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.