Category Archives: Kayaking

3rd May 2020: Avon River

Date:    3/05/2020
Avon River, Christchurch, NZ
River Conditions:   
1.565 cumecs at Gloucester Street bridge. Water mostly clear. Grade 1.
Weather Conditions:   
Warm and sunny.
Number on Trip:    
1 person.
Time on River:  
1 hour.
Comments:  Last week we moved from Covid-19 Level 4 to Level 3 and this meant that local kayaking was back on the table. While the Ashley was deemed to far away and the Hurunui was running at over 100 cumecs, I could still walk across the road with my kayak on my shoulder and put in on the Avon for a nice paddle down through the Red Zone. I got changed in to my paddling gear and headed out the front door with my kayak. I was surprised how warm it was, a nor-wester had been blowing but the winds dropped in the mid-afternoon, so I probably didn’t need two layers of thermals, as well as my paddle jacket.

I crossed the community garden area and got down to my usual put in spot, the tide must have been in as the river level was quite high. Across the river, a family group with an inflatable kayak and several sit on tops were taking out at the boat ramp. Once I finally pried my spray deck on, I slid off the bank and into the river and paddled strongly downstream. I was a beautiful day and it was a real pleasure to be out and on the river again. Heading down the river, I passed a couple in sea kayaks heading upstream. There were also plenty of walkers and cyclists out enjoying the sunshine, making use of the tracks along side the Avon as it winds through the Red Zone.

When I reached the Dudley Creek confluence, I was still feeling happy and enjoying being on the river, so I decided to carry on to the Gayhurst Road bridge. This is my usual ride to “work” on my mountain bike, while I have been working from home during the Covid-19 lock down, and has been my main source of exercise during this period. There and back is just over 5km and provides an enjoyable outing with great scenery and little or no traffic other than walkers, dogs & cyclists.

Heading downstream through the Red Zone.

As I neared the Gayhurst Road bridge, there was a lot of splashing as two boys were enjoying the beautiful day, playing about on their stand up paddleboard, jumping into the water and have a great time. They were keen for me to demonstrate a 360 or a roll, but there was definitely no way I was going to put my head under the less than pristine waters of the Avon, despite the offered cash incentives. I told them they were pretty keen to be swimming in the Avon, but they seemed quite happy and it was good to see young people getting out and enjoying the river. After paddling under the bridge, I turned and headed for home.

Dramatic skies reflected on the mirrored surface near the Dudley Creek confluence.

I love having the Avon River and the Red Zone virtually on our door step, and it is great to have such easy access to the river. Before the quakes and the Red Zoning of the area across the road, getting down to the river involved a much more circuitous route and the northern banks were much steeper, making launching a kayak more difficult. As I was nearing the home stretch, I passed the couple in the sea kayaks heading back downstream. Apparently they also live close to the river and are able to take full advantage of the proximity.

The Blitz on the glassy waters of the Avon, the Port Hills in the distance.

I was back at the get in just after 4pm, but decided I should probably continue up to the Swanns Road bridge to see if Greta the Paradise Shelduck was about.

Autumn colors were very visible in the Red Zone we get closer to winter.

There was no sign of Greta, but I did hear her distinctive call from the green space across the road, as she loudly announced the passing of a large dog. The autumn colours were looking stunning, and I enjoyed their reflections in the water. The sun was still warm but it was getting later than I planned, so I turned and paddled back to my get in spot. I reversed up on to the bank and lifted myself out of my kayak before raising it to my shoulder and walking home for a well deserved shower and some afternoon tea.

8th March 2020: Crooked River

Date: 8/03/20
River: Crooked River, West Coast, NZ
River Conditions: Medium flow. Grade 2+, water clear and cold.
Weather Conditions: Overcast with occasional light drizzle build to heavy rain at take out. Cool.
Number on Trip: 18
Time on River: 3 hours.
Comments: I’d been looking forward to running this section of the Crooked River again for some time. I remembered it as being intensely beautiful, with lush native bush and crystal clear, blue water cascading over river sculptured rocks and boulders, but couldn’t remember specific details. I was a little worried about the access track, which I remembered as being a bit rough, and how the low slung Impreza would handle it, especially with the forecast heavy rain.

After running the Arnold, we stopped off at the new café / petrol station in Moana for a coffee or some food. I had a tasty steak pie to warm me up and keep me fuelled up for the afternoon paddle. We then drove to the take out, where Bell Hill Road crosses the Crooked as it flows out of the hills. From the bridge, I looked down into the blue water I remembered, spotting a large trout swimming in the depths. We consolidated vehicles and boats, to reduce the number of vehicles needing to be shuttled, Graeme and Hugh didn’t plan to paddle this section and would shuttle the vehicles, while we paddled, before heading back to Christchurch. This was really appreciated as heavy rain was scheduled for later in the afternoon and it was already spitting.

Once everyone and all their gear had been crammed in, we headed back down the road for about a kilometre and through the gate to access the Rotomanu-Kopara Road, an official paper road behind a locked gate, fortunately Sylvie had picked up the key from the farmer and paid the $20 access fee. The track wasn’t too bad, as long as you drove carefully and kept the speed down, so the Impreza would have been fine, though with the planned shuttle, I didn’t need to put this to the test.

There were a few vehicles already at the put in, but we didn’t see any other paddlers. In a nice surprise, we bumped into Barry Boyd, who had been doing a spot of trout fishing. It was good to catch up with a former stalwart of the WWCC and see that he is still enjoying our rivers, even if he is no longer paddling.

