During kayaking trips I learnt the importance of such things as patience (when spending hours at the gear shed or getting lost on back roads), and of helping hands and eyes (when spending what seems like hours under a boat unable to roll, waiting for a buddy rescue). The list could go on and on so before I start writing about my last trip I just want to say thank you for all that you've taught me.
As with all kayaking trips, the July 3rd-6th trip was full of fun and excitement. The Friday night (spent at Edward's family bach) was another (as Duncan said) ridiculous evening where we relaxed in luxury and bliss alongside Lake Taupo. The night was spent eating delicious food, drinking wine and other various alcoholic beverages, and laughing to a backward game of trivial pursuit. My highlight was meeting my match playing Joe at scrabble (I'll beat you next time Joe).
The next morning I awoke feeling jittery just thinking about boating over Anawhenua Falls. I was psyched the entire ride there, but unfortunately let down a second time when we found the river flooded and no one willing to paddle them (Anawhenua transformed into a Huka Falls look-alike). I felt a slight disappointment, but now realise that it gives me a good reason to return to NZ.
The thrills of the day began when Duncan, Joe and John decided to boat the short but wicked section from the Anawhenua Lake to the Falls. Once they set off, the rest of us raced to good viewing spots along the river. My heart was pumping as fast as the river was flowing just watching them paddle the first of the drops. When they got to the second, hardest one, I felt like I was going to explode! First Joe flipped over at the bottom of the rapid but rolled back up before I could blink. Next, John got about halfway down before flipping, but also rolled back up after a short while.
Duncan decided to give us spectators a much more hair-raising display. He got flipped right at the top of the rapid, and choosing to be different from the others, got himself sucked down rather than rolling up. During his travels to the bottom of the river, he and his boat were separated. From the bank we watched intently as first his boat, and then he surfaced. People started taking rescue action immediately. Nick threw on a buoyancy aid and grabbed a throw rope and others gathered more rescue gear and kept their eyes on Duncan. But by now he had managed to swim to the opposite bank the need to immediate action was reduced. Meanwhile Duncan's boat floated towards the Falls with John attempting to get it into the bank. But with no towline on his buoyancy aid he had to give up and let Joe take over. Joe hooked on to the boat but by now was only metres from the Falls. I recall someone describing the calm expression as he paddled hard against the current, working to get the boat into an eddy. Eventually he decided he'd rather not get pulled over the falls backward and so released the towline.
Meanwhile, Duncan, not realising that his boat had taken a solo run over Anawhenua had asked that someone tow it over to him on the other bank. I relayed this to Kim and she pointed downstream to the boat just disappearing round the corner - OOPS!! Another boat was used instead, and when he learnt what had happened to his, Duncan was so devastated that he swam over the falls after it... (Well, actually that's not true; but later John and Joe paddled the river below the falls looking for the stray boat and eventually turned up at the get-out with it in tow). Not a lot of paddling done but still not too shabby as far as excitement went for the first day. Later that evening, we stopped off at the "Secret Spot" for a soak in the hot pools - a much calmer time, and as always a pleasure. We ended the night camping at Ngaawapurua.
The next morning we awoke to a cold frost (well, what do you expect going paddling at the beginning of July! - Ed) causing some of us to be a tad hesitant getting out on the Ngaawapura wave. Soon enough though, everyone was out surfing and having such a good time that the cold was forgotten.
After playing for a while there, we made our way to the Tongariro River. The river was at a much higher level than I'd seen it before, which made it quite exciting. I was informed that the last rapid was a "stopper", which I translated as "stay away from". As I tried to catch an eddy right above the rapid, I ended up spinning around on the eddy line and paddling backwards just missing a nasty looking hole. A few daredevils went straight through it, including Andrea who managed a great pop-up!
In order to thaw out we headed over to the nearby public hot pools. We were all acting a bit crazy that night, probably due to the "freezage" of the "brainage" earlier in the day (I just had to use some Nick lingo!). We decided to try to form pyramids in the hot pool. We tried over and over again, in every possible way but couldn't quite get it perfect. Each time we failed, we became more driven - it became an obsession! (to tell the truth, I can't actually remember whether we succeeded in the end!). But that was just the beginning. Next we played a game that involved holding hands in a jumbled way and attempting to "untie the knot" without letting go our hands. It was hilarious watching us squeeze and squirm and wriggle around like a bunch of wild contortionists. I'm surprised we weren't kicked out of the pool. When we had regained our sanity (as best we could) we headed back to Edward's family bach to spoil ourselves some more with wine and Joe's yummy home baked biscuits.
My last day kayaking in New Zealand was by far the coldest. In some absurd way it was comical seeing people slip into their wet gear. First there's the sharp gasp when the dry clothes come off and the exposed skin meets the frigid air. Next there's the tiny whimper with the realisation of what's about to happen. Finally all sorts of loud shrieks and @#$%! comments sound off when wet polypro, booties and wetsuits are put on. Edward was smart-he took a brisk jog to get his juices running.
I skipped the top part of the Whangaheu and joined everyone on the lower section. This section was gravelly in many spots and it became our goal to get off the river quickly, especially as we were losing light. Looking back though it was another fun paddle. I can't possibly complain about any VUCC trip I've been on, especially when its been with such cool VUCC friends (just being a bit cheesy!)
After getting off the river, Joe came up with the brilliant idea of holding me in a boat on the railing of a 25 foot bridge. For some strange reason (probably more freezage of the brain) I agreed to the stunt. It was fun being balanced like some toy, but nerve racking at one point when I thought they were actually going to dangle me over the railing. The craziness never ceases with VUCC! Boy, do I miss you all already.
Well, that's about it for the trip. Another amazingly fun kayaking experience to add to my list. I'm grateful to hold so many wonderful memories of you. Whether it be in the US or NZ, I'll be looking forward to paddling with you again. Thanks.
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