I’d been counting down to the river section since the beginning of the trip. Not that I actually knew exactly when it was coming up because I pretty much live day to day out here, but I continued to imagine what the river would be like, what sort of kayak I’d get to paddle, and who I’d share the experience with for weeks.
After all these daydreams the river still exceeded my expectations, and it will go down as the most enjoyable 5 days of the trip so far. I got super lucky I have to admit. I had two wonderful people to share it with (who also carried most of my gear in their boat), we had exceptional weather without a single drop of rain, and because of the weather, the river was quite low which made the rapids a lot of fun, especially hitting the class two waves on a sit on top kayak while the boys followed behind in their canoe and managed to stay upright.
When we booked the trip in Taumarunui we bought all our food for the trip and left it at the information centre for the canoe company to pick up (Canoes 4U). The tricky part was that we had to purchase 5 days of food for the river alongside 7 days of food for the section in between in under two hours. I felt like I was on one of those supermarket gameshows where people run around filling their trolley with anything they can grab. We then had to run back to the information centre 300m down the street with our trolleys before it closed at 5pm and literally made it with only minutes to spare.I was really surprised at how many rapids there were and how long the days of paddling actually were on the river as well. When they said it would take us 5-7 hours to paddle just over 30km I didn’t believe them, but as I’ve learned the Kiwis don’t exaggerate, and that’s exactly what it took us each day with only a few leisurely stops in between.We stayed at one DOC (Department of Conservation) campsite, one private campsite, on a roadside after the convent we’d hoped to stay at was going to cost over $20 each to camp, and spent our final night at a DOC hut where we managed to finish off all the beer we’d brought with us on the trip.
On our last day we had 43km to paddle to Whanganui, and so I clipped my kayak to the boy’s canoe like a sidecar and we all paddled together with me and Tom up the front using the canoe paddles and Will in the back paddling and steering with the kayak paddle. It worked a charm, and I was even able to boil water and make us coffee on the go!
The river itself was stunning, running through deep gorges and past numerous waterfalls and beaches. There were a few jet boats transporting folks up the river to see the Bridge to Nowhere, but other than that we practically had the river to ourselves.
We paddled around 150km from Whakahoro to Whanganui, which is one of the many options for this section of the trail. Some paddle from Taumarunui, some get out at Pipiriki, so essentially your trip can vary from 3-7 days, and I think selecting the 5-day option was perfect.
Since the lovely river we’ve completed two 30km days of road walking in 30 degree temperatures. The weather is due to change this evening however, with two seperate cyclones hitting the lower part of the North Island and the South Island bringing with them heavy rain and gale force winds. Tom, Will and I are all camping within earshot of one another, so if it’s pouring down in the morning we may choose to bunker down and sit it out, or battle a wet 20km into the town of Feilding.
Goodnight from km 1466 of the TA 🙂