Date: 27 November
Trail covered: 32.5km kayaked and 5.5km walking detour (kms 1234-ish to 1262.5)
Weather: no clouds yet again, and very hot
Whanganui River Journey – Day 2
During the night I had to get up to pee three times due to the alcohol we had last night. But it gave me a chance to look at the stars. They were beautiful. Every spot in the sky seemed to be taken by a star.
After breakfast we had to pack everything back into the barrels.
Time to say goodbye to the campsite and head back to the canoes.
We had to carry all the barrels back down all the stairs which was hard work. On one of the several trips down to the canoes we briefly saw Abby and Jason. They had stopped for a break where had tied up the canoes – they must have started early!
Today we’re travelling in the same configuration as yesterday, so I’m in the kayak again. Because I am now keeping my phone in a barrel while I’m on the water there is no 11am picture today, or any other day while on the river sadly. But having my phone inside the waterproof barrel makes me more confident on the water because if I flip again I won’t damage the phone. And of course I’ve already flipped the kayak twice on just the first day.
The touristy thing we did today was stop at the “Bridge to Nowhere” – a bridge that was built for a town that never happened. Spoiler alert… the bridge does now go somewhere.
I could never have seen this on my own because the place where you tie up the boats is very steep. It’s so steep it’s like you almost need somebody on the land first to tie up your canoe and then you climb up the side of a cliff.
It was about a 5.5km round trip on foot to see this bridge. On the way it was a chance for Peter, who always walks fast, to hide up in the trees and pour water on people as they went past.
It seemed weird to be walking again.
Here’s the bridge!
There were so many people there that it was hard to get a good view of the information board.
I was surprised, I thought it would be bigger. I mean, the carriageway isn’t even wide enough for two lanes.
There was also a lookout two minutes up a side path. You could see a slightly higher view of the bridge from there.
I think people thought it wasn’t worth the walk. But there were a lot of people visiting this place – even though I managed to get pictures of the bridge with nobody on it. We also thought maybe the end of the bridge would just abruptly end at either a wall or trees, i.e. “nowhere”. But actually continuing down this path would take you back to Whakahoro and is the actual Te Araroa trail path.
And where we had tied up the boats is actually Mangapurua Landing – the official place to start the river section if you follow the trail notes religiously.
While we were here, we saw the first jet boats arrive. A lot of the people here visiting this bridge have come via jet boat from Whanganui. Each time a jet boat comes while you’re on the water, you have to move to the side to allow it to pass in the centre and then you have to turn the kayak towards the wake left by the jet boat so that it doesn’t tip you out.
One thing that I did notice while I was at the Bridge to Nowhere was that the moisture alert that appeared on my phone yesterday has now gone. Phew.
There is a place just downstream from here called the “Bridge to Nowhere Lodge” where the guys stopped to get a drink. They originally said they weren’t going to so I actually went past it – but then I looked back and saw that the rest of them had stopped there. I wasn’t prepared to battle against the current and go back, and to be honest for me beer and rapids don’t mix anyway, so I just pulled over to the side, had a snack and waited for them.
Yesterday and today I kept a bit of distance between me and the other four. At first it was because I was nervous and didn’t want to participate in the splashing and monkey business but after a while I discovered I was happiest when I was in front of the others. The sweet spot was close enough so that I was where they could see me if I got into trouble… but far enough away so that if both the canoes suddenly had bursts of energy then I had a bit of leeway and wouldn’t get left behind as the other four are strong paddlers.
The river today was not flowing much so we had to put a lot more effort into paddling. We were going at a noticably slower pace than yesterday. I also had to do what I could to keep my already sunburnt feet and thighs out of the sun, but that is hard. The shade starts out on one side at the start of the day, but then at noon the sun is right above you and you can’t escape it. Then in afternoon the shade moves to other side. But as you can see from the maps the river meanders so much and has so many twists and turns it’s hard to predict exactly where the shade would be.
Downstream from the lodge, one jet boat went past me and waved but then it stopped at the others who were back a bit in the canoes. They had a chat and I wondered what they were discussing. I wondered if it was possibly the fact that the other four were not wearing their life jackets. Turned out I was right.
Charlie has quite a loud voice and often he is the only sound on the river. Which to be honest is actually beneficial. I always know how far behind or in front the others are without actually looking. But it does make it hard to concentrate in the rapids.
I always look at my GPS watch which tells me how many kilometers I’ve been today, because it tells me when the campsite will be coming up. Today I knew there were rapids right before the campsite. Eventually I saw the rapids… these ones were fast but were in a straight line and there were no obstacles like the ones yesterday. So I didnt fall out. Hooray! And also hooray – there are a lot less stairs to this campsite to carry the barrels up!
We made dinner, and Charlie and Peter made faijtas. They traded me one of their fajitas in exchange for one quarter of my block of cheese. An excellent trade, if you ask me.
But boo hiss… the moisture alert on my phone came back at dinner time.
We had a drink to celebrate nobody falling out today. Although there was only one real fast-flowing rapid today which was the one immediately before camp. There are lots of rapids tomorrow, including the dreaded “50-50”. I’m going to let Charlie go in the kayak instead, because he says that he wants to, and that means tomorrow will be my first time in a canoe. But the others are actually telling me that they want to do the 50-50 multiple times. Craziness.
Now that I look, the topographic map actually shows rapids on the map, with the word “rapids” beside the river where they are present. According to this, there don’t seem to be any after tomorrow. That makes me feel good, although it might make paddling on those days even harder because of the water flowing slower.
This river journey is kinda fun but I am already looking forward to it being over if I’m honest. I’ve seen all I want to see on the river in two days.
Everyone in our group was in bed by 8.15pm tonight. I never like going to bed that early, especially when it’s still light, but I can’t use the phone too much since I lost the charging cable and need to conserve battery, and so I’ve got nothing to do.
So I had a look for a geocache which is supposed to be at this campsite but I couldn’t find it where the instructions said… it’s a shame because it’s a “Terrain 5” which is the highest level of terrain – meaning you need special equipment to find it, in this case the special equipment being the kayak.
Instead I just try and sleep early but I can’t sleep straight away – it’s quite a full campsite and some people are laughing incredibly loud. Plus I think I’ve set up too close to the incredibly stinky toilet. It’s weird how it’s a full campsite since there is no road anywhere around. We all came by canoe or kayak.
And the moisture alert’s gone from the phone again…..
Today's walk on the map (blue = Te Araroa, red = today's walk):