White Water Tourists in New Zealand!
We were in NZ for seven weeks and could have stayed there indefinitely. Easy living, friendly people, open spaces, endless river choice.
The guidebook is excellent and in it's second edition. If you ignore some rather confusing putin directions! You'll need no more help, but you will meet local paddlers at the rivers and they are a great source of info (and floorspace). There are also no end of other foreign kayak bums drifting around the country looking for paddlers to team up with.
Rivers We Paddled
* - 'Trip Highlight'. Do it!
Plenty of variety in NZ, but the rivers are mostly low volume and rain dependent....
Hurunui - Grade 3. A pleasant warmup to NZ paddling, we were joined by some friendly Christchurch locals.
Buller - Grade 3 and 4. We paddled no end of sections of this river numerous times, all mostly flat with occasional short rapids. Some good playspots. It's not exciting in low water, but the Earthquake section was a rollicking fast ride in full flood over New Year.
Playwave on the Buller, earthquake section.
Matakitaki - Grade 3. A Buller tributary, it's an enjoyable boulder garden river remarkably reminiscent of the UK's Upper Dart. In spate it was a splendid grade 4 'hole-dodging' experience. There is a scenic grade 2 gorge further upstream which our visitor Heather appreciated.
The scenic upper Matakitakitakitaki.
Maruia - Grade 1 (?). We paddled a mere twenty metres of this river...
Mark in zero gravity.
...grade 1 with a 36 foot drop in the middle. Good for the photo opportunity!
Karamea - Grade 2 (4, 5). We helicoptered into this remote Tropical river in the NW, accompanied by Alex Chong of San Diego. It was rather low but made for an impressive two day trip. Mostly flat on the first day (lakes, for heaven's sake!) but the second day was interesting; an epic rapid 'Roaring Lion' which was a mixture of paddling and portaging and a great big water gorge to finish. Sandflies were appalling on this trip.
Simon on the upper section.
Scenes from the endlessly gnarly 'Roaring Lion' rapid.
Rangitata - Grade 4+. Very enjoyable, a high volume (for NZ) short gorge which can just about be inspected and paddled on the hoof. Simon was so impressed by the scenery on the drive-in that he nearly went off the road.
Entrance rapid to the gorge.
*Shotover - Grade 4+. Oh yes! The road to it from Queenstown was epic but it was worth the hassle. There is an upper section of grade 3 which has great playspots. The lower section is fantastic, with superb playwave and then a surgey stoppery gorge. The river finishes by dropping you into a mine entrance, beat that!
Simon in 'Jaws' rapid.
Kawarau - Grade 3. Various playful sections, the Roaring Meg is excellent. We actually bottled out of the 'Grade 4' Citroen rapid, it looked rather hard and dangerous in high water.
Lumpy grade 3 rapid on the 'Dogleg' section.
Hollyford - Grade 2 (4). Mark ran this alone as Simon was very ill. A very wild and quiet valley near Milford Sound, there are harder sections upstream.
Matiri - Grade 4. We paddled this Buller tributary in spate, great fun...very like a UK river!
Glenroy - Grade 3 (4+, 5). We paddled this in high water. It increases steadily in difficulty towards the end. It was too high, the final rapid was somewhat dangerous and difficult to inspect or portage.
Waikato - Grade 2. This river has Fulljames wave on it, a superb playspot which we camped out at for a few days with friends. It also has the epic Huka Falls, which was always too high to run when we were there. Except for the one evening Mark found it in low water and had left his kit elsewhere...doh!
*Kaituna - Grade 3 (4+). Oh yes it's lovely. Warm water, lovely gorge, fantastic waterfall to boof and the easiest cartwheel hole in the world. We spent days here throwing ends. There is also 'Awesome Gorge' downstream which is...awesome. Don't miss the tiny takeout for this gorge, or you enter 'Gnarly Gorge'!
Mark cartwheeling on the Kaituna bottom hole.
*Wairoa - Grade 4+. A superb dam release creek which has some brilliant drops to get worked in. We were there a few times as it released weekly.
*Rangitikei - Grade 4+. A rather gnarly rock garden gorge which we ran several times watching raft customers getting hospitalised! The 'River Valley Resort' at the takeout is a recommended place to stay for a good bar and stunning scenery...in the bar.
Rangitaiki - Grade 3 (4). A pleasant and scenic paddle hidden away in the middle of a vast unsignposted forestry reserve. We also messed around running Aniwhenua Falls a thousand and one times.
Ohinepunga - Grade 2+ (4) A tiny creek running off Ngauruhoe Volcano. No breakouts, no stopping, no inspection, tree ducks...and several small waterfalls to run! Highly recommended as a rather unusual and oddly hair-raising paddle. Flows directly into the...
Waihohonu - Grade 3 with a portage. A steep little creek which is spoilt somewhat by a lousy portage around a nasty little gorge in the middle. Even so, quite an adventure.
We bought a car for 800 dollars (250 quid-ish) which became home for the next couple of months. Easy to get hold of (from a hostel advert board in Christchurch) and easy to dispose of...we had buyers queuing up and hardly lost any money on it. Petrol is dirt cheap. We used helicopters on one occasion, not cheap but highly recommended!
Flying Business class to the Karamea.
Accommodation and Food
Easy, we camped from the car. Sites were usually good and cheap enough to stop us going wild. We usually cooked our own food but there is no shortage of cheap crappy fast food.
Campsite at Murchison.
We budgetted on 30 quid a day, nearly 100 NZ dollars. This allowed us to live in some comfort, buy a car, drive 10000 miles, use helicopters, conduct a marriage (Mark's) and eat the odd steak. You could certainly go much cheaper.
We loved New Zealand and the Kiwis were splendid people. Living from the car was relaxed and we met some great folks doing the same thing. However, we certainly didn't get the best of the paddling; we planned on running several hard west coast heli-runs but actually did none. This was because water levels were huge when we passed through at New Year and because Simon was unfortunately very ill for nearly two weeks before this. We'll certainly be going back to make up for this!