We arrived at the canoe hiring company one day before to fetch our drybags and barrels to pack our stuff. We packed all of the evening and in the morning also. It was probably the coldest night so far (4C), so we (read Edda) started to doubt if our +10C sleeping bags were a bit too thin for sleeping in a tent by the river for 3 nights...
The canoe journey started at 7:30 with a cappuccino and a training about how to handle some of the most common rapids and obstacles. We got a Canadian canoe, a big one which is open, see pics. Then we went to the river in Ohipane and got some basic info about steering and how to behave in the canoe. Everything got securely tied up to the canoe, so IF we flip (which is not very likely) you don’t lose anything .
Then we were off. The journey started with a quite a big rapid. Christophe was steering first, Edda was paddling in the front and got totally wet in the first rapid already, and was not happy. The first day we had some problems with steering (we switched positions, but it didn't really go any better after that). On the way we stopped at a nice waterfall, where Edda fell and got all her clothes muddy. In the end we managed to get to the first camping in Whakahoro where we had a swim, and where our campsite was among the horses and in the night you could hear them eating grass right beside your tent. A bit scary, especially if you start dreaming about the horses running over your tent.
It was not so easy to pack nutritious food for 4 days. The first dinner was Christophe’s delicious spaghetti sauce.
The second day we had about 7h on the river, so we wanted to leave early. We woke up around 6:30, had breakfast, packed everything (which takes quite a lot of time every morning) and were off. It was a long day without so many stops in the way. Today the steering went much better for the both of us The river was much more calm, not so many rapids as on the first day.
We made it to the John Coull hut and campsite where we met the warden, Young Peter. He was a nice old man (80!) who enjoyed the outdoors and catching rats around the hut There were a lot of people, because the 3 day journey-people also joined, which ment many tents next to each other. Dinner: Edda’s tuna mouche. In the morning, Young Peter had caught 3 rats!
We slept slightly longer as the next day was only 5h on the river. Today was Edda steering all day. We stopped at a Bridge to Nowhere (a bridge in the middle of the forest, built when people thought they could farm near the Whanganui river). Today we had some time to stop in places and just enjoy. Our campsite, Tieke Kanga, was also a Maori ‘home’. We had a traditional Maori welcome there (unfortunately there was only one guy to conduct the ceremony, but it was interesting). In the ceremony Christophe had to speak (introduce us) and Edda had to sing. Because we participated in the ceremony, we could go to their grounds (cross a border near the campsite) and even sleep in their Mare, which Christophe did. Dinner this day was an omelet which onions and ham and other things.
The last day we woke up at six, because the hiring company said everyone should be gone by 8 (they’d pick us up at 13:30). It was raining in the night, so our stuff was a bit wet, but we just packed everything in the canoe. We paddled quite hard the whole day together with another couple, who also managed to leave very early (7h50!). We stopped at the waterfall cave (no pictures because they warned us that on the last day there will be a rapid where you probably topple over, so we put the camera into a safe, waterproof place).
The big rapid didn’t look so big at first, but that was because in the beginning you couldn’t see the huge 1m waver after it. We went on, and of course we went over. The beginning went fine, until we scooped a huge load of water in the canoe, after which the canoe lost it’s balance… and down we went. Edda was not so happy about falling over, but Christophe had the time of his life. He even did it 2 more times with a guy who also fell over on his first try. There is a video of this, hope we manage to upload it soon.
After some drying and changing to warm, dry clothes, we paddled to the finish (about 140 km altogether in 4 days). The last day was actually pretty tough. Lots of wind and almost no current, so we really had to paddle hard to make it to the finish at 13:30. Many people didn’t manage to make it on time. Even when we left (I guess around 14:30), a group of 4 Germans was still missing.
The whole thing was pretty tough, but totally fun and worth it!
In the evening we shopped a bit and drove towards Tongariro National Park.