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
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
|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.
|Day 5 and things are about to get
interesting. We call up Kokatahi Helicopters and book a flight
into the Whitcombe. Last time we were here this was really tough.
This time things are easier as the level is (only) 30 cumecs.
A great run for all of us, although Andy Laird got to test the
strength of his fingernails after performing a boof onto rocks
and Dan saw lots and lots of sky and learnt some new river signals
from Charlie. A thoroughly good day, completed by a drive
to the Perth and a late night rendezvous with Andi Uhl who had
managed to bum a cheap chopper for the ride into the Perth the
following morning. Wow - the Perth. Outrageous is a very good
description. Four hours to run 3km and we were travelling. A
great, great run which left us all physically and mentally knackered.
Drive down to Fox Glacier to do a bit of tourist stuff and get
some great icecreams.
|Today is Roo's birthday. So as a
treat we carry the boats for half a mile to the snout of the
glacier and paddle the supercooled water down to the main road
bridge. Boy is this stuff cold, makes your hands sting just
putting them in the water. Some of us have brought pogies just
for this bit. Big girls. True to form the birthday boy gets
a trashing in front of a large crowd of assembled tourists.
Everyone (including us) much amused. Further down the river
gets tricky, compounded by the sheer cold of the water. A pity,
because there were lots of great surf waves otherwise. Don't
underestimate the bit below the swingbridge (actually around
the corner now), a swim in this stuff would be very serious.
Hit town to celebrate Roo getting older and had a very successful
evening testing out all the shorts we'd never heard of before.
Rounds of "Eight random doubles" certainly led to an interesting
and extensive bill.
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.
|Camped at the get-out before heading
down to Wanaka in the morning for a spot of skidiving and stunt
plane flying. 50 seconds freefall from 12500 feet, great views
of Mount Cook and Mount Aspiring and a very small plane with
no seats. Finished off the day on Roaring Meg and a quick jaunt
into Queenstown clubbing - dire, dire, dire. Another late start
after the 2am finish led to a run down the Shotover Gorge, with
Fay and Frazer going mountain biking down the Skippers Canyon
track to run the ferry. Not much uphill and 45mph down the road
back to Queenstown.
|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
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
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
Assorted scary mugshots
Information on the paddling
team. Testing the boats out at the Tyne Tour: Canoeist