Sunday, January 01, 2012

Wild Wild West!

The West Coast of the South Island of New Zealand is a well known kayaking mecca! A few weeks ago I decided it was time to step it up and get some solid boating in and I knew the West Coast would provide. Benjamen Hjort of Norway happened to be in town so together we ventured down the North Island via my parents place for a quick Xmas catchup and across the Cook Straight to the South Island. We came to rest in Hokitika, a true West Coaster town which put on the sunshine! Dylan Thomson, Severin Haberling and Julian Stocker also happened to be in town and were also fired up for some Christmas Creeking, it was game time! After settling in to Justin Vanubles wicked barn in the Hokitika outback it was time to hit the waters. We started with a short trip down the Upper Kakapotahi- a good 1hour kayak run that was easily accessible with a car shuttle and provided some nice drops and clean boof moves. The next day the 5 of us(Julian(Swiss), Severin(SWISS), Dylan(NZ), Benji(Norway) and I flew into the high Southern terrain of the Alps and began our descent down the Mungo river. An epic 6hour day was filled with sick drops, burly white-water and some epic must make moves. It was an awesome day on the river and one I have many good memories from! The day ended in style as we arrived in Serpentine Hut, a small hut sitting at the foot of a valley on the Hokitika river and overlooking the fierce rapids of Viagra. Danny Ready our helicopter driver had kindly dropped all of our food and warm gear at the hut. So Benji got straight to work on the outside fire and after covering the roast lamb in dough it was cooked to perfection. Our Christmas Eve feast was incredible with mushrooms and blue cheese, roast lamb and red wine to compliment it. After roasting marsh-mellows on the fire we were treated to an amazing starry night that made for a good ceiling for a good night’s sleep. Christmas morning was kicked off with a strong coffee to see us in to a nice warm-up on the rapids of Viagra. I was stoked to fire these up as I had portaged the rapid earlier in the year. 5hours of good boating was to be had on our Christmas day on the Hokitika river, a perfect present that we all enjoyed. Once we returned to Hokitika that night we had a quick Christmas feed and headed to the beach to soak up the last of the sun with wine and beer.

Boxing day came and after a lazy morning Dylan, Jarrod Mitchell and myself walked for a solid hour in to the Tuaroa valley to enjoy a nice float down the Tuaroa creek(1hour out), it was nice and relaxing after the two previous days of full on stouts! Jarrod continued to join our crew on the next days adventure up the Waitaha, and an adventure it sure was! After a long flight to the top of the Waitaha river we were treated to another super sweet sunny day on a great river! The Waitaha was loaded with awesome sections of white-water, slides, drops and boulder gardens. We boosted through the top section with little scouting yet at a comfortable pace. We were all on a bit of a high as there were a lot of fast and fun sections, it took us around 3hours! On arrival at the swing bridge overlooking Morgan gorge we got out for a lunch break and it was time for the group to split in two. Morgan Gorge is a very full on rowdy section of the Waitaha that is not for the faint hearted! It has only been run by a select few and in the guide book are warnings that it is not a destination for many. Dylan, Severin and Benji all decided to take on the gorge. While Julian, Jarrod and myself took to the hike. Unfortunately we had not read the guide book quite so vigorously and a minor detail was missed...After crossing the swingbridge and scrambling basically straight uphill through coarse bush an hour went by. The markers we followed were hard to spot and there were several occasions we seemed lost in the wilderness. 5hours of sweating and scrambling with our boats through the bush went by and we decided to try and get back down to the river. We approached the bank to find ourselves still in the midst of the gorge! It was getting late, we were all very tired and it was time to make some big decisions and move fast if we were to make it out before dark. Unfortunately I happened to have forgotten my drybag that was equipped with lunch, a lighter and an emergency blanket this day. I scouted the last few rapids in the gorge from our high position and then went bush waking to checkout the potential walk out option. We weren’t far from the end so we gathered our gear and got moving out of the forest. Within the next hour we had made it out of the bush and back to the river! It was 8pm and after a few muesili bars courtesy of Jarrod we were refuelled and continued our descent down the Waitaha river and out to the car by 845pm! We were so happy to arrive and find Severin, Benji and Dylan awaiting us at the car!!! They were about to send out a search party so were over the moon to see us! It had taken them a mere 4hours in the gorge, and us a 6hour portage! Had we exited on the correct side of the river we would have faced a 1-2hour walk...gutted! We quickly hit the pub to stock up on some carbs and then to bed for a much needed sleep.

There is a saying, no rest for the wicked, and in our case this applied. The next day Dylan, Severin, Benji and I flew up to the upper section of the Whitcombe River. We were now accompanied by some West Coast locals Keith Riley and Jordy Searle. Another solid 4hour day of stout boating was to be had, although after 1hour my body and mind hit the wall and for me it was hard work to pull myself together as I was soo tired. Determination pulled me through and we made it in to Prices Hut that night for another well needed sleep. We paddled out the next day in 4hours through Prices and Colleirs Gorges. Prices Gorge was full on but quite exciting! Colliers Gorge was wicked fun and a good boulder garden with 8-10 good little drops along the way. It was an awesome way to end our epic week long adventure and one of the best weeks of boating in my life!!! The crew was really awesome! It made me realise how important a good crew really is! We are lucky here in New Zealand as there are many amazing boaters and many amazing boaters that come to visit. I always felt safe on the water and we had some really good systems that rocked! We were also really lucky with the weather, it was sunny nearly all week and the rivers had a descent amount of water to make for some good flows. The other thing that made my trip epic was the gear I used. My Bliss-Stick ‘Tuna’ was really good on the creeks! It was awesome to boof and popped out of drops and waterfalls with ease, it made for easy and enjoyable boating and even when I was tired in the last days I felt so comfortable and able to perform as it sits so nicely on top of the water. My DuemStuff gear held up really well too, the dry pants and top were really effective on the long days on the river and when I needed to walk though the water they kept me warm and dry. My decks had no issues and were watertight! I am really stoked to have quality gear, it makes a big difference and all of these factors contributed to making such an incredible week of kayaking! Big thanks to JV for having us to stay in his Barn, it was a wicked spot and such a nice place to hang. Also big thanks to all of the boys in our crew!!!Everyone was a pleasure to paddle with and made my time on the water very enjoyable! Also big thanks to our helicopter driver Danny who hooked us up with a mean feed of whitebait and a box of beers on our final day!Stoked, one of the best Christmas’s ever!

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