We got our gear sorted out. I checked out the top rapid (grade 3 or 4) and decided it wasn’t worth the risk. I also paid my respects at the memorial to Eleanor Rutter, a young British kayaker who drowned in 2004 on the grade 5, upper section of the Crooked, a reminder of the potential risk present on any whitewater trip.

The optional grade 3 or 4 rapid at the start of the lower Crooked run.

Once on the river, the difference is water temperature was very noticeable and the Crooked felt very chilled compared with the much warmer, lake fed Arnold River and I felt quite glad that I’d put on my polar fleece over my damp thermals.

Heidi demonstrates how it is done to some of the newer paddlers.

Heidi took many of the newer paddlers under her wing, coaching and guiding them down the river. We formed the second group and let the others get a good head start, before we set off.

Enjoying one of the rapids on the Crooked.

The Crooked was the highlight of the weekend, with great scenery and the more challenging whitewater, with a number of rapids that were grade 2+. Most being relatively straightforward boulder rapids, but some of the trickier ones required some skill at working through the rocks.

Some nice rapids on the Crooked.

It was great to be back to this river, it was always a personal favourite and it didn’t disappoint. I didn’t remember much from previous trips, but the river was full of magical wonder and beautiful scenery. A real West Coast run at a relatively easy grade, but still offering plenty of fun and challenges.

Heidi surfing at a play spot.

There were plenty of nice play spots, and it was a real pleasure to glide across the crystal clear water.

Sergi making a splash in his play boat.

It was great to see Sergi make his way down the river, he is a very good paddler and is able to make his little playboat dance and surf down rapids.

Making the moves.

There were plenty of eddies to catch and boulders to duck behind, and it was good to see people taking advantage of these, rather than just bombing down rapids. This is where new skills are learned and honed.

Carving it up.

It was great to see everyone challenge themselves and try new things. Within our group there were few dramas, though apparently some in the other group, having spent their energies elsewhere, didn’t fare so well.

Running one of the harder rapids while the newer paddlers watch and learn.

Coming up on a new rapid, I spotted members of the first group standing on the river bank and members of our group pulling over to the side. I slowed down and began boat scouting down the rapid, working down the river eddy to eddy, while the rest of the party watched from the river bank. The rapid was a larger boulder garden, with slightly more complex lines that, that weren’t so easy to pick and required moves to be made at the right times. I pulled into an eddy near the bottom of the rapid to act as safety and take photos of those running the rapid, though many of the newer paddlers chose to portage. There were some bumpy rides, but no dramas.

Getting some air!

Some rides were bumpier than others, with not quite so much water covering this particular rock, this particular aerial attempt didn’t have quite the intended result.

“Um, still getting some air, but I seem to be stuck”

The sudden realization that all forward momentum had evaporated, and you’re stuck, perched on a rock with your kayaks nose high in the air.


Fortunately by a little wriggling, rocking back and forth, holding your tongue in just the right way, the nose drops into the white water and you are free at last.

Blue water, green bush and some brightly coloured plastic in the middle.

About two thirds of the way down is a flat section, where the river passes through a narrow gorge of water carved rocks. The water was deep and blue, and the occasional eel could be spotted. The smoothly sculptured rocks were covered in an emerald green moss, ferns and native bush, making it into quite a magical location, only accessible to kayakers.

The blue waters, the green moss & forest, the water sculpted rocks make this a very magical spot.

Everyone posed for photos, as I watched the battery icon flashed red. I was trying to capture one last photo of this special place when the battery finally gave out. Fortunately there weren’t too many more photo opportunities so I focused on enjoying the river and surfing where I could.

The hills retreated, the end neared and as we paddled under the bridge the rain came down and became increasingly heavy as we got changed and loaded up vehicles. I kept my wet top on while I packed up and loaded the car so my dry clothes didn’t get soaked. It was nice to be warm and dry, as I drove off and headed for home. The bush and the mountains looked magical, wreathed in clouds and the pouring rain was the dust from my car. I crawled over the pass behind a very slow truck and then on down to Arthur’s Pass, where we stopped for dinner at the Wobbly Kea. Everyone else had ordered when I arrived and another big group ordered before I did, so I was surprised when “my” nachos arrived so promptly. Turned out Heidi had also ordered nachos and I felt very guilty when she had to wait, while everyone else ate their meals.

After dinner, continued the homeward drive, the rain cleared up as I moved out of the mountains, the sky darken as the sunset and the moon shone large through the clouds. I stopped briefly in Darfield to rest as I was starting to feel pretty fatigued. I was glad when I rolled in to Christchurch and finally made it home, to unload the car and wash a mountain of damp kayaking gear, before finally getting to bed.

8th March 2020: Arnold River

Date: 8/03/20
River: Arnold River, West Coast, NZ
River Conditions: 68.3 cumecs at Moana, water clear. Grade 2, water clear and dark.
Weather Conditions: Overcast with occasional light drizzle.
Number on Trip: 20
Time on River: 2 hours.
Comments: It was hard to pull myself away from lying in bed reading, but eventually I managed to get dressed, packed up before wandering down to the kitchen to make my breakfast of muesli, fruit and coffee. It was a little after eight (our agreed meeting time) when I made it outside and Graeme’s briefing was already in progress. He got me to assist Heidi leading one of the groups on the river, which would only be a minor extension on my normal keeping an eye on things. I finished loading the vehicle and has last to head out. I stopped at the Challenge Service Station to fill up, as I’d rather not get caught short in the middle of nowhere (pretty easy in rural New Zealand). The price for 91 was a stunning $2.41 making it some of the more expensive petrol around. Still it’s better to be safe, that to be sorry.

