Adrian, Clive, Helen,
Gary, Mat, Fay, Marco, Sarah and Tony
With seven of us either working in the country long term
or travelling around the world the opportunity of having a
large trip to New Zealand seemed too good to miss. With an
additional three flying in boats and more equipment for the
tourers we were off and running.
After the 24 hour flight and the usual airport hire car hassles
we finally got one without a roofrack (queue mats and straps
through the doors) and headed off to Lake Taupo for the night.
A quick morning inspection of a low Huka Falls forced us to
leave in a hurry as it was very tempting. Probably 2 backloops
on the run-in but then you have 100 yards to roll up before
the drop with the line wide and unobstructed(ish). Went to
play at Fuljames instead, water was volcanically heated and
so playing was possible without thermals or cag. The next
morning we visited the Okere Falls section on the Kaituna
but the water was so low that we could only run the bottom
bit. Marco got an introduction to grade III boating, backlooped
and multiple rolls in the first drop. A quick grokel around
Rotoroa and some volcanic mud pools followed before returning
to Auckland to drop off the hire car and busing to Wellington.
After a couple of days relaxing with Wellington semi-locals
of Clive, Helen, Gary, Sarah and Toony we got a ferry to south
island. Seven people, 6 boats and 1 car was a bit of a squeeze
but we eventually made it to `Mecca Murchison' in one piece.
Fay and Mat met us that evening and we ran several fun sections
in the area. Lots of tail squirting (whoopies to the locals)
as pretty much everything was high volume and gorgy with some
interesting whirlpool generating eddy lines. Highlights were
a massive surfing session at O'Sullivans rapid on the Buller
and some really BIG WAVES. Pretty much all this stuff was
big water grade III and loads of fun if you could tell the
difference between a wave and a pourover (tee hee).
|Heading south we went to Hokitika
to run the Hokatika and the Whitcombe. Both were helicopter
fly-ins, 25 quid a head. All 8 paddlers flew into the Hokitika
in pairs in a very small helicopter. Great views of the gorge
as we went up (after rebuilding the road to the helicopter pick-up
point). Loud crys of `that didn't look too bad' once we were
at the top. Hmm. At the top of the crux bit both Gary and Fay
hit eddies after rolling out of a hole. The next bit was several
hundred yards long, Fay missed the move to the lead-in eddy
and despite yells of ``right, right'' clipped a large hole and
got trashed. A big penalty for a small mistake. Adrian and I
caught the boat around a km later and Fay had a nasty swim.
Reforming the rest of the paddle was relatively straightforward.
|Next day Clive, Adrian, Mat and myself
plucked up courage for the Whitcombe which we already knew was
a foot up on normal levels, perhaps a third of the way to brown.
The guide had it up a grade on the previous day and twice as
far. Flying-in again, this time the holes were obvious. There
were very few comments at the top, the previous day we hadn't
seen any. The crux of the run is Colliers gorge, 160feet/mile
and around 40cumecs. Half way down none of us could spit, spending
15 minutes trying to eat a mars bar. There are some beautiful
drops here, lovely curling wave lines launching you over holes
with blind run-ins, technical boat handling and lots and lots
of power. We had one short portage around a drop that nearly
went but none of us fancied the hole in a Kendo. I'd rate this
run as `engaging', only the second river I have in that category,
a real beauty.
|More grokelling followed with a trip
to some relaxing hot springs and visits to the Franz-Josef and
Fox glaciers before the Wellington contingent left, leaving
myself, Mat, Fay, Adrian and Marco to continue down the south
coast. We went to Queenstown, the outdoor sports capitol of
New Zealand, spending a great day running the Shotover, 20km
of playing followed by some fun rapids and a 100m long tunnel.
Yet more big water on the Kawarau, yet more great playing.
