OK, enough about non-flushing toilets and dancing with half-naked men; this is supposed to be a report about paddling ...
In part I of this report Mark mentioned paddling Granity (which Johnny skipped due to excessive alcohol intake the previous night) on New Years day, but was a little confused about events after that. We played ultimate, and went for a surf in the hole that afternoon. His confusion could be caused by alchoholic haze, or might be because he was trying to forget the swim he had while playing in the hole! When reminded of it he claims it was because his spray deck didn't fit Phil's boat properly and it popped off when he tried to roll. Well, I believe him anyway...
That day we also heard that our glorious president Alice's boat had been stolen from her roof rack during the New Year's eve party. Much abusing of the wankers who would do such a thing followed.
The next morning we headed to Murchison to paddle the Earthquake section of the Buller, which includes the ``Gunslinger'' rapid. The start of this section is a moderately long flat water paddle. It was here that Rod won the title of ``most unnecessary swim of the trip'' (details available on request unless Rod submits to blackmail first). We got out and scouted Gunslinger; it looked huge. My boat would have gone down without me when Rod bumped it as he was getting back in, but Kelly dived after it and grabbed it. In spite of Gunslinger's size, I decided to paddle it backwards ... OK, so it wasn't intentional - I did manage to face the right way before I was too far down the rapid.
That afternoon Phil, Rod, and Aroha left to take Matt back to Picton and to do other things for a few days. We pitched tents at the camp ground in Murchison before heading to a pub for a ``quick'' drink. But the lure of the pool table, beer and pub food was too strong, and it was well past any sensible paddler's bedtime when we finally got to sleep.
On Wednesday morning we paddled the middle section of the Matakitaki. We avoided an apparently fearsome hole that had earlier that week separated a well known Wellington paddler (who shall remain nameless here) from his boat, but there were plenty of other great play spots to keep us occupied.
In the afternoon, Mark, Kelly and I paddled the lower Matakitaki. Kelly said that it was important to get into eddies on this section to avoid the nasty bits - this made me nervous. Things got off to a bad start when as a result of watching to make sure I was OK, Kelly got pinned on a rock. It took ``Grunter'' Duckworth (yes, he did get a nickname), risking life and limb (especially limb, as the cuts on his shins later showed), ten minutes and two attempts to wade through the very strong current and pull her off.
The rest of the section passed without incident. We got into the eddies that we had to, and the main rapid on the section (``Earthquake'' -- a long rapid with big waves, a huge hole and a nasty rock to avoid) had enough water in it that paddling it mostly involved bashing down the right hand side. Another group caught up with us at this point, and I was surprised to see Alice paddling her ``stolen'' boat. It turned out our abuse of the thieves was misdirected -- the real culprits were a badly tied on boat, a twisty back country road, and inattentive car occupants.
On Thursday, Kelly decided to rest her back which hadn't appreciated being pinned the previous day. Mark, Johnny and I paddled the Mangles, which was at a reasonably easy level. This was incident free until near the end when Johnny noticed his brand-new second-hand Ainsworth paddle only had one and a half blades. He swore that he hadn't hit anything hard with it, and then swore lots more ...
That evening, we went to O'Sullivan's for a play on the wave. Kelly yelled useful tips from the bank, Mark had some good rides, and Johnny and I managed to surf for a couple of seconds each!
On Friday, Kelly was still not sure about her back and I wanted a rest, so we drove the shuttle for a group, including Mark and Johnny, doing the Maruia River. When the weary paddlers returned we all went to the Mariua Hot Springs for a well deserved soak (it's tough work driving shuttles ...!)
On Saturday morning, Phil, Aroha and Rod returned and we decided to paddle the middle Matakitaki again, which by now had dropped a bit. Even still, and despite this, and a little ``disagreement'' with some anglers, it was still a fun section. The fearsome hole was now was slightly less fearsome. Mark, Kelly, Phil and I checked it out, enjoying several pummelings each, without having to abandon our boats. Mark had one great ride, rolling in the hole three or four times, ending up side-surfing with an ear-to-ear grin on his face.
Sunday was the the last day of the trip, and we decided to do the Granity section again. A local paddler who joined us showed us how easy it was to catch the eddy just above the first drop on the Granity rapid. We all took a more conservative line, but I still capsized and had to roll in the rapid. Johnny capsized and swam. We were both sufficiently pissed off at being dealt to like this that we carried our boats up for another go. Johnny was determined not to swim this time and didn't, pulling off a good roll in the rapid; I was determined not to have to roll this time, but did. At this point, I figured Granity had won the day, but as Arnie said at the end of Terminator: ``I'll be back ...''
After a late lunch at Owen River Tavern, we once again said goodbye to Phil and Co. We considered paddling the the Buller source section again on the way back, but while the spirit was willing, the body was not (actually, the spirit wasn't 100% either). We decided instead that food, beer and games of pool in Picton sounded like a better idea.
After an hour of so of this and fifteen minutes before our ferry check-in time, we headed back to the car with plenty of time to spare ... right? Wrong! With the car keys on the inside of the locked car, and the AA taking 45 minutes to turn up and get the car open, we succeeded in missing our 9:15 Lynx sailing. Luckily, we were able to transfer our tickets to a regular ferry 15 minutes later. The sailing was twice as long, but at least we had the consolation of knowing we weren't contributing to Tory Channel erosion.
All in all, a very well organized trip (of course, as the organizer, I'm biased), great guidance from the experienced Buller paddlers (Matt and Kelly), great people, great weather, and loads of laughs both on and off the water. What more could you ask for ...?
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