part of Joe Fluerty’s daily vista. Unlike Aoraki, which he considered tapu and once turned back close to the summit, 14 Horo Koau was a mountain he wanted to climb.On 10 March, 1932, Joe Fluerty, together with fellow guides Jack Cox and Jack Pope, did the first ascent of Mt Tasman from the West Coast side of the Divide. The Christchurch Press of 12 March describes the climb.
‘The party left the Glacier Hotel on March 8, for the Almer Hut, next day crossing over Newton Pass to the bivouac on the Pioneer ridge at the head of the Fox Glacier. On Thursday morning the party set out at 3AM, crossing the Fox Glacier neve, and ascending the steep couloir between Mt Tasman and Mt Lendenfeld, and reaching the Divide at Engineer’s Col. From here, except when negotiating an awkward schrund below the shelter of Mt Tasman, where the party was forced out on the east face, the main north-east arête was followed for its entire length, the ridge between the shoulder and the summit being exceedingly narrow. On the descent the party
deviated from its route at Engineers Col and made the complete traverse of Mt Lendenfeld to the bivouac… The whole climb occupied 11 hours 20minutes.’ 8
Next year Joe played a key role in the rescue of Mark Lysons, who broke his leg on Mt Goldsmith.14
In the one day, Joe helped carry Mark Lysons back to Almer Hut from near Teichelman’s Corner, splinted his leg in the hut, went to Franz Josef township to get a doctor and rescue party and returned to Almer Hut the same day. The next day he helped carry Mark out to the road. In January 1935, Joe, together with Mark Lysons, guided Molly Williams on the first traverse of Mt Haidinger, a long 21 1/2 hour climb.16 The following year Joe guided a Dr Bradshaw on an ascent of Lendenfeld.8
Apart from the numerous guided ascents achieved by Joe Fluerty, the one quality that fellow guides commented on was his uncanny navigation skills. Gar Graham, who still resides at Okarito, recalls a crossing of West Hoe
Pass in 1936, with Joe and two clients: “Joe led us over West Hoe Pass in complete white-out conditions and with an unerringly accurate sense of direction, led us to Chancellor Hut,” said Gar Graham.15
Gar also recounted the dark night that two tourists failed to turn up for dinner at the hotel, and Joe led Gar out to find them. “Around midnight Joe discovered the cold couple sitting under a bush, off the track up near the Callery River. He had found them without using a torch and to lead the couple back, he picked up a handful of glow worms, put them on his shoulder and told them to follow the lights back.”
As a teenage climber I remember older mountaineers who knew Joe Fluerty, saying that he was able to smell his way to Fox or Franz out of the high mountains. Dorothy Fletcher recalls her father, Alec Graham, saying that Joe knew whether people were in the hut or not, when he was some distance away. He would tell Alec that he could smell them.16
Jack Cox also talked of Joe’s keen sense of smell and superb navigation skills.Hundreds of quotes on Joe’s humour abound, and a typical one comes from a former client of his, the Rev. Bower-Black:“At my request, the Maori guide Joe Fluerty was assigned to us, and to say that we all liked him is a mild way of putting it. He is one of the senior guides, and has the Maori unfailing patience and good humour. He is capable and reliable, and his sturdy figure striding on ahead gave us a feeling of confidence and security. Joe was full of mischief and as ready as an Irishman with his tongue. ‘Why do you wear those pieces of cloth round your ankles?’ asked a rather gushing lady at one of the huts. ‘To keep the dust out of my eyes,’ retorted Joe. Whereat the boys gurgled gleefully and the lady took it in good part.’ 8
The Second World War disrupted the proud West Coast guiding tradition. Joe Fluerty enlisted, together with Mark Lysons. Joe never returned to Franz, and his fellow guide Mark Lysons, with whom he shared so many memorable climbs, was killed at Monte Cassino.16
Meanwhile, some fifty years after they started their apprenticeship with the mountains, Mark and Butler Te Koeti, in their early sixties at the end of the war, continued to do a lot of track work up the Copland, with Jack
Bannister and Bob Wilson, both of whom still live in South Westland.12
Arthur Graham describes a meeting with Mark Te Koeti in the Copland Valley.“In 1948, my cousin Stephen and I had crossed the Copland Pass and were slogging our way down the Karangarua Valley towards the main south highway. Some miles from the highway we came across old Mark Te Koeti who had, at that time, a contract to upgrade the track.“Neither of us were quite sure which of the old Te Koeti brothers we were talking to and it was obvious that Mark was equally puzzled as to who we were since we had not been in the district for many years. Imagine the light in his eyes when we told him we were the sons of Peter and Alec. ‘You’ll be wanting some tucker, lads,’ said Mark. ‘Take my horse and get down to the camp — there’s some cold mutton, bread and cheese — make yourselves at home and get a brew going. I’ll be along later.”“Sure we were hungry and there was no denying the warm sincerity of this fine old Maori, but to leave him to walk home was unthinkable.
“You’ll promise to get a feed at my camp then,” said Mark. We promised, and so, with handshakes all round we were on our way. The more we thought about the offer the more we disliked the idea of breaking into his hut. It was a tough decision and having finally arrived at the hut, we sat down to discuss the situation again. Yes, we must go on in otherwise Mark will be greatly offended... Mark turns up in the nick of time and we follow him into the hut. The billy is soon boiling and Steve and I do our best with the tucker and huge enamel mug of hot tea. There followed a friendly conversation, enquiries as to the health of our parents and reminiscences…”8
Today Jack Bannister, Bob and Kelly Wilson and Mick Te Koeti, all in their late sixties or seventies, continue to pass on the valuable knowledge of the the land, mountains, rivers and sea.