The drive from Reefton to the Arnold Valley, passed through a number of small, rustic West Coast towns, with the single lane bridge over the Ahaura River being particularly rustic, though it does look like there is a replacement bridge under construction. Turning up Arnold Valley Road at Stillwater, I drove up the valley until I spotted the rest of the group lined up along the roadside and pulled in behind them. Graeme wandered down the line of vehicles and stopped at mine to get me to lead part of the group down to the put in, while he waited for the rest of the vehicles to arrive. I hadn’t realised that we were parked just before the turn off and so drove off, looking for the turn off to the dam. Fortunately Graeme phone up before I’d gone too far and I turned around and drove back to the turn off down Stratford Road, the sign for the Arnold Dam Walkway being much more obvious from the opposite direction.

Team briefings at the Arnold River power station.

At the put, we met up with Sylvie who had managed to get hold of the key for the Crooked River access track, so Graeme was able to breathe a sigh of relief as he had been having difficulty getting hold of the farmer. We got changed and then ran the shuttle, with just a few spots of rain appearing on the windscreen. We split into our two groups with just a few changes, as I would be assisting Heidi, who was leading our group.

The first group heads off down the Arnold.

I’d forgotten how big the Arnold was, as I remembered it as being relatively small, but possibly that was due to lower flows on previous runs. When we got to the point where the outflow from the power station joined the main flow, I was surprised as there was very little water coming down that channel and so crossing the convergence was scarcely noticeable, when on previous trips, this was a source of drama for newer paddlers.

Have you seen my latest post?

Most of the rapids were formed by in stream boulders or were long, bouncy wave trains. Plenty of fun was had bouncing down these or surfing the waves behind rocks, but you had to be quick to catch them, because if you weren’t, the current swept you off down stream.

Hugh enjoys the beauty of the West Coast bush.

There were also quite spots where you could enjoy the scenery, the right bank is covered in native bush that gradually gives way to farmland, whereas the left bank is predominantly just farmland.

Heidi runs one of the bigger rapids on the Arnold.

Some of the bigger rapids provided some challenges for the less experienced paddlers, but there was plenty of experience on hand, with Heidi in particular, giving advice, guidance and showing the best lines. I advised people not to follow me, as my lines tend to be more interesting (either for maximum fun or finding a good position for photo / rescue) and aren’t necessarily beginner friendly.

Eventually the river calms down and farmland dominates the river banks, the bridge at the get out comes in to view. At this point we looked for a suitable spot to extract ourselves on the right bank and then walked up to the cars, got changed and then loaded up for the next part of the adventure, the Crooked River.

7th March 2020: Upper Grey River

Date: 7/03/20
Upper Grey River, West Coast, NZ
River Conditions: 
Low flow, 143.6 cumecs at Dobson, water clear and cold. Grade 2.
Weather Conditions: 
Cool but sunny with the odd cloud.
Number on Trip: 
19 people.
Time on River: 
1.25 hours.
The drive through the Lewis Pass was a real pleasure, the mountains, jagged against the sky, the forests, green and tall, the road winding through the tunnel of trees. We are lucky to live in such a beautiful country and have such easy access to such wonderful, unspoiled nature, hopefully we can hold on to this despite the numerous threats to the environment, that we often take for granted.

Arriving at the meeting point, the first thing I noticed was the giant ice cream cones almost everyone seemed to be eating. I pulled up and ordered a double of gold rush on top with rum and raisin on the bottom, it was positively huge and acted as fuel for the next trip. We discussed the next adventure as we finished our ice creams, before heading out of Springs Junction and turning off down Palmer Road to run the Upper Grey.

Driving through native forest interspersed with farm land, we crossed the Upper Grey, the Brown Grey before reach our destination where Palmer Road crosses the Blue Grey. We washed down our gear with disinfectant to kill off any didymo that may have hitched a ride across the main divided, before getting our wet, and now lavender scented in some cases, kayaking gear on. Graeme chose not to paddle as he had a bit of a headache and planned to meet us at the get out with his vehicle.

Hugh leads the group away from the Palmer Road bridge over the Blue Grey River.

We divided into our two groups again to make things manageable on the river, before bouncing down the somewhat bony Blue Grey, on down to the confluence with the Upper Grey. Hugh in his pack raft kept racing ahead, while the rest of the group dawdled behind. I kept up with Hugh, to slow him down and to make sure he wasn’t on his own. He was worried that if we didn’t keep a reasonable pace on, any serious issue could mean being stuck on the river as the sunset. I passed this on to the rest of the group and we picked up the pace.

Hugh contemplates the beautiful scenery from his pack raft, whilst waiting for the rest of the group to catch up.

Once we reached the confluence with the Upper Grey, the volume increased and the river moved from flowing through farm land and into the shadowy green of the native bush.

Thick native bush lines the river banks, as crystal clear water flows over river smoothed rocks.

As we moved further down the river, the rapids became more interesting and we tried to keep more together as a group.

Making a splash on the Upper Grey.

There were some great play spots but with us not being sure how far it was to the take out and darkness not being too far away, Hugh urged us to keep the pace up.

A nice play spot on the Upper Grey.

I was paddling near the front of the group with Hugh, when we spotted a large tree fallen in the river. Hugh bounced down the rapid and off the tree with no drama, I “stopped” on a rock at the top of the rapid and took the opportunity to take a few photos while I was stuck, and to signal to the others in the group to go left. I had intended them to just go the left of me and avoid the tree, but the rest of the group ended up going down a small, bony channel against the left back. Once everyone was past, I wriggled myself off the rock and ran the rapid, avoiding the hazard.

