The great Whanganui river trip

22 March 2023 | 1 comment

Canoeing down the Whanganui river. An epic journey, with our friends Andi, Mark, Judy, Erwin, Beth and Mike., 125km of river, mostly in the complete wilderness. After day one, there is, quite simply, no going back. Day one turned out to be very wet, we thought this may happen if the rapids proved beyond our meagre skill, but no. It rained. A lot. I wont deny, I found this physically demanding, not having any great upper body strength. Wet and tired, Tim and I paddled in to the designated stopping point at the end of the day at least pleased we had stayed in the canoe.

By the way – if you miss the stopping point, you are in deep trouble, because the river is running so fast it can be impossible to paddle back upstream,

The stopping area – no fancy pontoons, just a mud bank to climb up to find something fixed to tie on to. But also a small blue 4WD buggy with a radio on the seat, to radio up to our accommodation that we have arrived. We are booked into ‘The Posh Pioneers’ , what an experience. After the most hair raising drive up a wild muddy track, we arrived at a charming clearing with 8 beautifully built shepherd’s huts, a luxurious shower block, an utterly delicious home made cream tea and so much more. Only accessible by the river (or helicopter), this charming couple have created and built this unique place.

So after a good night’s sleep we proceed down river, more rapids, more learning how to read the river and head for the V in the current, paddle like stink and hope for the best. I’m still exhausted, but loving it all, the remote steep gorges, the wild bush and the ever changing flow.

John Coull Hut, complete with bats fluttering about at dusk, is another great night. Our final night is spent in the Bridge To Nowhere Lodge, a last slice of luxury in the wilderness.

But all was not done. Our final morning of paddling is the toughest yet. the river is lower, so the rapids are….more rapid. Tim was back at the helm in our canoe after my adequate (but not expert) stint yesterday. Just as well, careering through the ‘standing waves’ was a new experience, thank goodness we could follow close behind Mark, who took a superb line. We nearly all dodged the substantial rock mid rapid, except Judy in her kayak, who had the incredible presence of mind when faced with the monster, to avoid a capsize by simply heading straight onto it. There she was: ROCK GIRL, poised atop the great rock mid rapids, out of harms way. Sadly, too hair raising for a photo, but with help fro the others to catch her kayak she managed to slide off and swim to safety downstream.

And it was farewell and off to the Coromandel, more time on the Northern explorer train, picking up a car in Auckland followed by a week of relaxation (with a bit of hiking, swimming and kayaking). Our home was a superb boutique motel in Whitianga. It was all very quiet as the season is coming to an end, and many are put off by the perilous state of the roads to get here. No complaints from us though, the beaches were divine and the walking lovely. A perfect finish to a great adventure.

See you next year, New Zealand. And thank you and see you next year to our wonderful friends. You are fabulous.



1 Comment

  1. Mark

    Great write up Julia. It was a fantastic trip wasn’t it and much more than I expected.


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