Wood chopping at Bruce Bay in 1990, when people from the extended whanau from all over New Zealand came to celebrate the history of this small community. Photo: Bob McKerrow

A small article in the West Coast Times, dated 3 September, 1991, shows that the Runanga Te Koeti O Turanga is still strong:
‘Four generations of Wilsons, a well known Westland Maori family gathered at Jacobs River last weekend for a double christening ceremony in the old church there. There was standing room only in the old church where 64 people gathered to witness the christening…’
Ka pu te ruha, ka hao te rangatahi
A new generation takes the place of the old.

1 Gerhard Mueller, My Dear Bannie
2 Philip Temple, New Zealand Explorers
3 A.A. Pullar, Wilderness Days in Bruce Bay
4 Keri Hulme of Okarito, personal conversation.
5 Barry Brailsford, Greenstone Trails
6 E.A. Fitzgerald, Climbs in the New Zealand Alps
7 John Pascoe, Mr Explorer Douglas
8 Trish McCormack, Maori in Westland
9 Alec Graham & Jim Wilson, Uncle Alec and the Grahams of Franz Josef

India. What did I learn ?

I am now back in Indonesia after 3 weeks in India.
So what did I learn ?
How marvellous the Himalaya are. How incredible India really is
I could not see a line between poverty and happiness. It has never been drawn. Like riches, happiness and poverty are impostors. Then who or what is absolute ? It must be God. The Durrand line, the McMahon lines, the Line of Control, are lines drawn by people. Mere mortals. Lines are like invisable maps on my heart.

Tuesday, 4 March 2008

An unbelieveable story

During my last week in India I have been following the sad situation of Kashmir Singh who has languished in a Pakistani jail for 35 years. Imagine the harrowing and dehuamising experience he has been through.

The BBC gives us the latest update on the storyAn Indian man released from a Pakistani prison after spending 35 years on death row has been reunited with his family in India.
Kashmir Singh, sentenced to death for spying in 1973, was released on Monday.

He was discovered by Ansar Burney, a social worker who tracks people lost in Pakistan's jail system.

Hundreds of servicemen and civilians were imprisoned by India and Pakistan during hostilities between the two sides in 1965 and 1971.

Mr Singh's wife and son were among hundreds of people who had gathered to greet him at the Wagah border in the northern Indian state of Punjab.

Mr Singh was re-united with his family after basic medical tests and checks at the border.

"I am very, very happy and will escort him back to gurdwara [Sikh temple] to pray," his wife, Paramjeet Singh said.


Ansar Burney discovered Mr Singh on a recent trip to a jail in Lahore and persuaded Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf to revoke his death sentence and order his release.

Mr Singh was a former policeman who had become a trader in electronic goods.

India's missing POWs

Speaking on Monday after his release from jail, he said: "I feel better. I am happy."

Mr Singh was arrested in the city of Rawalpindi in 1973 and convicted of spying.

Pakistan and India frequently arrest each other's citizens, often accusing them of straying across the border - some are treated as spies.

Mr Burney is currently the government's caretaker minister for human rights.

'Hell on Earth'

Mr Burney said last week that Mr Singh had been held in a condemned prisoner's cell for most of the time since his conviction, and had become mentally ill.

He said that he was first informed about the case several years ago by members of the Indian community in London.

But he was unable to locate Mr Singh, despite visiting more than 20 jails across the country in connection with his campaign for prison reforms and prisoners' rights.

The minister said Mr Singh had not received a single visitor or seen the open sky and, like other condemned prisoners, was locked in an overcrowded cell for more than 23 hours a day, in conditions which the minister described as "hell on Earth".

Sunday, 2 March 2008

Wandering around Delhi

I had an enjoyable day yesterday strolling round Delhi and enjoying the atmosphere and taking in the contrasting styles of architecture from the old Moghul style to Lutyen;s modern New Delhi. Deldi has lost none of its charm, charcter, colours and snmell.

A canon outside Rastrapathi Bhawan.

The government buildings near Rastrapathi Bhavan

Saturday, 1 March 2008

The bookseller of Delhi and a tasty lamb curry.

I had a most productive yet relaxing Saturday in New Delhi. Later in the morning visited my good friend Anuj, who travelled with me for part of my journey in Himachal Pradesh. Anuj is a bookseller, publisher and book agent. A very talented and creative man who can talk books and publishing all day, when he has time.

I am giving a talk in Delhi on Monday to friends and I was getting Anuj to assist me to polish up my slide presentation. Then I splurged out and bought more books. My suitcase is full of wonderful newly published books.
I then copied 60 odd pictures for Ricky Ram back in Sidhbari as I promised to send him a record of the trip. Then I went round the corner and bought one kilo of good lamb (probably goat) from my favourite butcher plus some quality vegetables. Cooked myself a tasty lamb curry for a late lunch and then watched a little cricket and then dived into a few good books. The lamb curry was so good that I made a second one for a late dinner and washed it down with a fine bottle of Indian Red cabernet savignon. Gosh, Indian wines have improved over the past ten years.

The booksell/publisher and his shop

Anuj Bahri hard at work. Mobile in one hand talking, laying out a book on computer screen and keeping an eye on the shop from his private perch.