Heading further south we spent
a day bimbeling around Milford sound, including a boat trip
through the fjord to see the seals and penguins. Back inland
we ran the Hollyford, the upper bit was like the Upper Dart,
tight and technical. The lower section took us 5 hours, gradient
probably over 5 percent in the gorge, continuous technical
drops with trees and everything thrown in. The guide has `around
a dozen class IV+ to V drops', which is about right. Walked
out to the road at the top of the third gorge as it looked
horrid (Guidebook seems out here, the second gorge was straightforward
and all went). Still, a fun run and not as committing as the
Driving down to the south coast we went to Curio Bay to surf
with around 50 small (4 feet ish) dolphins. Spent all day
playing with them in the small surf, decided that dolphins
surf like kayakers (i.e. many on a wave) not like boardies.
None of them shouted `my wave' either or hogged the shoulder.
Had to drag Fay off to cries of `dolphins'.
Back to Dunedin that night, a
4am night out on the town during which much beer was consumed
and then a 48 hour journey home.
Realistically New Zealand deserves its reputation as an outdoor
sports mecca. The locals are great and don't moan all the
time or apply petty rules for no reason, the air is clear
and the countryside stunning and empty of people. Paddling
wise you can perhaps do better as there seems to be a gap
between wonderful grade III play sections and helicopter hair
sections, both Norway
provide a more complete range of boating. Still, if you like
superb playing or hair boating then New Zealand is a destination
to add to the list.
New Zealand is good for paddling because it rains A LOT, up
to 750cm a year. This means that you should expect the weather
to be changeable with several days of hard rain. At about
the same latitude as southern France the climate is mild in
February, adding 6 months and equating to the alps will give
you some idea but the biggest surprise is the changeability
and localness of much of the weather. Go over the next ridge
and you could be in bright sunshine. Water temperatures vary
a lot, some rivers are literally glacial melt with large chuncks
of ice floating past whilst others are volcanically heated
to bath temperature. The locals tend towards longboats, both
bandits and overflows seemed popular. We had eight boats,
5 kendos, a fly, a supersport and a topo. We took drycags
and full thermals which were all used, albeit rarely at times.
The season seems to be November to March but is really all
year, stopping due to cold and the distractions of plentiful
alternative winter sports.
Boat hire is relatively cheap if you don't want to bother
flying in your own, around 20NZ$ a day seemed to be the going
rate for a boat, blade, bouyancy aid type deal. Hire companies
are listed in the guidebook, both the one in Wellington and
Mick Hopkinson's Murchison based operation were friendly and
helpful. As far as hire cars go you can get some great deals
from the smaller companies but roofracks were a little more
difficult to obtain. We were paying 75NZ$ a day for a 1.6
4-door but that should be viewed as absolute top whack. Booking
a car in advance may be an idea in the high season (February)
as there were virtually no cars around for us.
Three of us flew with Korean airlines from London via Soeul
to Auckland for around 700UKP. They carried our boats for nothing.
On the way back we flew from Dunedin to Auckland first with
Air New Zealand to save the return travel time. Internal flights
are cheap, around 100US$ each. The others are variously travelling
around the world or working long term in New Zealand.
New Zealand Whitewater, Graham Charles 1996, Craig Potton Publishing,
ISBN 0 908802 36 6.
This is an excellent guidebook with some very nice colour pictures
to boot. Please note that the grading is real, not the usual
guidebook practice of overgrading for insurance or rafting reasons
which might take a bit of getting used to. Sometimes the description
is a little harsh and flaky but in general this is a solid guidebook,
our biggest problem seemed to be equating our flow guesses to
those in the guidebook and those made by locals. We were consistently
lower, but then what's 100 cumecs between friends ?
(standard disclaimer applies to all river information, grades
are ours on the day and are, like those in the guidebook, real)
|Kaituna: Okere Falls
|Buller : Doctors Creek
|Buller : Granity
|Buller : Earthquake
|Buller : O'Sullivans
|Matakitaki : Earthquake
|Kawarau : Dog Leg
|Hollyford: Falls Creek
|Hollyford: Marian Creek