Thursday, November 15, 2007

On the river

We thought we'd go for a change of pace for this section. We were coming up to the Wanganui River and our options were walking down the road next to the river for three days, or canoeing the river for three days. The second option sounded much more exciting, and we decided it wasn't cheating because we were still using our own power.

We rented canoes from Yeti Tours in Ohakune and along the way picked up a fourth person for the journey. Kelly is a guide for Yeti Tours and hadn't done the lower section of the river yet. It was refreshing to have someone else along, conversation can get a little stale when we're all together 24/7.

The first day was great. We'd been warned that the section from Pipiriki to Wanganui was boring and had no rapids. Well, there weren't any rapids but there was decent current, good weather and the scenery was way better than expected - lots of big cliffs, steep hills and small canyons along the way. We cruised 40km and stayed in Downes Hut, a really cool and rarely used hut along the way, made even better by the fact it was painted magenta.

That night it rained, and rained, and rained. The next day, the 14th, was my birthday. I had visions of spending the day floating down the river, beer in hand, the sun on my face. It was not to be. We waited out the rain in the hut and left late morning when it finally stopped. The good news was that it didn't rain again. The bad news was that the wind started. Now, this wasn't your typical headwind. This was by the far the strongest wind I have ever experienced on a river. At one point Dennis and I were in the middle of the river, the wind blowing spray into the air, and we were trying to paddle to the side. It wasn't happening. We tried to go one way but the wind was too strong, we tried to go the other way and the wind was even stronger. Eventually we battled our way to the relative shelter of the side. This was way too much like hard work and we were threatened with capsize a few times.

It was a good birthday though. We weren't walking on the roads, Dennis had bought me some surprise presents in the morning including some very classy umbrella straws to put in our Tui cans, and we had an amazing dinner of burritos and chocolate brownies at camp that night - oh the joy of not having to carry it on your back.

We got started early on the last morning to avoid the wind. It worked well at first, we even had a tailwind for a while! We made the most of it, doing some of the cruising we were hoping for the day before and we came across the coolest swing ever. It was a 15m pole at a 30 degree angle out from the hill for maximum swing over the river edge. You could get some serious height. We started off swinging from the base, but kept uping the stakes, swinging from higher and higher points, eventually jumping from the top of a massive fallen tree - well I didn't go that far but Dennis and Lane did. It was perfectly placed for our mid morning snack. And a welcome break because our last 10km into Wanganui was similar to the day before - fighting the wind, using all our energy just to stop the canoe floating back upstream. But its all fun, and we made it, even if we are a little pink from the windburn.

Thanks Kelly for coming along, and thank you also to Gill and Jeff Brock, our hosts here in Wanganui. We'll happily help you move your El Pacas around anytime.

Time for bed, till next time,

Three of us in the canoes
Getting fancy with umbrella straws on Alice's birthday
Three of us and Kelly with our canoes
Dennis on the swing
Lane enjoying the swing

A day in the life, part 1

So we thought we'd start a new series for all our dedicated fans out there which gives a bit of a glimpse into our life on the trail.

The first of the series is camping, what we do when we get home from the 'office'.

Once we've decided we're done for the day and we've found a spot that looks reasonable flat the first item on the agenda is usually setting up the tents. Then we cook up something fabulous from our choice of three meals that we rotate (more on the cooking front on future posts - we've got to give you something to come back for after all).
Once thats disappeared, which doesn't take very long, and the dishes are cleaned we're faced with some exciting choices. Should the three of us cram into Alice and Dennis' tent to play cards? Should we get into our cosy sleeping bags and write in our journals? Maybe start a fire to sit around? And thats about it. At least now its light later so we can hang out outside the tents for longer without freezing to death.

Dennis is darning his socks wearing his stunning 'round camp' attire of long johns and boxers, and crocs and socks.
Lane is cooking up a delicious meal.
Alice is packing her pack while trying to not let her sleeping bag touch the sheep poo on the ground.
We're enjoying dinner with Ruapehu in the background.

The Mighty Crossing X3

Whakapapaiti Hut with Mt. Ruapehu (Dennis on roof)
Lane and Dennis on "Round the Mountain Track"
Alice and waterfall
Waterfall and Mt. Ruapehu
Silhouette of Alice on rock

ps - you can click on the pictures to make them larger.

The Mighty Crossing X2

Alice and Lane above Emerald Lakes
Alice and Dennis climbing Ngauruhoe
3 of us at Ngauruhoe Summit
View from Ngauruhoe Summit
Ngauruhoe at sunset