Weekend Trip - Friday 18th to Monday 21st September 2009
Kayaking the Whanganui River from Taumarunui to Pipiriki
Allen Small was the only experienced white-water kayaker in our very motley novice crew doing a rather ambitious three-day trip that normal people planned for five. Mindful of our group, we had two big white-water training trips, and many other local sea and estuary trips to get kayak-fit and ensure our gear was suitable.
Kathy Engelbrecht rang in a week before to book in for her first club trip. Despite being warned about ‘sore back, sore bum, blisters, fatigue, cold, wet, grumpy leader, etc, etc’, she could not be put off, and joined us for our last training trip (Greenhithe to Riverhead via Riverhead Pub which is accessible by wharf even at low tide with determination - big wines and beer served - so leader not grumpy at all! Very, hic!, successful day!). Overall, the training trips were an essential part of our risk management.
We were both confident and apprehensive when our party of nine, plus local Sharynne, set off from Cherry Grove, Taumarunui, in light rain clearing to fine later. The Whanganui was running fresh, but not flooded. A small group of mutineers, lead by the couple recently returned from Germany (European anarchy?), declined to wear their helmets (the only contention on the whole journey). Max, nearly the last to leave, was left standing on the causeway without a paddle. A slight mathematical miscalculation of team equipment! Our emergency split paddles were carefully stowed well away. Willi to the rescue with her spare precariously tied to the side of her kayak. A grateful Max relieved her of the responsibility of it. The big top-rapids including Herlihys were a bit drowned - not us, the river - and we paddled through unscathed. We visited the Niu Poles at Ohura Falls which is an historical site. The last part of the first day (57km) was a hard paddle up the Retaruke River to park up for the night at the Whakahoro School House and farewell to Sharynne on her day paddle. As all good leaders should arrange as standard fare (read carefully, Rob, for Xmas trip), three roast chickens, salad, fresh bread and a cask of red wine were delivered to us on our arrival. Disaster loomed later, though, as Max’s breakfast was not found, nor was the next day’s dinner! His bottom lip was seen quivering on his chest. (The food was ultimately found on our return, lovingly stowed behind a seat in the car). We had an early night in the recently-refurbished hut with single bunks, but I preferred the old Maori bunk layout that made better use of room for rational people who share.
Crisis averted. Tina, our hero, provided Max with porridge. A happy early start, with leader cracking the whip for the big day ahead of 66km. I wore granny’s white lacy britches for warmth and comfort. Seen in full view, they were not deemed to be the ‘feminine, edgy’ undergarment that I had hoped.
Late in the afternoon, we reached Mangapurua Landing, with the Bridge to Nowhere an hour-and-a-half’s walk away. Critical timing, as we did not want to be kayaking in the dark - the five hardy adventurous women, escorted by the token male, Brent, trotted off to the bridge, knowing we had to do the return trip in less than an hour. Quick photo shoot at the bridge and a fast run back, 50-min total - yahoo. Tricky stuff getting back into kayaks on a slippery muddy bank, with fast water, and a sense of urgency.
Hurry, and a final spurt towards Te Kieke Marae. (We did have tents in case of a ‘Bridge too Far’). Landed at 6.30pm and a rush to put up the radio, just in time for our very necessary sched. All very well. A great second night in another very comfortable hut. Helpful and friendly hunters and German tourists (they weren’t wearing helmets either!) sharing facilities. Voltaren in use now.
Tina was repaid with a cooked breakfast of bacon and eggs, and we all set off in good cheer for the final (easy?) day. We visited a cave I remembered from last time as being very muddy. It was! Horrible. Nearing the end, one of the last few big rapids running close to a rock wall boasted a big standing wave. Out tipped Don, followed by Allen and Max in the guns’ multi-sport double. A good refreshing swim for them too!! I feel the only reason that Brent stayed upright was that he was ably captained through the big rapids by Kathy, our newcomer in the sit-on double. Pipiriki! Magic. A tired but happy group. Lost items: my hat, Max’s hat, Tina’s sunglasses, and three lots of male pride. Return kayak transport on time as planned. What better way to spend a three-day weekend?
Next trip? Unfinished business: continuation down to Wanganui township, possibly mid-November. Fewer rapids, but still long days. We can’t wait! Phone me if you are interested, ( (09) 818 7639.
(The drys): Carol Exton (leader & scribe), Tina Jacques, Willi Williamson, Margaret Law, Kathy Engelbrecht, Brent Rose (nurtured by Kathy). (The wet catastrophes): Allen Small, Max Clark, Don Finlayson.