All of a sudden we’re almost halfway through the year, and this month hasn’t exactly gone to plan. In the end, despite a horrific head cold that had me laid out for a week, May hasn’t been too bad; just a little different than anticipated. Once again I remind myself that “life is indeed an adventure” if we look at it from an etymological (background of words) basis. Webster’s dictionary defines risk as:

1a: an undertaking usually involving danger and unknown risks. //a book recounting his many bold adventures b: the encountering of risks. //the spirit of adventure. 2: an exciting or remarkable experience. //an adventure in exotic dining they were looking for adventure. 3: an enterprise involving financial risk. //she wanted to pay off her debts before embarking on any new financial adventures.

As usual, my month kicked off with a round of local regional Enabling Good Lives meetings, it was good to catch up with some of the community. During the month we had been given a document on how a partnership between the crown, Maori and disabled people could look in the future; to gather community feedback on. A few of us had gotten together at the end of April to workshop our feedback on the full document; so we presented our points from that workshop to both the Disabled Person’s Core Group and the Mid-Central Leadership Group. I touched base with the community development team at Mana Whaikaha as a bit of a meet and greet and to look to ways to better collaborate with each other. Then a meeting on some sub-contract work on some EGL training that I am doing with Imagine Better. People wonder why I seem so busy, well, I tend to stack what I can into 3 functional weeks per month; the other week is set aside for me to catch up on bits and pieces and for me to head out and explore more of Aotearoa’s best places. The other thing I am really enjoying about these trips is that I am taking my time, taking it in, and in general, I don’t have to be supervising or instructing.

At the bottom frame is the very top of some trees covered in moss. Behind that is a large emergent tree. Behind the emergent tree you can see the trees on the horizon are obscured by rain and mist
Emergent canopy

May’s meander was planned to be 4 days. Head over to Holdsworth Lodge on Monday night. Spend the night there, wake up early and try to be down at Donnelley’s Flat by sunrise to get some sunrise shots. Then slowly make my way up to Atiwhakatu Hut, taking photos along the way. That would give me about 10hrs of sunlight to make the hut. Then I was going to have a rest day, then head home on Thursday. I knew that there was a group of 12 booked at Atiwhakatu Hut, but no bookings the Wednesday. This is a hut you can book, and once the booked people have their bunks it’s a “first-in, first-served” situation. I figured with the slightly dodgy weather forecast and mid-week that I’d probably get a bunk. If not, with my survival gear I could just go camp down on the river flats.

So you know how I said it hadn’t quite all gone to plan??? When I passed through Masterton the weather was looking pretty dodgy but getting better during Wednesday and Thursday, then deteriorating again. Not a big deal, I’m headed to a hut, I have a rest day to dry my stuff. As I got closer to the road end I notice that the thunderheads were building up the valley into the park, I was thankful that it was literally a three-minute walk to Holdsworth Lodge for my bunk. As I pulled into the car park there was a van from one of the Collegiate schools, “hmm I wonder if that is the group of 12 booked in at Atiwhakatu” I thought as I got my kit together to head to Holdsworth Lodge. As I pulled on my boots I could feel the change of the wind to the south, that shift that can chill you to your bones. I got to Holdsworth Lodge with daylight to spare. I sent a quick InReach message to MJ “Hey I’m here” just before the rain started.

A silhouette of a valley meeting. The rest of the picture is cloud being slightly lit by the first pink rays of sunrise
First hint of sunrise

I got my sleeping gear out, my next couple of meals out, then went to get firewood out and see if there was an axe in the woodshed for kindling while I still had daylight, it was going to get chilly and a fire would be nice. Turns out there is an axe, however, it is on the heavy side, and it is blunt, I decided it would be more efficient for me just to batten some kindling with my knife. I wasn’t in a rush to get a fire going, so I got some food sorted. I then remembered that I had not signed in at the intentions book as I got to the hut, so I went out and had a bit of a read of who was around, see if their were any track updates etc, and I saw that it was probable that van of Collegiate students was going to be at Atiwhakatu Hut on the Tuesday night, they would be on their final night of a 3 night Powell – Jumbo circuit

I then went to get a fire going, remembered that I carry a bunch of video and camera equipment and people might want to see me light a fire and how to break a piece of wood down with just a knife and other bits of wood. I forget that a lot of people don’t experience the hands-on learning of what I consider basic skills so went and dug out my camera and promptly filmed a “how to starve your fire of oxygen” video; as I was saying you have to resist the urge to do just that. (I am behind in editing, but I am trying to catch up!) I then actually lit a fire, requested a weather forecast from MJ via InReach, and caught an early night.

