Whanganui River

Trip Start Feb 04, 2006
Trip End Apr 07, 2006

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Sunday, March 5, 2006

A 3-day canoe trip downstream, with easy rapids and no portages sounded like a walk in the park when we read about it. But, strong headwinds and an unplanned upstream detour made for a long and arduous paddle.

On Thursday night we arrived in Ohakune, where we had rented a canoe, to pick up our 3 barrels for packing our supplies. The rest of the evening was spent sorting through clothes and food, as well as cooking up a batch of chili for our first night's meal.

Friday morning we were out at the shuttle bus at 7:30, and were on the road by 8am. Little did we know that it was a bumpy 2-hour drive to get to Whakaporo, where we put in. When we arrived at the launching station, it was just starting to rain, but only lightly. We put on our rain gear, and, after a short review of strokes and steering technique, were on our way.

Up to lunchtime, all went well. The rain didn't hold up for long, and soon even the sun made an appearance. We stopped after about 2 hours for a quick bite to eat, which is when "the incident" occurred. Nadine brought her dry bag to the toilet with her, but failed to bring it back down to the canoe when we were leaving. Some 30 minutes later, when she went to take off a layer and put it away, she noticed the bag was missing. Thinking it would not be too far to go back, the adventurers started paddling back upstream. Of course, the return journey was not quite as swift as the one down river. After a couple failed attempts at going up the first rapids, we decided to unload the boat and drag the canoe through the rapids. Less strong-willed (stubborn?) people would likely have just given up at this point, but not the Swiss Canadian team. We struggled on for about 2 hours, until we finally made it back to our lunch stop to retrieve the forgotten treasure.

We then headed back down the river, trying to catch up with the rest of the paddlers, but could not make up the lost time, and decided to stop at the campsite before the one everyone else was heading for. This turned out to be a good thing - we were only sharing with a group of 5 Kiwis (actually, 4 Kiwis and a "Pom"), who already had a fire going. The British guy was even willing to trade wine for carrot sticks!

Day 2 started off with heavy rain. We held out in the safety of our tent until ca. 8:30, when it stopped, and then joined our friends for breakfast (they again had a blazing fire going). On this day, we had to make it some 40 km to be back on schedule. As it that weren't enough, we also had some strong headwinds to contend with for the first half of the journey. As on the first day, the only wildlife we saw were some wild goats and a few ducks. We finally rolled up on shore at Tieke sometime after 7:30pm, much to the bewilderment of the camp warden, who was not expecting anyone else to arrive that night!

The final day started off dry, but cloudy. There were still 2 bigger rapids to conquer, but we made it through safely, though sopping wet. A lot of other canoeists weren't as lucky, and tipped.

It was a nice trip to do once, but we much prefer the variety and solitude of canoeing in Canada at Algonquin or Kejimkujik Parks.
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