The Waiohine is a good beginners river and April is a good time of year to be doing it, before too much snow falls in the Tararuas when then both camping and trying to appreciate the difference between river left and river bottom become more constrained by bracing temperatures!
For most of us we woke to a Saturday morning ( I think Alice just saw it!) of strong winds and heavy rain which meant we had to review out plans and consider using the Hutt River as a contingency plan. Assessment of the Hutt however was that it was too low for any decent kayaking.
The contrast was all too clear once we arrived at the Waiohine, which was flowing rather high! It was decided that the full group wouldn't paddle, to give a better ratio of instructors to beginners, so those paddlers who had only come up for the day were the ones who got onto the water with the more experienced paddlers, while the rest of us watched. By the time the eddy on the bank opposite the get-in had been reached, it was clear that the strong eddy lines and tricky buffer waves meant that the river wasn't very accommodating to beginners. The decision was made to get off the river, but unfortunately not before the group was split up, and it took quite a while to get every one and their gear back together again! Definitely some lessons to be learnt (or re-learnt!) about beginners and flooded rivers.
Those of us lucky enough to be camping up the Waiohine river valley for the weekend had a corker of a Saturday night despite the seemingly endless rain. A booze cruise into Greytown was initiated by Mark while Rohan cooked up an impressive feed, both of which provide an excellent platform in which to forget about the rain and see in Mark's birthday - grey feathers, (swims) and all.
Sunday dawned a perfect Autumns day, clear and crisp with plenty of sun and it saw us all eager to get paddling. We waited till about midday for the river to recede to a more palatable level and by the time we got on the water the river had fallen a metre from the previous day. Even though it was higher than usual, we were amazed at what a difference the fall in level had made - it was almost unrecognisable from the day before, now with plenty of identifiable eddy's and rapids that ran down the centre of the river rather than from bank to bank.
Kim, Lizzie, Rebecca and I had the advantage of a one-to-one instructor ratio under the guidance of Mark, Margie, Rohan and Alice while Dean headed on up front and was often seen as a beacon through the rapids playing up against the buffer waves. Having more experience club members along side was very beneficial, boosting our confidence when needed and ensuring everyone got the most out of every rapid, including some nice little play spots. This combined with the spectacular scenery in the gorge and the brilliant weather made for a perfect beginners trip which was well worth staying overnight for.
A great beginners river and highly recommended!
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