Date: 28 November
Trail covered: 39.2km in canoe (kms 1262.5 to 1301.7)
Weather: mostly cloudy
Whanganui River Journey – Day 3
Today was definitely the most action-packed day on the trail so far. It’s definitely not a day I will forget.
There were rapids immediately after leaving the campsite. And the rapid known as the “50-50” was not far away. So I asked Charlie if he wanted to go in the kayak today, and he said yes. He wasn’t afraid of the rapids. I went on the front of Charlie’s canoe with Peter in the back. What that means is that Peter is the “boss”. He does the steering, makes the decisions about which path to take, and decides when we change hands (since the paddle just has one blade). I just sit in the front and look pretty (and paddle too).
The initial rapids today were no problem. However I was apprehensive that the “50-50” rapid was coming up, where the statistics say that 50% of people fall out.
When it did finally arrive, Peter and I almost filled the canoe with water but we remained stable and didn’t tip or sink. Charlie made it through in the kayak. But Alex and Ethan were not so successful – they had a real bumpy ride and filled their canoe with water, which meant having to move to shore to empty it out.
That didn’t stop them though, and they did in fact do the 50-50 multiple times like they said they would. I declined to participate and so I became the video taker. Peter went first with the kayak and tipped out almost immediately, but then went on to do it successfully after.
Alex, Ethan and Charlie all went in the canoe through the rapid again, since they had taken all the stuff out of it after bailing the water out from the previous failed attempt. And again they were not successful. In fact it went so wrong that Charlie threw up in the water. Here’s the video:
During one of the rapid runs, Ethan lost his $500 satellite phone which broke free from its carabina. I felt gutted for him since he had made a decent effort to secure it.
Alex and Ethan also lost their bailer – the bucket you use to remove water from the canoe after going through rapids – so they “borrowed” mine and Peter’s, but didn’t return it, and then they went ahead without us. That immediately left me with a real uneasy feeling. What would we do if Peter and I somehow filled our canoe with water?
Very soon we would find out. Charlie tipped out of the kayak at the next rapid and lost his cap. And while Peter and I were trying to retrieve it for him, we didnt see a big rock and our canoe banged right into the side of it. The canoe tipped on its side, facing the water coming towards us, and so it filled with water very fast. We were stuck on this rock and it took us a long time to get the canoe the right way up and then we had to bail out the water with the paddles, which took forever. Nobody could help us because we were in fast moving water and people couldn’t stop.
The barrels stayed in the canoe but everything that wasn’t secured came out, including Peter’s and my water bottles and Peter’s t-shirt and sunglasses (the sunglasses he had just bought in Taumarunui). And Peter found one of his barrels wasn’t secured properly and was partially open.
Once we recovered from that we moved straight to the side to have lunch as it appeared Alex and Ethan didn’t wait for us. We don’t know if they didn’t see us tip or what but it looked like they went ahead. I ate all my remaining chocolate because after that ordeal I needed it.
Reading Ethan’s blog post for today (definitely worth a read) I can see that they were apologetic about this happening!
We soon passed one of the groups who had seen us fall out and they gave us one of their bailers which was really nice. They also recovered the two water bottles and even Charlie’s cap but nothing else that was lost.
The rest of the day was more uneventful but we were tiring fast. How could Pascal do this whole river journey in 3 or 4 days? He must be fit – I couldn’t do it.
We passed under a derelict swingbridge near a settlement called Jerusalem. You could see it had floor panels missing and generally looked like it was about to collapse. I normally would have taken a photo but with my phone in the barrels I turned to the internet for a picture. Weird – there’s nothing I can see about this bridge on the Internet except for a one-line mention of it on a Wikipedia page. Gee, we must really be in the wops out here!
There were reports of kids throwing rocks from this bridge recently at people going underneath in canoes. Luckily there were none there today.
Another thing we saw was a canoe upside down on a big rock. It did not appear to have been there a long time, but we couldn’t see any people around and there appeared to be nobody in trouble so we just kept going. I kept thinking how that could have been us if we hit the rock earlier a bit harder.
For the last two kilometers Peter and I swapped places so I was at the back and he was at the front. This was real scary because now I had to make the decisions and steer the canoe. I don’t know enough about which path is good and I also had a lot of trouble getting the canoe to go in a straight line so I was really nervous. You need a good decision maker who is confident in the water in the back of the canoe. I am neither of those things.
For a lot of today I wondered why Peter often seemed to be zig-zagging across the water a lot, and I was getting a bit annoyed about it. But after steering the canoe myself, I realise how hard it actually is and I take it all back! Peter did an excellent job of steering the canoe.
Found Alex and Ethan at the place we agreed to meet at which was called the Flying Fox… although it appeared to be closed. All the others from the previous campsite turned up here too, and the owners clearly saw us all here. They were unhappy at first, but opened the place all up for us. There were 14 hikers here I think.
But before being allowed to set up our tents we had to all gather around and we all got a lecture from the owners about how we should be more grateful as some TA hikers apparently aren’t. Apparently one of the owners was the one that rescued the occupants of the canoe we saw abandoned just before, and those occupants did apparently not even say thank you. This happened less than a week ago.
It was all quite awkward but once they got through everything they wanted to say then we could talk with the owners normally and they were quite friendly. And they even let me borrow their phone charger so I could have my phone for the night to use the excellent free Wifi.
They also had a little shop there and we bought a lot from their shop. The Americans celebrated Thanksgiving today and so more than a couple of bottles of wine were bought. I bought more chocolate. Their shop was good because they had a variety of things and not a huge markup. A chocolate bar was only $1.50. That’s really good for a shop
which is in the absolute definition of “the wops”.
Peter was unhappy because the barrel that was partially open had his passport and phone in there and they both got very wet. He spent a lot of time drying them out with varying degrees of success.
There was a hot shower too which was nice, but I didn’t realise it had no door. I almost walked in on a couple who were showering together and had just come out. Yikes!
There were lots of tents in a small space. It was hard to sleep with talking and noise and the aftermath of lots of drinking. But at least I had the phone tonight to keep me occuped. And noise had stopped by 10pm.
There were a lot of animals around too, including chickens and roosters. They were not afraid of us – this one was particularly ballsy.
I tried to research what is coming up in the final two days of the river journey… but the “great walk” section of the river ended at Pipiriki which we passed today. Trying to get information on the lower part of the Whanganui River is impossible – there’s nothing about it on the internet. Is it hard? Challenging? Or just boring with nothing to see? I guess we’ll find out soon enough.
If I can survive two more days on the river then it will be back on dry land finally in the Whanganui Top 10 Holiday Park. If I’m honest it can’t come soon enough. This river journey has pushed me just a bit too far out of my comfort zone to be honest. I wonder tomorrow who will be kayaking and who will be in the canoes.
Today's walk on the map (blue = Te Araroa, red = today's walk):