Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Canoe Dig It

Wellington is having what us North Americans call an "Indian Summer." This is probably not politically correct, but essentially we've had pretty awful weather until recently, and autumn is right around the corner. In addition, there is something about summer and the extended daylight that makes me think I can cram more things into my schedule. As such, there have been lots of adventures and so little time to blog about them.
After a much-needed few weeks off work over the Christmas and New Year period, we had to head back to work for a gruelling two weeks before our next long weekend (tough life, I know). Kevin and his colleague Jack put their heads together and organised 31 people to canoe the Whanganui River, one of New Zealand's 9 Great Walks. Kevin and I participated in a similar adventure down the Red Deer river with my brother and his friends for their annual Canada Day long weekend in 2010. We hoped to recreate the fun and bring a little Canadian-canoe action to all our Kiwi mates.
On the Friday, we all piled into our carpooling vehicles for a road trip up to Taumaranui and we spent the night at the canoe hire's lodge, Girl Guide sleepover-style. The following morning, we packed all of our gear into sealed barrels and dry-bags, and were each made a fancy coffee to start our day off right (flat white anyone?). The trailers were packed up with all of our stuff and we were driven to the river's entrance.

We packed up our homes for the weekend and then we were off! We could not have asked for better weather for the entire trip. I'll admit that there was a lot more floating than paddling, but I think this was our intention going in. The river was fairly low, which made for stunning scenery. Giant rock walls, waterfalls, and some of the densest forest in New Zealand.

We did so much floating, in fact, that we realised that the sun was going down and we still had a heck of a long journey before our first stop. We paddled hard for the last hour of Day 1 and eventually made it to the campground. All I can say is: tired arms. For someone who does not do a heck of a lot of upper body exercise, I was pooped. We set up camp, made some dinner, and hunkered down for the evening. Unfortunately, because it was a designated campsite, there were other people camping too and we were told to go to bed at 9:45PM. Boo.
We awoke fairly early and repacked our canoes for Day 2, which was said to be the shortest distance and the most amount of time to travel. We, however, took that as: do as little paddling as humanly possible and take twice as long as was estimated to arrive at the second campground. A few canoes pulled over to walk to the Bridge to Nowhere, while we recruited a group of canoers to play Flunkyball--a mandatory canoe trip party game. Things got a little weird and a few rounds of acapella In the Jungle may or may not have been sung.

We were all pretty tuckered out by the time we arrived at the second campground and we were happy to find solace in our tents before paddling down the home stretch of the river. The owners of the canoe hire informed us of the 50/50 rapid which was said to be at the tail-end of the journey (half of all canoes tip over, half don't). Kevin and I were unfortunately at the head of the pack and didn't realise we had hit the rapid until we were in it. Things didn't quite work out the way we had planned and we ended up taking on more water than the boat could handle and had to jump into the river and swim the canoe to shore. This did, however, give us the opportunity to watch the other 15 canoes go through the rapid and, to be honest, it was more like a 70/30 rapid as more than half of our crew capsized or sank.
Luckily the rapid was toward the end of the trip and no one lost anything valuable. It provided for a good laugh, hilarious photos, and a lot of sandfly bites.

Once again, we loaded our barrels and canoes onto the trailers and took the bus back to the lodge. After a 95km journey down the Whanganui River, we were tired. Unfortunately we were also a 5 hour drive from Wellington and most of us had to work the next day. Needless to say Tuesday was probably not particularly productive.

A big THANK YOU to Jack, Paul, Matt, Dave, and Bunny for the photos I jacked for this post. Your contributions provided a good medley of memories. Til next year, guys!