Most of the group avoided this hazard by taking the left channel, after we’d examined it closely.

Hugh was somewhat surprised to see a figure, who turned out to be Graeme, standing beside the river, as he was expecting that we were going to get out about 3 or 4km further down the river. Still we were quite pleased to see him, as it had been a fairly long day and fatigue was begin to set in. We scrambled up the bank and got changed, then Graeme drove us back up to the put in to pick up the vehicles. We drove back to pick up our gear, returning in time to welcome the second group. We loaded up and ferried their drivers back to the put in, before heading off to Reefton.

Graeme waits patiently at the take out for the rest of the group to arrive

The drive to Reefton was uneventful and we checked into the Old Nurses Home Guesthouse around twenty past seven, with not much time before our dinner booking at the Dawson Hotel at eight. I dropped my bags off and phoned Lauri, before wandering down to the Dawson for dinner. There was a bit of a wait to be seated as they were pretty busy, with a number of events happening in the area, and a further wait to order. I was keen to have the pork belly, but that had been pretty popular and had run out. I settled on a T bone steak with Argentinian chimichurri sauce, which was quite delicious. We were helped to survive the wait by a young man who was having his 13th birthday party in the restaurant, sharing his cake with our group. We didn’t get back to the guesthouse until after ten, and then it was time for a shower before collapsing into bed.

7th March 2020: Hope River

Date: 7/03/20
River: Hope River, North Canterbury, NZ
River Conditions: Hope stage 0.267m at Glynn Wye, Waiau 34 cumecs at Marble Point. Grade 2, cold and clear.
Weather Conditions: Sunny and warm, with strong nor-easterly winds
Number on Trip: 20
Time on River: 2.5 hours from the Hope Bridge to Waiau Confluence.
Comments: Graeme’s Mild West Coast Trip has long been a favourite of mine, so when I noticed it in the WWCC trip list, I checked my schedule and applied for a leave pass from Lauri. She approved and I booked the accommodation at the Old Nurses Home Guesthouse. I then spent the next few weeks worrying about going away, transport and generally logistics! Just for a single night away! Eventually the weekend rolled around, I had decided just to take my own car, rather than car pool and leave the Impreza overnight at the Belfast Tavern. I loaded up the vehicle, revelling in the ability to take as much as much as I liked, without having to worry about cramming it in to another vehicle.

Saturday morning dawned and by the time I had finished breakfast I was running sort on time. I made it to the Belfast shortly after 8am and signed to the trip register. With no need to swap vehicles or load gear, I was able to get away easily once the plans were sorted. We arranged to stop in Culverden for food, before heading to the Hope take out to consolidate vehicles to make the shuttle after the run easier.

When I hit the motorway and got up to speed, the cockpit cover popped off and began flapping around, meaning I had to slow down and then take the first exit I came to, which turned out to be Tram Road. After I unclipped the cockpit cover and stowed it in the car, I had to make a bit of a detour through Kaiapoi before getting back on the motorway. It was a pleasant drive to Culverden, where we regrouped and had a bite to eat. Graeme’s pie looked tasty, so I treated myself to an early lunch (around 9:20am) to keep me fuelled up for the river, as you never know when there’ll be another suitable stop.

We stopped on the roadside near the Waiau confluence, where we planned to get out, and got changed in to our paddling gear and we left mine and Thomas’s cars at the get out with the dry gear and transferred our gear to other cars for the trip up to the put in. At the put in we split in to two groups, with our group going first so we could unlock the vehicles when we got there.

Preparing to set off from the State Highway 7 bridge.

It was a beautiful day when we put on the river and the water was crystal clear, we’d split in to two groups to keep numbers manageable on the river. I was in the first group so there would be no waiting around for me to arrive to allow access to dry gear. I couldn’t remember much about the river from previous trips, except that we’d pass through two small gorges.

Playing on the first rapid on this section of the Hope River.

Paddling passed the spectacular bluffs that are visible from road, was pretty cool and there were a number of small, boulder garden type rapids and it was fun to play around, running the rapids backwards, dropping in behind the rocks and surfing the various features.

Whitewater fun on a sunny day in North Canterbury.

While not difficult, the rapids were bigger than I expected and certainly provided the opportunity for some fun.

Hugh contemplates the wreak of a Holden Torana that has been here for many years.

The first gorge featured the wreck of a much battered Holden Torana, that has been in the gorge for many years. Hugh joked that it was from New Zealand’s version of “Thelma & Louise” and the gorge should be named after the movie.

Hugh wonders if Indiana Jones managed to get across before the bridge collapsed.

Further down was the remains of a wire footbridge that crossed the river at some stage. It looked like something that belonged in an Indiana Jones movie, I only hope he made it across before it collapsed. Apparently these old, abandoned bridges pose a real hazard to low flying helicopters.

Hugh enjoying the sun and whitewater in his pack raft. Still going strong at 77.

We had a good paddle on a beautiful day and it was a good warm up for the rest of weekend, with the paddling difficulty increasing as the weekend continued. No one seemed to have any difficulty and there were no dramas.

As we neared the confluence with the Waiau, the right bank was scanned to spot the track that led back to where we left the shuttle vehicles. Thomas spotted it and we climbed out, shouldered our boats and walked back to the road. Once I got changed and loaded up my gear, I drove some other the other drivers back to the put in so they could collect their vehicles and then go back and pick up the rest of the group. I rested in the sun and chatted with Fiona before Graeme turned up and said we’d be meeting up in Springs Junction before heading out to run the Upper Grey.