A pink sun rise lights the sky, with the brightest part of the sunrise in the middle of the frame near the bottom. The left and right are framed by silhouetted trees
Tena koe Tama Nui Te Ra

I woke pretty early with the hopes of getting enough of a head-start to catch some sunrise pictures from Donnelley’s Flats, turns out that I had not given myself enough time and pink hues were just starting to light the sky by the time I was finishing my breakfast. I grabbed my camera and the InReach to receive the forecast. As I was starting to shoot the InReach bleeped, the forecast had arrived. The temperatures were taking more of a dive and the rain that was coming down in 48hrs was the equivalent of a normal summer month. As I was shooting, a couple of trail runners passed by, signing in at the logbook; I have enough trouble walking on trails let alone running on them, whatever floats your boat, at least they signed in.

It was at this point I started thinking “Do I really want to spend a night in a hut with 10, Year 12 (16 to 18) students. Students on the back end of a cold, wet trip. I’m not “working” (instructing), do I really want to put myself through that. I am sure that the individual students themselves are great people, but I know how students that age “get” after 3 wet and cold days in the mountains! They aren’t booked for Wednesday night so at least I’d get one chill-out night.” as I took some sunrise shots. I got my gear together; tidied up the hut and I was just putting my pack on as the mountain runner came back past. They had turned back at the slip, they decided because the slip was actively moving and the wash-out was full of water, they would go around a loop instead of their intended “there and back” to Atiwhakatu Hut. They also said it was really windy through the valley.

A close up picture of a small spring of totara tree that has water drops forming on the tips of the leaves

It was decision time. My thoughts were “Raven doesn’t like that swing-bridge (don’t blame her), I’m slow on that bridge with my balance. That bridge is narrow and takes me one trip for our gear, then another trip for Raven in good weather. The bridge will be slippery and if it blowing badly any swinging of the bridge is going to be difficult. We are both wearing heavy loads, the slip is moving, and the last time we went up to Atiwhakatu I literally had to climb down into the washout and up the other side without water in it. I have booked this time off to get “me” time out in the bush, there weren’t any other bookings in here at Holdsworth Lodge tonight, I will ring the centre and pay over the phone when I get home.” So I took off my boot, put my pack back in the hut and went to get more firewood and settled back in.

For some reason, I decided to do another take of splitting wood and lighting a fire. The battery died at some point during this and I didn’t get the full process. I have been using a Mora Light My Fire knife for the last few years. I got a Mora because they are affordable and hold a good edge. The Light My Fire has an integrated Ferro rod in the handle, and a 90-degree spine, 2.3mm blade. It’s a good utility bush knife, I got it because of the integrated Ferro rod, and sometimes I have a habit of losing lighters. It has been a good knife, and it has taken a beating. Knife enthusiasts were probably wincing at the thought of me using my knife for battening kindling, and it got a fair hammering, I discovered that too much vibration causes the Ferro rod to fall out and potentially spilt into two pieces as it hits the stone hearth. The blade itself is OK but unfortunately, it was time for an upgrade for my “use in the field” knife.

A bright orange knife is on the left of the frame in a sheath. To the right is a piece of hand width wood and 3 smaller pieces of wood shaped in wedges. On the piece of wood you can see marks of where it has struck the spine of the knife. The 3 wedges all have "mushrooming" on each end.
Simple tools to spilt wood if needed.

As I was puttering around the hut and splitting wood, I watched the rain come down, and down and down. At times it was coming down at 45 degrees to the ground, then 5 minutes later it would be 30 degrees coming from the opposite direction, I was glad I made the decision not to head up to Atiwhaktu. The wind had ice to it, and Raven was definitely feeling the cold so I lit the fire and had a fairly chilled out day hanging out at the lodge. I’d occasionally go out between showers to just wander a little and look for something interesting to shoot. I took more bad shots than good, but all good learning. I’d just got back to the lodge after taking Raven for a pee break when the ranger called in.

ADNZ Raven is curled up on a green fleece. She is wearing a gray merino top that covers her body. In the bottom left of the frame is her harness that has an Assistance Dogs NZ logo on it. With her harness is a stuffed toy green hippo
We both needed our thermals on!

I had been expecting him to call in, there was no booking for that night, he was calling in to check the place was clean and secure, and the weather was crap, I fully understand that. Unfortunately, his mood was about the same as the weather we were having, and his first comment to me was “No dogs allowed in the huts”. My response was “Sorry I didn’t catch that?” “No dogs allowed in the huts” he snapped, in my mind, I was taken slightly aback, my response was “I understand but, Um she’s actually an accredited Disability Assist Dog”. “Can I see some ID, and you could be a bit more careful” as we moved from the entrance to the main part of the lodge. I started looking for which dry bag I had stashed Raven’s Passport from Assistance Dogs NZ, “What else did you say sorry?” I asked. “you could be more careful, you’ve left muddy dog prints in the entrance.” I tried to reassure him that I would clean up properly before we left as I was still looking for a particular drybag at the bottom of my pack. The ranger was asking me if I had booked, “Not for tonight but I had booked last night and I was going to call the office when I get home and make a retroactive payment”, “I’ll make sure you do” was his response. By this stage, the ranger must have noticed the crutches, the dog saddlebags with ADNZ badge, the dog jacket with ADNZ badge on them and said “Nah it’s ok, I figured out who you are, I know you, you usually camp at Donnelley’s with the big purple tarp”. I was then told to enjoy my night and he was gone into the twilight.

