Introducing the elite paddling team:
Duncan 'Visitors first?' McEwan
John-Boy 'Yeah I'll do it' Parker
Libby 'Tell me when we get to the undercut rapid ... Whoops!' Brown
Eaon 'Nose cones!?? Who needs them?' Fitzwater
Hamish 'Fishboy' Farrar
Etienne 'Did I walk far enough?' Audoine
Kim 'El presidento' Murray
Alison 'Who needs paddles?' Callander
Jens 'Can I have a lift?' Andreas
Andrea 'Nice Blisters' Stephens
Alice 'a little further right next time' Karvelas
Stuart 'pulling the moves' Oliver
Adrian 'Can I paddle your boat?' Barr
(and joining us later in the trip) Rohan Biggs and Ceri Jones
And of course, last but by no means least - me (that is James - random bloke over from England who tagged along for the ride)
After a few late arrivals, kit was packed and we departed for the north in search of water. A short while later we were at the shores of Lake Taupo and after Jon's quick swim (oh dear poor boy) the night passed peacefully.
An early start - it would never last - and we drove to the Rangitaiki and the Aniwhenua section. Good water levels and a decision by a few of us to do the short section from the dam down to the falls. All was well until the last drop and Eaon attempted a rock splat/hit the wall (delete as appropriate) and redesigned the front of his Supersport. A good start.
Aniwhenua Falls only attracted the attention of myself, Duncan and John-Boy. This was the first of the visitors first?' policy, but all went well.
Onto the lower section and how would Hamish cope on only his third river? A nervous start and the first swim of the weekend soon followed. The rest of the section brought the inevitable eddyline wobble' and a few more swims for him as he rapidly developed gills.
Camp was established at the dam and Libby quickly set about the gin while the rest of us bemoaned our lack of forethought on the beer front. A small amount of rain, Libby's gin, flying coffee and a guitar playing Frenchman provided entertainment for the evening.
Again an early start (on the water before 9am ish!!! unheard of in VUCC history) and another quick blast down the Aniwhenua section before moving on to tackle Jeff's Joy' (Rangitaiki). Initially all was well on this section after a small amount of faff' (English for farting around) at the get in. Jeff's Joy passed without incident but then the playboating' moves started.
Libby engaged in a spot of dodgems with the rocks before a quick demo of synchronised swimming (legs all over the place) while Alison threw away her paddles to impress the spectators!!!! The carnage was untangled and order restored but time was passing with lots of river still to go. With darkness approaching some decided' to walk out at the halfway point. The plan had called for Etienne to walk up from the get-out carrying his boat so he would get a short paddle. So the only remaining question was "how far had Etienne walked up the river?" The answer - a very, very long way!!! If nothing else you couldn't fault his keenness.
The evening brought talk of the Secret spot'. What were they talking about? The Answer: A hot thermal stream. Problem 1 - finding it. Problem 2 - the fact that it was a lot of people's secret spot' But by god it was good.
Duly rested we planned to head to Rotorua to camp. But no, Libby knew better, "Lake Rotoma" she said, "it's a great place to camp and it's only 15 mins past Rotorua!" At least 30 minutes later we arrived to find 'No Camping' signs - oh well it was dark and students have never been very good at reading.
The river that had attracted me loomed - the 'Wairoa'. What could go wrong? Half way between Rotorua and Tauranga and news that Hamish's car had not started and was stuck at the 'campsite'. Advice for the future: (a) Don't break down on Easter Sunday; (b) If you do, choose somewhere convenient to do it (Lake Rotoma isn't); (c) If the mechanic is called 'Vince' don't give him a computer; (d) Make sure your boat is on the car you are travelling in (mine wasn't!)
Back to the kayaking! After a bit of boat juggling (including arranging a loaner for me) Stu, Duncan, Adrian, Rohan and I set off to tackle the upper section. Stuart impressed all watching with his vertical moves in one hole before opting for the eject button and a short swim, but most drops passed without incident.
Then Rollercoaster arrived and the crowds were out to watch (and laugh) if anyone messed it up. This prompted a few walks but Rohan and myself chose the aquatic route with some ease if I do say so myself!
