[Andréa's contributions are in italics. Editorial comment from Rohan is in bold.]
My Easter trip started at about 2pm when Bolke and I began our tiki-tour of Wellies. First we had to travel to Seaview to pick up a van, then to Bivouac to pick up a Kim, then to Mornington to pick up a trailer and then to the tip to drop off the rubbish in the trailer (and I came very close to losing my shoe - it came off kicking rubbish out of the trailer and had to be rescued by Bolke from the rubbish pile that is the tip), then home to pack, then to the gear shed.
I arrived at the gear shed to meet Martin, Adrian and Sarah. In typical VUCC tradition the others arrived late. Kim turned up coughing pretty badly (she was having a Murray of a Day - Ed.). The people who were there already got the boats out which made the packing of gear a lot quicker. Several attempts were made at jamming 9 boats onto the trailer. After all the usual mucking around we were off. Traffic was pretty good considering it was start of holidays. We stopped in Levin for Chinese take aways, and sat around eating on the KFC tables across the road. Yum.
Met up in Turangi but couldn't be bothered waiting for Stu and Nick so we carried on to a little campsite on the lakeshore. Very tired, bunged tent up in record time and went to sleep. At 3am I was woken by strong wind. I lay there waiting for it to stop but it didn't seem like it would. I placed the pack on the up wind side to prevent the tent becoming airborne. Tent kept on folding over like a floppy balloon. 4am got up and decided to put more tent pegs in, found Martin (or maybe Johno) doing the same thing. Went to bed and adopted the sleeping with-legs-in-the-air-bracing position. This seemed to work well to keep the tent up, but was very tiring on the legs. 7am got up. No one about so I went walk-about. Couldn't get into van so went searching for food in blackberry bushes (for blackberries). The blackberries in Taupo are tasteless. 8am still nobody up. Time was getting on so I went around and shook some tents (especially Nick's). By 9 every one was up and eating brekkie.
Access 10 on the Tongariro was the first river section to be paddled. Had some very nice steep white rapids. It was a beautiful sunny day, crystal clear water and saw 3 blue ducks. Alison took a beating by going down one rapid backwards upside down (a Full McEwan no less! - Ed). With Nick following closely half upside down himself. She didn't even swim! Tough girl. Long section. Martin didn't go so well, and got pretty cold. He decided to take the alternative ``get out'' through the middle of Rangipo Prison (after some deliberation the authorities decided to let him leave again - Ed). Met up at get out with Alice, Joe, Ray and Clare. They had somehow managed to lock the keys in the car and were (naturally) all blaming each other. No lunch around so we (Nick, Adrian, Rohan and I) ate sardines, ricies, and sweet pickle relish. Mmm yum!
Every one else took quite a while. We then proceeded to Fulljames campsite but not before I dropped off a message to Darryl in Te Rangi Ita by the Tauranga Taupo River. In the morning FJ wave was not going off so we waited to see if it did. It didn't. Adrian was keen to wait around but we headed to Murupara for supplies. We got some lollies and an Earnest Adams fruit sponge and candles for Adrian's birthday. I couldn't find Harry anywhere (Harry is Markís drug contact in Murupara/Galatea. He is also keen on the odd spot of eeling and telling porkies - Ed). Apparently he lives in Galatea not Murupara. Roy wasn't around either (no idea who Roy is, probably a good thing too as Mark might get his legs broken for telling us about him - Ed). Mark clearly had some kind of dodgy drug deal going on - he was "picking things up" and "dropping things off" all over the countryside. The locals gathered around and sung songs in the town centre. We headed for Lake Aniwhenua.
Mark and I decorated the cake in the van on the way there. We went for a news-of-the-day theme in our decoration. Unfortunately Kosovo was the news of the day so we decorated the cake with downed airplanes and dead Eskimos and very smoky candles. For cake decoration for your party we would be glad to be of service!
