Due to withdrawal symptoms setting in we were forced to get in an early season paddling trip this year. New Zealand in March seemed like the perfect destination. We flew into Christchurch with Japanese Airlines, saving travelling time by getting an internal flight to Auckland so that we could visit North Island for the last five days before returning home.
Having people already in country saved a lot of hassle, with Mat and Fay sorting out transport before we arrived. This led to us hitting Sumner Bay for a spot of warm-up surfing within two hours of landing. Hurrah! Warm seawater and lots of sunshine already. We began the tour by heading north to Murchison, the kayaking mecca of the Buller region with thoughts of great surfing at O'Sullivans rapid. Unfortunately the Buller was suffering from a distinct lack of water and the sunshine looked like persisting so after a great play run down the Earthquake section we headed out for a relaxing session at Maruia Hotsprings - hard work these expeditions! Luckily there was water in the falls, which we spent a few seconds falling over.
|As we were supposed to be warming up before trying the difficulties of the west coast helicopter runs we decided to hit the beach for a spot of sunbathing and a little surfing. Cobdens proved to have both, with a large break off the end of the river mouth wall providing occasional entertainment. The next day we saw that a local yacht had been flipped in exactly the same spot before being washed up on the beach. While attempting to find a scenic place to camp we found another beach with more excellent surf near the mouth of the Arahura. Lots of comments about "the biggest surf I've been in", twice in one day. Dan got trashed repeatedly, but that'll teach him to utter the "it seems to be getting easier now" line.|
Getting up late the next day we try the Turnbull but find the gate locked and the owner on holiday. Bummer, looks like our first non-paddling day. Decide to continue down to Queenstown, outdoor capital of New Zealand. After an early morning pancake testing session we took the ski-lift up to the luge course above town. Pour concrete down a slope, sit on a custom built tea tray with casters and a simple breaking/steering mechanism and you are away. Managed to break all the rules apart from the one about being drunk - "remember guys, the harder you play, the more it will hurt". Aerial backloops to Dan and Andy Laird, who lost the most skin.
|The afternoon was spent relaxing running Dog-leg on the Kawarau. This section includes the class surfing wave Dolittle which was working a treat. Surfed until we dropped, plus lots of tailies on the eddylines.|
Things get serious again. For the morning run we try out Citroen, which
turns out to be much better than expected, especially as we add the section
down to Roaring Meg power station, taking in an inspection of Retrospect
along the way. Definite portage at this level, but still not an X as it
looked like it might go with more water possibly bringing the chicken shoots
into play. The rapids immediately above and below Retrospect were still
fun and it was all made worthwhile by watching the Dan and Roo double act
try to escape from the prickly bushes for 15 minutes. Never follow a surveyor.
Helpful comments were much appreciated by the two explorers, although they
did seem to generate a lot of swearing. After lunch headed for a long inspection
of Nevis Bluff - very scary but just about went. Lots of backloops and
many rolls all round but 4 successful descents and no real problems.
|Still hyper from the Bluff drove south at speed to Curio Bay, via Hicksville. Cars so low they could only just make it over the curb into the garage. Cruised for a while but rapidly got scared. Did see a very large model fish though. Finally got some rain after days and days of summer. Tipped it down while we surfed with the Hector dolphins in the bay. The two Andys decided to liven things up by going out to the point break. No dolphins but some HUGE waves, pure survival with all the boats planing due to the sheer speed. Amazing session, biggest any of us have seen. Still raining when we got off so packed up and headed for Dunedin to dry out at Mat and Fay's. Drank lots of gin to warm ourselves up.|
|Took another day off to go grokelling, play some video games and watch The Beach (absolute pants, don't bother). Celebrated Paddy's Night by hitting town, having a curry and then drinking Guinness in an irish bar. Locals had free pint tokens which they were giving away as they couldn't drink the stuff. Hurrah. Got bladdered but had to reject several pints due to Strawberry Sherbet additives (didn't ask why, think the kiddies were trying to take the taste away). Slightly tiddly so went clubbing, much better than Queenstown perhaps due to the previous quantity of Guinness and additional alcopops. Roo impressed the locals with his superb dance technique and long distance pizza making. A most excellent rest day.|
|The South Island tour was now coming to an end, so for our final day we headed north to the Rangitata, another class run which passed without epics. Spent the night at the get-off before dashing into Christchurch to get the flight to Auckland. All a bit of a rush as we hammered around. Picked up the hire vehicle Mat had booked at the airport and then headed down to Fuljames to spend the night. Inspected Huka Falls in the morning, but at 180cumecs it was way, way too high and very scary. Went back to play on Fuljames at an excellent 200cumecs level. Got in some more grokelling by visiting a thermal area near Rotoroa before a final check on Huka - no good, still too high.|
Next day dawned and we headed up to the Kaituna, running at 200 on the gauges, the minimum level. 20 foot blind boof out of a cliff bound eddy - a great piece of III/IV. Lovely play hole at the get-off as well. That's were I left them, but they headed south to Palmerston North to run the Mangahoa before returning for a couple of runs down the Wairoa, both superb sections apparently.
The Mangahoa - From Rotorura it's a long but worthwhile drive to the Mangahoa. We met a geezer at Fuljames who gave us the phone number of the people organising the tour. So Clive rang and we were given the address of where it was at, baby...!
A large number of hours later and we arrived in Palmerston North and found an unlikely looking "party house" in the suburbs. On further investigation we discovered it was indeed a paddlers house and so four smelly paddlers enjoyed some amazing hospitality from the owners. "Make yourself at home lads....." The words thankyou cannot say enough and all of us hope to be able to repay the debt by doing the same for other paddlers in the future.
It seemed we had lucked out, the river has a dam realease twice a year and is descended by almost all the North Island paddling population. The logistical problem is running the ferry which is 80km and this is where our hosts fit in. They organise the shifting of vehicles whilst you paddle, and so you find your vehicle waiting for you at the takeout after a full day of lovely playey III-IV. What results is a fantastc, if busy, atmosphere with some of the friendliest boaters you'll ever meet, and some quality river paddling of course. Cheers Guys.
With the paddle over our other hot tip for the North Island was a Sunday release on the Wairoa. Excellent, EXCELLENT technical boating at IV-IV+. Some lovely boofs, grabby holes and yet more party atmosphere boating. Again the locals were happy to help us with the shuttle and provided us, and in return we did for them, some most amusing entertainment.
Two runs later the team were re-united and we popped north to the coast to grab a last trip eat-out with some TOP waitress service. Proving very difficult to leave we eventually cruised our way back to Auckland, to join the flight home.
A truly excellent trip, got into our kit 20 times, had no epics, lots of amusement. Can't be bad.
Team: Charlie Mott, Andy "Roo" Evans, Frazer Pearce, Clive Williamson, Mat Upton, Fay Davies, Dan Peel, Andy Laird
Here's our actual itinerary, for what was an all round excellent trip.
(you may have to download this to a file and then play it. It is a powerpoint presentation but should work on a PC using windows, even without powerpoint)
Dan Peel's Canoeist article on the Fox
Andy Roo's Canoeist article on Nevis Bluff
Information on the paddling team. Testing the boats out at the Tyne Tour: Canoeist cover, Canoeist article