23rd February 2020: Avon River

Date:    23/02/2020
Avon River, Christchurch, NZ
River Conditions:   
1.59 cumecs at Gloucester Street bridge. Water mostly clear. Grade 1.
Weather Conditions:   
Warm, sunny & strengthening easterly winds.
Number on Trip:    
1 person.
Time on River:  
1 hour.
Comments:  I’d wanted to get a paddle in over the weekend but no real opportunities came up, so when we completed our game of disc golf in the Red Zone on a beautiful Sunday afternoon, I decided to take the kayak to the Antigua Boatshed and then paddle home. I quickly got ready, tossed my gear in the car, put the Blitz on the roof rack and hit the road in order to make sure I still had time to cook dinner when I got home. Drove down to the boat shed and found a park nearby and put some money in the meter to see me through until 6pm. Pulled on my paddle jacket and spray skirt, picked up the boat and paddle and wandered down to the river.

Punting on the Avon from the Antigua Boat Sheds.

As I stood on the jetty, I watched a eel swim lazily over to check out if there was any food on offer, the punt operators were packing up, as the last tour of the day floated up and off loaded its cargo of tourists. I took a few photos and squeezed in to the Blitz and struggled to get the deck on. I launched off the jetty and floated down the first set of riffles that marked the site of the old weir, where I had first surfed in the Blitz.

The Earthquake Memorial Wall with fresh wreaths from the previous day. The building in the background is currently for sale “As is, where is”.

I paddled on into town, passed the earthquake memorial with its fresh wreaths from the February 22nd quake anniversary, a sad reminder of events now nine years distant. Under the Bridge of Remembrance and passed The Terrace with its busy bars, restaurants and cafes. Down more riffles, the bottom of the kayak occasionally scraping on the shallow river bed, low after a dry summer.

The Bridge of Remembrance, with the new “The Terrace” hospitality area in the background.

Viewing the city from the river provides a different insight in to city life, it is a peaceful and detached transition, a quite passing through the busy, bustle or a float through the city’s quiet places where eels swim and water fowl gather.

The Robert Falcon Scot Memorial, re-purposed as a statue of the Wizard of Christchurch I think.

There is a lot of work still happening along the river banks as the city moves towards its final, post-quake form. I paddled passed the new convention centre, with its mosaicked skin partially covering its still visible steel skeleton.

Sir Antony Gormley’s sculpture “Stay”, with the new convention centre under construction in the background.

On through Victoria Park and passed the repaired Town Hall and its signature fountains. New building have sprung up but many sections are still in quiet holding patterns, as sites wait for repairs or new development.

Canada geese are a common feature of the Avon, this flock giving this central city scene, a very rural feel.

Down through the Poplars and passed the Margret Mahy playground, on passed the twisted steel of the firefighters memorial, passed the grassy bank where our cat Agnesi is buried, on passed the pool where we used to launch our kayaks when we lived on Peterborough Street. The Avon Loop section is a peaceful oasis in the Four Avenues, as the river winds passed the Barbadoes Street cemetery, where many early settlers of Christchurch, rest. The opposite bank used to be home a suburb full of lovely only cottages, all now gone when the area was Red Zoned after the quakes. Currently this area is being landscaped, with new paths being added and even a new boat launching spot to replace the old jetty, twisted and broken in the big February quake. We’ll be interested in exploring this development as this was an area we used walk around regularly when we lived across the river.

With scenes like this, you’d almost forget you are in the central city of the South Island’s largest city.

Passing Pomeroy’s, home beckoned and I paddled strongly, chasing ducks and geese from my path. As I neared the Swanns Road bridge, I spotted a single female Shelduck sitting on the bank, I said “hi” as it might have been Greta, who had recently returned to the neighbourhood (but fortunately not to our home), but she didn’t really respond so it may not have been her. The evening sun made everything look so beautiful and it was a privilege to be on the river. I chose to clamber out on the bank instead of using the jetty on the other side of the river, making for a quicker walk across the Red Zone to our front door.

I put the boat and gear away, got changed in to my cycling gear, put the rice cooker on and thawed out some stir fry beef, so dinner would be partially ready when I returned with the car. The ride back to the car loosely followed the river, riding through the Red Zone to Fitzgerald Avenue and then cutting down Chester Street to cut off the Avon Loop and re-joining the river at the Poplars. Riding through the cities new shared spaces was interesting, as there don’t seem to be rules or obvious cycle ways, and tourists seem to wander around randomly, looking at the sights, while being completely obvious to anything else going on around them. Still it was good to see some of the new developments from a cyclists perspective and to actually get at least one ride in for the Aotearoa Bike Challenge, that is running over February. It took about 15 minutes to get back to the car, somewhat quicker the one hour in the kayak. After putting the bike on the rack, I went down to the river for another look, spotted a smaller eel and then back to the car and home directly though the city centre. Put the bike away and managed to get dinner on the table shortly after 7:30, feeling somewhat tired but happy.

6th February 2020: Avon River (Ōtākaro)

Date:    6/02/2020
Avon River, Christchurch, NZ
River Conditions:   
1.492 cumecs at Gloucester Street bridge. Water mostly clear. Grade 1.
Weather Conditions:   
Warm, sunny, a few clouds & strengthening SW winds.
Number on Trip:    
2 people.
Time on River:  
1.3 hours.
Comments:  Lauri’s new spray deck had arrived earlier in the week and going for a paddle on Waitangi Day seemed like a good idea. The morning weather had been still and perfect, but when we made our way down to the river after lunch, the wind had begun to pick up and the predicted weather change was on it’s way.