Unfortunately the falls were a little low and had changed and there were too many safety conscious people standing around giving negative talk about getting your nose stuck or getting your boat ripped on the sharp rocks. Joe followed by Rohan and Adrian and quite possibly others showed that it was really no big deal. Adrian went far left and bounced off some rocks but was ok (The rocks in retrospect did make it somewhat of a deal, fine if you missed them but a bit dodgy nevertheless - Ed). The rest of us scrambled down a steep bank and passed kayaks down to the concrete platform. There were awesome smooth glassy waves on that section. Bolke carved them up in his new Maniac. I had some pretty satisfying surfs myself. Some Auckand paddlers were taking (female) beginners down. Nick put in his opinion on their motives (cf. Nicks opinion of the purpose of the accommodation at Maruia Springs on the Buller trip. Is there a pattern emerging? ed).
Went back to camp at lake and watched a lovely sun set. Andréa and I went off to find some special pine-defoliating moths for Andréa's thesis. We looked in the pine forest but there we found none. Lying on the pine needles for half an hour and still none. The reason was that our torchlight was not bright enough. We looked on the dam bridge instead. Here there were hundreds of moths flying in spirals around the floodlight. But as far as the particular moth we were looking for was concerned there were none. I watched fresh water crayfish slowly picking morsels off the dam wall and mosquito fish lazily drift about when Andréa became exceedingly excited. I sprinted up the bank ready for some kind of emergency. She had spotted a moth sitting on the handrail. We decided how to capture it and did so by sticking a finger on one of its wings. Got it. With cupped hands Andrea proudly showed her prize to others at the campsite. During the course of the evening I managed to catch another two. I had no where to put them other than my cup. So they went there. This meant I didn't have a cup, which is a problem if you want a cup of tea.
Paul, Timon, and some other people turned up in their van. Timon and Adrian went to play twister with some girls near by. Twister won. Adrian and Timon were most disappointed they didn't get a chance to remove their clothes. Some of us sat around and listened to Timon's lovely guitar and singing while I made hot lemon honey for Kim's sore throat. Then some stranger turned up with his dog and got a little drunk. (He threatened to kill Timon for picking up his dog! ed). He put in an effort to add to Timon's tunes before blundering off in a wobbly line towards his ute for the night. Rumour has it that he was the famous Jeff from Jeff's Joy!
In the morning Adrian, Nick, Rohan, and I chucked a ball around while we waited for the Easter bunny to wake up and distribute the creme eggs. It took the Easter bunny a while to get up, She had completely forgotten about her duties as Easter bunny and anyway this Easter Bunny has a serious objection to getting up at 6am! After that and tying up the girls we headed off to do Jeff's Joy section of Rangitaiki. They tied us up and tried to auction us off - and the worst thing was no one wanted us! Obviously our cooking and cleaning skills are not up to standard!
We picked up a group of five paddlers from Matamata and stuffed around trying to get all the cars at the same get in. The paddlers we picked up were all about 12, had flash boats and were shit-hot paddlers (for 12 year olds. ed). Life's not fair. Paul and co. left Timon for us to look after and Kim helped out with the shuttle. We played games at the get in like wheelbarrow races, and a three-person camel competition, while others spent their time in the long drop suffering from ring burn. (The meals on this trip seemed to induce involuntary bowl movements for some people - that's what happens if you eat sardines, ricies and sweet pickle relish all mixed together!)
Finally we were off. We split into groups for the upper part which consisted of the slalom course and Jeff's Joy. First it was Rohan, Timon, Eaon, and I. It was very exciting knowing that if we ballsed it up, we would probably get a decent spanking in the big stuff down stream. Rohan led me down first. "Follow me. When I get that eddy I'll give a thumbs up for you to come down too. Just down here somewhere is Fan Tail falls. Paddle hard." so Rohan disappeared over one of the first drops and paddled hard through a few holes to the eddy and gave the thumbs up. I followed, and fortunately didn't muck it up.