More boat juggling at the end of the upper section involved me handing back my loaner and walking back to the car while the others joined for just the lower section. Apparently this passed uneventfully despite Libby's attempts to tame the waterfall and show it who was boss.
Back to Rotorua to meet up with Hamish and co at the Fat Dog cafe and tell them about the days paddling. They were mildly unimpressed but it sounded like their day at the garage had been fun (feel free to correct me if I'm wrong guys). The rain prompted a decision to try a campsite with more facilities - a good decision.
Well it had to be done! The Kaituna was an obvious choice for the day's paddling. A less than efficient start this time but a beautiful river. Jon, Alice, Duncan, Eaon, Adrian and I were doing the top section and picking up the rest at the midpoint. The weir was generally run well, although Jon tried some interesting moves. Then it was onto the big drop.
The crowds had gathered and the cameras were primed. Jon had a bit of down time at the bottom, but Alice had the only swim as a result of a particularly interesting line (a little bit more river right next time I think!).
After that we picked up the others and headed on. The lower section proved eventful with lemming like rolls at the bottom of drops, and 'if I die, don't follow my line' leading from James.
The undercut' drop, which had been the source of some worry early in the trip arrived. With my great river leading skills once again to the fore I neglected to tell anyone when we got there (in truth I didn't have a clue, so hey if I was going to die then everybody else bloody well could too). Jens ended up getting a bit close to the undercut and bailing out. His boat did the last couple of rapids without him but luckily a passing raft of Japanese tourists were able to offer him a ride.
Eventually boats and people were reunited and a few of us tried to demonstrate our playboating skills in the playhole at the bottom of the stretch - um, the best I can say is that, I think a bit more work is needed!
The afternoon was fast getting away from us but Hamish hadn't had a paddle so we opted for a quick blast down the Ngaawapura section above Full James. A relatively flat section save for some interesting eddy lines and a few swirly' bits provided the interest. Libby however, seemed to be enjoying the section far too much and the only conclusion was that she had been drinking (whether alchohol or too much of the nasty tasting water I can't say!) The wave at Full James and a chance to show those skills again! We quickly gave up and headed up for a bit of dinner.
After dinner the decision was made to move onto Turangi so we would be close to home. But as we left the rain started to pour and the shores of Lake Taupo did not look too inviting so a night in the YHA loomed. Those silly buggers who would not pay the extra $8 missed out on a nice, warm, comfortable and most importantly, dry bed.
Had I been transported home overnight! Not only was it raining but it was also bloody freezing. A quick trip down the Lower Tongariro and only one swim, plus a few rock fights for Hamish. Lunch was taken at this point and opinions were divided on the merits of doing the Waihohonu stream on the Desert road.
Most seemed to be opting for just going home but a car load set off to at least have a look, stopping first at Tree Trunk gorge. River right looked like the best line in my opinion but no one else seemed tempted?
Onto the Waihohonu and a few more dropped out before myself, Duncan and Jon set off amid scandalous allegations about our sanity! A promising start saw Duncan get pinned right at the get in, but all was well and a beautiful section followed. The portage came and went with only a little amount of scrambling about on the bank and we arrived at the end of the river' to be greeted by Libby's hastily constructed tent and a well deserved cup of tea (what a star).
This spelt the end of the paddling for the weekend and we headed off home, stopping only to taste the culinary delights of Bulls.
All in all, a great weekend. Good paddling and excellent company what more could you ask for?? Um, lets see...
Enough of the sarcasm - I did have a great weekend and felt very welcome. It was a pleasure to paddle with you lot, (even John-boy), and if any of you ever make it over to the UK (heaven forbid), and I'm still there, (getting increasingly unlikely after my experiences here), I would be pleased to show you the delights of paddling in the UK. But be warned it's pretty dammed cold.
And so the well-oiled, highly organised kayaking machine that is VUCC rolls on. Enjoy yourself and think of me occasionally stuck in sunny Sheffield? I hope I've not missed too much out but hey at the end of the day by the time you lot read this I'll be half way across the world. Check out http://www.sheffield.ac.uk and head for canoe club for any photos I have of my trip (might take me a while cos I don't know how to put pictures on the web. Sorry, serious technophobe alert!!)
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