Paddling downstream into the wind, the poplar tree in the distance gives some indication of the strength.

There wasn’t much current, though we did have a head wind for the early part, but this didn’t slow Lauri down and when ever I stopped to take a photo, I had to work hard to catch up with her faster boat. We quickly reached the point where Dudley Creek flows into the Avon and I asked Lauri how much further she wanted to go and she was keen to carry on down to the dairy by the Gayhurst Bridge, about a little over 2km down stream from our put in.

It was a beautiful day to be on the river and Lauri really appreciated her comfortable new Rasdex spray deck with its convenient gear pocket for her camera and snacks (duck food). We are really lucky to live so close to such an amazing recreational resource as the the Red Zone and it is wonderful to be able to walk down to the river and be in a semi rural paradise within 5 minutes of leaving our door. It is quite special to be sitting in a kayak on a beautiful river, surrounded by green parkland and trees, with views out to the Port Hills in the distance.

Clouds forming overhead herald a change in the weather.

On the way down to the bridge, an almost fully grown, lone signet decided we were chasing it, despite giving it a wide berth, so it was a relief when we got past it and it eventually turn to semi-fly back upstream to it’s parents. Eventually we reached the Gayhurst Bridge, performed a few slalom moves around the pillars before heading back up stream, while dramatic clouds formed in the west.

On the way back we had to paddle hard to get past the signet again, despite us hugging the bank and trying to be inconspicuous. I also had an interesting experience as a scaup zig zagged in front of me in a sort of flying, skimming way. Every time I changed direction, it would change direction to cut me off, staying a couple of metres in front of me. This carried on for over 100m, I think the scaup was trying to lure me away from a nest or chicks or something, eventually it broke off the reverse “chase” and headed back down stream.

It is always nice to see others exploring and enjoying the river as it flow through the Red Zone.

We passed a few other river users enjoying the sun and exploring the river (complete with pith helmet), plus the odd race boater out training. Lauri was somewhat surprised to find we had been out on the river for over an hour and was just a little tired when we made it back to the boat ramp near the Swans Road Bridge. We loaded Lauri’s boat on her trolley and then trundled off home before the sky grew dark and it rained.

12th January 2020: Hurunui River

Date:   12/01/20
River:    Hurunui River, North Canterbury, NZ
River Conditions:  25 rising to 36 Cumecs at Mandamus. Grade 2 – 3, water swift & clear.
Weather Conditions: Warm, overcast, occasional rain, sunny patches with increasingly strong nor-westerly winds.
Number on Trip:  19 kayakers (9 doing Maori Gully), plus 2 stand up paddle boarders.
Time on River: 
5 hours
Comments:  There was some concerns about the weather up in the hills with strong winds and the potential for rain about the main divide, still Sunday morning dawned to a warm but overcast day and so around 20 paddlers found themselves heading up to the Hurunui. There seemed to be a bit of wind and as we approached the hills, spots of rain appeared on the windscreen. It was raining lightly as we got out to inspect Devil’s Fang Falls, there was a scramble for jackets removed due to the heat in town, lines were discussed and then we all scrambled back into the vehicles for the drive up to Jollie Brook.

Devil’s Fang Falls. The general line is towards the bottom of the photo.

At Joliie Brook, we changed in to our paddling gear and divided up into three groups to ensure that there was plenty of support for the many beginners on the trip. While the shuttle was being run, we all had a good warm up around the put in below the swing bridge. Looking around at all the new kayakers, I suddenly realised that many of the old club stalwarts had disappeared over the years and I was now one of the “older” club members. Seeing all the young faces on the river, it occurred to me that I might actually be the oldest member on the trip. When AJ go back, I paddled over to check his age and it turned out he is about 3 or 4 years older than me, whew. It is quite impressive that he only took up white water kayaking a year or two ago, and is now quite a good paddler and his enthusiasm and keenness to organise trips is a real asset to the club.

Anna on one of the Jollie Brook section rapids.

Our group of six headed off first and we had a fun time working our way down through the boulder gardens. The Jollie Brook section has some nice gorges, rapids and boulder gardens that makes for an interesting paddle. This is one of my favourite parts of the river as there is so much to do, eddies to catch and waves to surf. This meant I often had to work to catch up after working my way down rapids backwards, jumping from hole to hole or boulder to boulder. I had a little spill on one hole, when I dropped in and promptly flipped. After a bit of set up and a slightly botched first attempt, I was upright and avoided an embarrassing swim. Annoyingly I noticed that I was having issues with droplets forming on the centre of my camera lense and not being able to easily get rid of them, hence some of my photos have visible water spots, the light rain didn’t help much either.

Our group floating down one of the flatter sections.

We had a number of brief plays as we made our way down to the confluence with the South Branch, from here the river opens up with more flatter sections between rapids. As we approached Devil’s Fang Falls, we discussed the options and half of the group decided to take the left hand channel and portage to below the rapid. Having looked at the falls on the drive up, I’d already picked my line and pushed through the hole at the top, down the tongue and avoided the fang, before cutting into the eddy at the bottom to get photos of the others as they came down. All good.

AJ gets some air off the Devil’s Fang.