We were now at the top of Jeff's Joy rapid, and having successfully completed the lead in I was pretty confident, though feeling a little ill from my cold. Rohan pointed every thing out and told me the line. I memorised every thing he said and prepared myself. Rohan did it well. Then a few deep breaths and I was off. The people standing with throw bags ready reminded me that this was not one to stuff up. I eddied out got some speed and hit the first hole off centre which swung me around a bit too much. Arggggh bugger. I grunted it over to river left to get close to the lead in rock. Too far right and I would get munted on the rocks half way down. Too far left, and I would get buggered up by the rocky bluff. My eagerness to get left went a little too far, and before I knew it my boat's nose hit the rock wall. The boat whacked in to it and started to flip. I started to swear and tightened my grip while putting on a hard brace. The back of the boat was whipped around by the speedy white water. Going backwards down Jeff's Joy is no fun. In the froth near the end I could see nothing but foam and bubbles. Fortunately the bracing worked well, and by the time I was flushing through the stopper at the bottom my kayak was back in control. I had just done Jeff's Joy almost Duncan style i.e. still the right way up. Yeee ha. The look on Mark's face as he realised he was about to go down Jeff's Joy sideways was photoworthy - he swore the whole way down. (a remarkable feat for someone who was grinning from ear to ear. ed.)
The next half-hour was spent watching others do it. Many spent an eternity examining it, resulting only in intimidation followed by a portage through the manuka. Nick did it Duncan style too. A wee while further down river was a long quiet patch where the Rangitaiki slowed down and went into lazy mode. I went into lazy mode too. For a time I paddled with my eyes closed. Dozens of swallows danced between us and the toitoi lined banks making tiny silver splashes as they dipped at the water. It was a pretty sight. After about 20 minutes of drifting the river narrowed again and increased in speed. The rest of the section was quite continuous.
We picked up Martin on the way down, but other than that I donít remember much else because my cold was pretty bad by this stage. While Mark didnít enjoy it due to his cold the rest of the river was one of the most enjoyable sections I have ever done - I was buzzing when I got off. Last time I did it I was miserable due to a headache but this time I was able to thoroughly enjoy myself. The one problem with the section was the usual - too many people in the playspots! Some people spend far too long on waves for my liking - if I get pushed off quickly they should too.
This section is very scenic with regenerating bush and forestry plantations coming down to the water's edge with lots of swallows and fantails flitting around everywhere. Alice and I saw a blue duck which added to my overall enjoyment considerably as we were able to get pretty close which was exciting (yes I am an ecology student)
We went to the secret spot with what seemed like a hundred others and made tea on the roadside. Timon and Adrian went up the river to coat them selves in hot mud. They came back naked and posed for the camera. They looked truly gorgeous - mud suits them well. Timon did an amazing handstand walk thing down the middle of the road while wearing only his suit of mud. (I have a selection of photos which are available for the reprinting price of $1 each. The cost of the negatives is negotiable. ed.) Bolke and Andrea shared head lice. I protest - I have NO bugs in my hair! And Bolke has no hair! Then every one trundled down to the hot stream while I slept with a major headache in the van. We all went up the cold stream to locate the mud that Timon and Adrian had covered themselves in. We located it and smeared each other and ourselves with hot mud - gorgeous after a day paddling. There were other people in the pool when we arrived but they slowly seemed to melt away - it appears that 14 loud kayakers singing "I stuck my finger in the woodpeckerís hole" frightens people away.
We pitched tents at FJ. In the morning some went down the river, while others swam naked in the FJ rapid. Family picnickers looked on in horror, amazement, curiosity, and disgust. Timon did another of his clever handstands on the exposed rock of the rapid. A few seconds later a jet boat came roaring around the corner. The tourists inside got twice the thrill they paid for when the guide pointed out the figures on the riverbank. Some looked the other way, others covered their mouths, and smiled with red faces.
Those of us who decided that we didn't want to hang around a campsite waiting for a wave to rise opted to do the section above the wave instead. It is pretty flat with a couple of easy rapids. There are a few spots where one can whoopee and a couple of surfable waves but otherwise it was a pleasant drift downstream. We reached FJ to be confronted by semi-naked male bodies. Adrian by this stage had decided to start a new fashion trend by wearing his buoyancy aid around his bare bottom. Somehow I don't think it'll catch on given the resemblance to nappies.
Unfortunately it was already Monday and we had to go home. On the way back Adrian, Ceri, Rohan, Duncan, Ray, Joe, Kim, Eaon, Nick, Timon, and I went down the Waihohonu on the Desert Road. I think the tumbly rapids at the get in put off a lot of the remaining paddlers and as we disappeared around the first corner they waved goodbye. Not knowing if we would see them again, we cautiously proceeded. Duncan who had paddled this river several times before led the group with Joe.
