9pm in tent Mangapurua
We’ve met up again with our kiwi canoe party friends and been celebrating Chris’s birthday with a swim in the river and a very makeshift cake made with mierangs (I know this isn’t how you spell it!) and matches. Had a glass or two of wine to accompany my birthday dinner creation of frankfurter chilli with couscous. This was followed by kiwi fruit and Mary’s custard for dessert.
Been another great day on the river, awesome scenery all the way through. Getting tough on the shoulders but we’ve done well. Chris makes steering look easy (which it isn’t …..and no I’ve not had a go yet). Bit less distance today (30km) compared to yesterday (48km).
We met Neil (works for DOC and is friends with Gordy who gave me a lift to Taramanui), Mary who runs a lodge in Nat Park and is Neils partner, Quentin, who runs his own blinds business in Palmy North and used to be a water guide, Felisa who is Spanish but has lived in nz for 20 years and Christine who is Neils younger sister. Neil, Mary and Quentin do this trip every year with groups of friends. A few had dropped out so we were invited to share their meal of Mary’s delicious home cooked chicken curry when we rolled into Ohauora camp last night. They have the planning down to a tee and bring all the gear like full size stove, chilly bin with pre cooked meals, wine glasses, table cloths etc.
We got lots of advice on all sorts including “chicken run” option down the trickier rapids we’ll encounter tomorrow to best routes to cycle the south island. Really nice group and we were offered places to stay in Wellington, Palmy and National Park if we wanted to. Thought we’d said goodbye to them this morning as they weren’t going as far as us but they did so well that they made it to this site and helped make Chris’s birthday a more social occasion (even though we are still in bed before 9pm!). Been getting to know them a bit better tonight. Mary is from a Maori family of 11 kids. Sadly Neil and Christine’s mum died in an accident on the Ruapehu mountain when they were young . An avalanche caught her when the group she was in were snow caving. Their dad had to bring up the 5 children.
What can I say about the river? It is stunning, it is beautiful, it is long! It is a special place to feel a piece of wilderness which is accessible only by boat. It is unspoilt, it is wild and potentially dangerous (signs of heavy flooding are everywhere with dead trees lining the banks and in many places submerged in the river.)
We walked up the track which leads to the famous Bridge to Nowhere and learnt a bit more about the families who tried to tame this rugged terrain after they were allocated blocks when the servicemen returned from the first world war. After 20 years of slugging it out they finally had to abandon their farms as it was just too difficult and the bridge to nowhere despite being delivered to make it accessible never connected with any roads and it came too late as most settlers had already had to give up. It is hard to imagine how this ridiculously steep and rugged land (even by nz standards) could have been worked into farms.
We’ve now experienced a very real infestation, this time rats at the Ohauora camp last night. They were as bold as brass coming up to bags, tents, where we ate etc. One bit into Chris’s tent and dry bag to get some chocolate. We could hear them in the night and kept beating the walls of the tents to ward them off!
Chris has had a good 57th birthday. He even got a home made card from me with a few lines about what it means to have him as my brother. I Made him an English breakfast and of course the dinner. He is in his element guiding us through the rapids and keeping us in a good line. I just keep sticking my oar in for stroke after stroke. We caught up with a big group today and one had just lost a paddle and capsized in a whirlpool so just shows how you need to know what you are doing (or have a brother that knows at least).
2nd March 8.45pm Mangapurua camp near Nowhere (or at least the Bridge to Nowhere).