AJ followed me down, taking a similar line in his Axiom, however his boat decided to try and launch itself in to space using the Devil’s Fang as a launch ramp. A pretty spectacular move and I was glad I managed to capture the whole sequence, including the successful splash down. AJ was happy as he pulled into the eddy behind me, a successful run down the falls always boosts the confidence.

Anna pulls a move at the top of Devil’s Fang Falls.

Anna came down next in her much shorter play boat, though things didn’t go quite so well. The tail of her Rad caught in the hole at the top of the falls, pushing the nose of her kayak high up into the air. From here, things got a little messy and the boat ended up going down the tongue upside down. Missing the fang and rolling upright at the bottom of the rapid, with no damage done was a relief, as there are plenty of rocks to hit and some potential for injury in running this rapid in this particular orientation. Still things were all good and we paddled down to the Dozy Stream put in and waited for the others to get back on the river.

The top part of the rapid below the Dozy Stream put in.

We had a brief play on the wave just down from the Dozy Stream put in, it seemed a little bit more vigorous than I would have expected at 25 cumecs and so I was happy to take a few pictures and do a few cuts back and forth across the fast moving face of the wave, taking care not to get swept down to the bluff. Hit the face right, would send you shooting across to the other side of the river, getting it wrong, well that would be a different story, generally one involving being upside down and hoping you managed to roll before being pushed against the bluff at the bottom of the rapid and I’ve seen better kayakers than me come to grief here.

We carried on downstream, past the old “Eddy of Doom”, now blocked off and filled in, by passed by an easy riffle rapid. On down the flat section, against the steep cliffs, where there used to be a popular “whoopee” spot, long since gone. Looking back, we noticed that AJ, who was trailing well behind, was out of his boat and swimming. As we couldn’t paddle back up stream, we had to wait until he floated down to us in order to push him to the side and get him back in his boat. Turned out he had been playing about, ended up tipping and being push against the cliff, making a roll difficult. This stressed the point to always keep an eye on all the members of your group, no matter what their skill level is, and make sure no one is left behind. Also worth remembering too, if you want to try something tricky or new, make sure someone else is watching or at least aware of what you are up to.

No further dramas and we made it down to Seawards, where we got to stretch our legs and those not doing Maori Gully got out. We had a bit of wait for the other two groups, as they were well behind us. When they arrived, there was some excitement as some of the newer kayakers missed the get out, while others decided to swim above the get out and try to continue their journey into Maori Gully swimming beside their kayaks. A number of people climbed back in to their kayaks, while others grabbed throw bags and ran along the edge of wave train rapid at Seawards. Boats and swimmers were soon rescued without drama and no one was swept into the dreaded Maori Gully before they were ready.

Tony paddles past the Magic Roundabout on his SUP.

We put together a group of keen kayakers to run Maori Gully, while the rest of the group would run the shuttle. Tony was joined by another stand up paddle boarder and they set off together, with the kayakers following behind. At the Magic Roundabout, the kayakers chose to play around while the SUP boarders carried on through the gully (I was a little disappointed as I was interested in how they would handle the more difficult rapids, especially Cheese Grater). Looking at the two rocks in the middle of the roundabout, seemed to indicate that the river had risen since we started, as they were more obscured than would be expected at 25 cumecs, this was later confirmed when we went online and the gauge was reading 36 cumecs.

Hamish playing in Maori Gully.

There were a few kayakers in our party that hadn’t run Maori Gully before, so tips were given, lines explained and Anna chose to swap her Rad for a larger boat. The gorge is a little more pushy at 36 cumecs and not quite as cruisy as we expected, still there were no issues and the more confidant were happy to play in places.

Hamish runs Cheese Grater.

We worked our way down past the boulder garden, past Bum Rock and then down the elevator, before dropping into the big eddy above Cheese Grater. There were the usual nerves and the lines were discussed. I watched the first couple of paddlers go down without any dramas, so moved into position, checked the line and pushed go. At the lip, the drop looked impressive, with the tongue dropping down deep before climbing up to the top of a massive standing wave. I made sure I kept up the boat speed and charged down the tongue. Down, down, down, I went, then up, up, up, over the top and down the rest of the rapid before breaking into an eddy and getting the camera out. There was no kick to the left today and everyone seemed run the rapid cleanly.

From here, down another rapid and the through the corner rapid, where some of the group had a go at trying to surf the large wave at the bottom. A brief play at the Pop Up Spot and then off to the take out and the wearying trudge up the endless steps (something I have not missed, though nicer with the Blitz rather than the heavier Salto). Our vehicles were waiting, the change into dry cloths was appreciated, vehicles were loaded and then it was off to the Brew Moon in Amberley for a brew. Jackets, hoodies and tops were removed as we got closer to Christchurch and the temperature rose to over 30 degrees, quite impressive to be that warm at 7pm. Then home, tired and sore, for pizza and a rest.

3rd January 2020: Avon River

Date:    3/01/2020
Avon River, Christchurch, NZ
River Conditions:   
1.090 cumecs at Gloucester Street bridge. Water mostly clear. Grade 1.
Weather Conditions:   
Cool, overcast, very light breezes. Light showers.
Number on Trip:    
2 people.
Time on River:  
2 hours.
Comments:  In the continuation of our search for where Greta the Shelduck has gone during the moult, we decided to continue our paddle down the Avon from the Avondale Road bridge. We got changed into our paddling gear, loaded up the boats and my mountain bike, and drove down to where we intended to put in. I dropped off Lauri and the kayaks and then drove to the end of Kibblewhite Street in New Brighton. I parked up and road my bike along the cycle trail that runs beside the river. It took around 20 minutes to get back and I was occasionally hissed at by the canada geese I disturbed on the stop bank.

