Irrespective of the need, we stirred around 0600 anyway. Breakfast wasn't until 0800 so we had plenty of time to have a cup of tea and get mostly packed before then. Headed up with Kevin, Gill and Greg - bacon and eggs for Belinda and me was the order of the day; Franziska was a cereal girl! We were ready for the canoes when they arrived around 0930 and we headed down for the launch. The days GPS info is here:
- note it says we were trekking since I hadn't set up the kayaking option on my watch!
We launched about 1020 but I forgot to hit the go button on the Suunto until we were a few hundred metres down the Whanganui, so missed maybe a kilometre. We actually launch into the Retaruke and travel down that for 500m or so before entering the Whanganui.
Belinda and I were in a double canoe and Franziska had a single kayak. We were joined by Chevy, who works as an architect/project manager for a Scottish company that does projects mainly in East Africa (he was in a single canoe). We headed off down a fairly full, fast flowing river that has just dropped below an allowable level yesterday afternoon! Suffice to say what is noted as a 6-7 hour journey took us 3h20 without even having to work hard! The first campsite for a possible break was supposed to be after 2hr but we reached it in 50mins or so, so we sailed on past.
An hour or so later we were nearing another possible stop but by the time we saw it, Belinda and I were unable to navigate our big old bathtub into the small landing spot (as the river is so high, normal landing spots are much smaller, or nonexistent!). Given the nature of the steep sides there was nowhere else to stop so, given we were going so fast, it was only another hour to our night stop at John Coull Hut, so we kept on going.
The scenery is stunning down the river with the imposing papa bluffs and the vegetation right down to the edge. Plenty of waterfalls tumbled down the cliffs into the river, particularly because of the amount of rainfall in recent times! We got a few photos but I'm sure they won't do it justice. It was a fast but pretty safe trip really, although there are little whirlpools and eddies that can grab the canoe and try and turn you around occasionally!
Because of our bathtub being a bit harder to navigate, approaching John Coull we sent Chevy and Franziska ahead of us to the landing spot. Luckily for us Chevy was out of his canoe by the time we arrived and was able to get hold of us before we sailed on by! Unfortunately he ended up in the river up to his waist! For a Great Walk the landing facility is pretty damn dodgy - especially as others there before us had left their canoes and kayaks on the water edge, leaving little room to get in. Anyway, we survived, just, and made sure our boats were well up the bank and out of the way!
Since we arrived about 1400 we had a relaxing afternoon chatting with others and doing a bit of reorganising of our food supplies. Kevin, Gill and Greg arrived after 1600 having had a good stop on the way down. Luckily I was able to offer Chevy a beer for his heroic effort in getting us landed! Probably 20+ people here tonight but a whole group decided to move out and tent instead so the hut was not so full after all. Ian and Peter (brothers) were our volunteer hut wardens and were a veritable mine of information. Peter had been doing this sort of work for over 40 years, Ian a little less!! They told us plenty of stories including the 1998 flood where the river was running at 15 metres (the max allowable level for us to get on the water is 1.8m!!). Apparently the jetboat taking staff out was tied to the deck of the hut, over 13m above the level the river was at when we arrived! It's mind-boggling to think how much water would be coming down under those conditions! After all that we were in bed by about 2100 tonight.
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Belinda and Anthony (aka Tony) Hadfield made a decision, in their late 50's, to do something a "bit different" and walk New Zealand's 3000km Te Araroa Trail over summer 2015/16 - although updates will now tell you that this plan will take longer now!!. As the old saying goes - "don't leave home 'til you've seen the country"!!