A close up picture of 2 orange capped mushrooms. The picture is taken from ground level.
There were mushrooms everywhere.

I made my way to the car mid-morning and was home by 2pm on the Wednesday. People knew that I would going to be away until the Thursday, so I had a pretty good chill out afternoon, and although I didn’t head up to Atiwhakatu Hut or get many good shots, I had enjoyed a couple of quiet nights alone time. On the Thursday I felt a bit of a scratchy throat, by Friday I had a full on head cold. I was out of action for about a week. It was a moment of realising that I definitely had a heck of a cold and it was going to take a few days for the cold to clear and that I may as well make the most of a warm bed and day naps.

I recovered just in time to attend a Disabled People’s reps meeting and to meet up with someone at Mana Whaikaha so I could talk over some options about some personal long term planning. It was a bit of a laugh to start with; the person who booked my appointment just told Rachael that she was meeting me, and not the “why” I was meeting her, so Rachael turned up ready to talk over some of the Sector Engagement work that I am doing. I must admit it was a bit odd; most of the time I’m interacting with Mana Whaikaha in my “leadership” role so getting my head into “personal not community” needs took a few minutes. It was a good reminder that I have other people around to help support me in getting what I need to achieve; rather than having to always make the most of it and going alone.

A picture of ADNZ Raven in a blue harness lying on a green blanket. The photo is taken from one side and behind Raven, she is looking at the camera.
Are you listening?

Unfortunately, I didn’t see as much of the blood moon lunar eclipse or get pics because I had to be up early to head down to Wellington. I have been sub-contracted by Imagine Better to help deliver some training on EGL for DHB staff and this was going to be our first session, at Hutt Hospital. An introduction to Enabling Good Lives. I find doing introduction courses can be difficult because as you unpack one area, you will find a whole extra layer of considerations that also link into other areas, it can be like walking into the TARDIS.

It also has a slightly different focus than much of what we have been doing with EGL in Mid-Central, where we have been focused on disabled people and teaching them that they have rights and can think bigger and differently to the boxes that systems force them into. These sessions have more focus on how the principles apply in clinical settings. It can be a big headspace shift to change from a clinical medical model perspective (“you have alphabet soup, this is how we fix you and you can do this”) to a rights-based social model perspective (“what do you want to achieve and how do we support that?”).

A group of people surround several tables in a classroom system. People in general are looking towards the left of the picture which is the front of the room.
People seemed to be listening

It was pretty intimidating receiving the list of attendees; like many disabled people, clinicians make me a bit nervous and on edge. The prospect of presenting to a whole room of Occupational Therapists, Child Development Team, Social Workers and some team leaders had my stomach in knots. I had to remind myself, that yes these people have qualifications in specific areas, but I have been living and breathing Enabling Good Lives principles before I had even heard of EGL; I know this stuff.

It was a good session, a very brief overview of some history, the vision and principle then into some group work on practical things they could do to better align with the EGL principles. It was awesome to hear some of the conversations that the attendees were having; like a conversation about the lack of suitable accessible toilets across the hospital, “it’s not very mana enhancing to have to ask someone to open a door then wait in case just you get stuck; just to take a wee”. I loved the suggestion that one group came up with of having a way in the electronic notes to flag when patients have appointments so when scheduling they can either stagger the appointments or group them on the same day; depending on what works best for the whanau. It was also encouraging to hear that Health Passports are being more widely used. I found it both encouraging and refreshing to see “medical” type people getting really into conversations that are based more on equity, more flexibility, and better outcomes for disabled patients; rather than diagnosis, prognosis, and funding the lowest costing supports.

On the way home I had my own lightbulb moment. I often talk about people being “risk adverse” when is comes to anything related to impairments; being one for short, quick summaries I’m always looking for a short way to explain why I do what I do some of the work I do. I think the easiest way to explain is: “It’s about rights, not risks”. #RightsNotRisks

I think most of the “real work” of EGL is bringing awareness to the wider community, that the wider community (such as the medical system, physical access to places and spaces, communication alternatives) and the wider community realizing that they are too part of the problem; and more importantly, part of the solution. We have rights by law; the work is now making sure our rights are upheld day-to-day on the ground with our people.

A close up of 3 different moss growing on the same tree. The moss is at the junction of several small branches. There is a moss that looks similar to horse hair, one that looks like fingers, and one that looks like plates.
Take time to see the to how things work together

He waka kōtuia kāhore e tukutukua ngā mimira – A canoe that is interlaced will not become separated at the bow. In unity there is strength. (Whakatauki: Maori Proverb)

Just like that and May is done and dusted.


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