The river was very beautiful with many steep rocky gorge bits, and nice tumbly but bony rapids. On arrival at the grade four rapid we all got out and analysed it. Joe seemed unenthusiastic about paddling it, Timon too. Rohan spent many long minutes pondering and seemed to be stuck in indecision. As a result of too much looking at it, and the fact that he swam it last time Rohan grudgingly decided to give it a miss while the rest of us carried boats over the hill to portage it. Down the steep bank on the other side of the hill, Eaon's hurricane provided the ideal bridge between the two rock walls. One by one boats, paddles and nervous people made their way across the boiling foamy water below. Collapse of the kayak bridge meant possible swimming of the grade five rapid down-stream. Once on the other side we carefully skirted past the grade five rapid by clinging to the mossy rocks. This rapid appeared reasonably straight forward except for the pushy stopper going in the opposite direction to the flow, and the ugly sticky looking hole at the bottom. Seal launching of the rocks at the bottom of this rapid was fun.
The rapids down stream were much the same as those above the tricky rapids and were quite fun. The water gave me the feel of paddling in winter and with every stroke I made sure my hands didnít get immersed in it. There were cool little waterfalls with moss covered rocks and up above was a lacy curtain like the canopy of beech trees. Dappled green light filtered down through the gorge. Further down we found a big open cave which we all paddled into. There was enough room for all of us. Inside the air was cold and still, and small ferns lined the walls and ceiling. Water appeared from tiny holes in the rock and trickled down over the moss. Every one was silent. The river then opened up and let a little sun light in.
Alison, Andrea, Bolke, Alice and Martin greeted us from the side of the river. We had spent the past few hours investigating the power station tubes and lazing about in the sun. A muffled roar of water disappearing down power station tubes reminded everyone not to go past the get out. Those who changed in to dry clothes quickly then had a weetbix eating competition. Dry weetbix tends to stick to ones mouth lining rendering the mouth useless to swallow. The winner was the one who could produce the most saliva the quickest.
Before going home some of us went to the get in for access 14. We found a narrow channel of exceptionally fast water flowing out of a tunnel. Many large rocks were carried up a bank to be dropped off the bridge. We carefully positioned them on the middle of the handrail before pushing them off. They hit the water, smashing pits in the hard concrete below before racing down with the water and smashing to pieces on the flow deflectors down stream. (The club accepts no responsibility for the actions of such hooligans. Good fun though. ed.) This became a source of amusement and satisfaction for the next 10 minutes. Even though our trip was almost over we happily skipped down the road to the van as the sun set.
On the way home we had small meals for big prices at the Brown Sugar Café in Taihape. (Check out the Chelsea next time. ed.) We listened to stink music all the way back to Wellington. Somewhere in the backblocks of Tawa we dropped off Alison and then Adrian practised his corner cutting off road skills. We probably got to the gear shed but I can't remember. I was very tired.
Bolke, Ray and I didn't go home with the others. We stayed in the Central North Island and paddled the Whakapapa. It was quite low - probably about the minimum that you would want to paddle it at. We made our own special get in on some farmer's land which required an hourís paddle down a stream. The farmer said he didn't think anyone had paddled it before - so we made the first descent and probably the last unless anyone else chooses to paddle a nasty bottom-of-boat-scratchy farm-run-off-filled stream whose only positive feature is that it gets you to the Whakapapa!
The Whakapapa river however was great. There are lots of rapids, quite a few playspots and very few flat sections. Most of the rapids are negotiate your way through rocks then down a drop and into a bluff. At a higher levels there would be less negotiating but the gap between the buffer wave and the end of the rapid would be much smaller. This section is also very scenic - native bush along the sides, and quite gorgy in parts. Above the gorge one can see glimpses of farmland, reminding you that you are not really that far from "civilisation". We saw fantails, swallows and more blue duck! We made it to the get out just as we were deciding that due to our inability to see in the dark we would have to get out and portage. This meant that Ray was unable to paddle the final (hardest) rapid. We had an enjoyable extra couple of days mooching around the Central North Island - it's always good to get away from Wellington for a few days but when we got home we were also very tired!
Martin has assured me that there we will get a story for the next newsletter detailing his unique experience of the Rangipo prison. We look forward to it. ed.