The river bank has evolved over time, as the land levels dropped somewhat after the earthquakes, and much of the area was abandoned.

Once back at the put in, I grabbed a quick drink before getting Lauri launched in to the river. She noted that we seemed to have got the tide times wrong as it was definitely low tide and the river was flowing upstream at a reasonable rate. So much for our easy drift down stream. The day was overcast but very still, so we were rewarded with some very dramatic skies and mirror flat water. It was also interesting seeing parts of the river we had never paddled before, and to think about the various changes in character the river undergoes on its’ journey to the estuary.

We weren’t the only ones enjoying the river.

Lauri had a few issues with her spray deck and we’ll need to get her something more comfortable, but her new buoyancy aid was appreciated with its’ ample pockets and convenient drinking bladder. The river widened as we progressed, and the current slowed. Near the end of our journey, we passed Naughty Boys Island, named after a tragic event that claimed the lives of two boys who died after the tunnel they were digging in the river bank, collapsed.

Paddling on clouds.

After the island, the river widens and merges with the estuary, the mirrored surface of the water reflected the hills and clouds, and Lauri described it as like “paddling through the clouds and sky” and found it quite unnerving. It was certainly interesting if you focused on the horizon and the sky and water seem to merge to become one, with your kayak gliding smoothly along. We rafted up and ate a raspberry twist while admiring this spectacle.

Eventually we reached the get out, unfolded ourselves out of our boats and loaded them on to the car. We drove back to the put in to pick up my bike, which was fortunately still there and then drove home to warm up with a cup of soup.

22nd December 2019: Ashley River

Date:   22/12/19
Ashley River, Canterbury, NZ
River Conditions:  
12 cumecs at Ashley Gorge. Water slightly discoloured and cool. Grade 3.
Weather Conditions:  
Overcast, clearing to sunny & warm.
Number on Trip: 
Time on River: 
4.25 hours.
Comments:  With the Ashley running at around 12 cumecs,and fine weather forecast, Ian decide it would be a great day for a paddle. Unfortunately someone decided to park a fishing boat on Waimairi Beach, so Ian had to bail as duty called. There was a little delay as a result, but once we were all assembled at the camp ground, we soon had the shuttle sorted out and were off to the put in at the middle bridge..

John R shoots the gap.

We had a number of paddlers that hadn’t paddled this section before and the flow at only 12 cumecs provide a nice easy introduction while still offering plenty of fun.

A perfect play spot for making some moves.

The were plenty of good play spots and most of the team were keen to demonstrate their skills, make some moves, have some fun or just push their own personal boundaries.

AJ punches through.

There were very few dramas and it was great to be out on the river enjoying the sun and warm conditions. The rapids weren’t too pushy, but with enough water flowing through them to cover the rocks and provide some good lines with plenty of time to make decisions.

Making the moves.

The main drop in the gorge had a bit of a hole formed above it and it was interesting to see the various lines that people chose.

Matt runs the main drop in the Ashley Gorge.

Most avoided the hole and then ran the drop cleanly down the tongue or boofed off to the left.

Anna styling the main drop.

The line taken in the photo above was one of the more impressive, as Anna ran the drop almost sideways to flick around at the bottom to have a surf and catch the eddy. Some styling moves alright.

A splash of colour in the green of the Ashley Gorge.

The gorge was quite beautiful and it was great to be away from the city and all the pressures of life, especially with the lead up to Christmas, you could almost feel the stress melt away with the warm sunshine.

More moves from Anna at the play spot.

We took our time and really enjoyed all the neat play spots the river had on offer.

Nicole enjoys a good surf.

It is a real pleasure to be on the river and to see everyone having fun and enjoying themselves. It was also good to see people learning and trying new things. I had some nice surfs on some of the waves but I’m not really keen to try out any play moves, as I prefer to stay upright. Still it is a very satisfying feeling when you manage to get the perfect balance on a wave and are able to hold yourself suspended seemingly forever above a hole, as the water rushes beneath your kayak.

Nicole making some moves at one of the play spots.

The last major rapid of the gorge always provides some great photographs as people shoot through the narrow gap between the rocks, it looks dramatic with the white water and looming rocks. Nearly everyone had gone through, when an upside down boat floated past, I put away the camera and set off in pursuit. The paddler bailed out and was soon being helped to shore by the others in the the group. While he was getting back in to his boat, I thought I’d try out something new as a bit of a challenge.

Anna running the gap on one of the last grade 3 rapids.

Paddling upstream on the opposite side of the rock pictured above, into the position where John R is pictured sitting in the background of the above photo. From here the move involves surfing down a hole above the picture rock in order to avoid being swept into it. You then break out and continue down the line in the foreground. Simple. I almost chicken out as I looked at the water being swept into the large rock and the unfriendly hole I needed to surf across.

I broke out and dropped into the hole, working my way across the river and was almost across when I tipped over. Fortunately I was past the rock, but now found myself upside down, being swept backwards down the main channel. I rolled, failed to get upright properly and was still going down the rapid but was now pushed against the back deck and short on breath, so I decided to pull the deck and go for my first swim of the season. Holding my paddle and towing my kayak, I swam to shore and self rescued. The water was warm and swimming was pleasant, but I needed a few moments before I got my breath back and could empty out my kayak and get back on the water. Funnily enough, part of me misses going for regular swims down rapids, the connection with the river seems so much more “intimate” when you are actually in the water.

From here it was a fun paddle to the get out, with some beautiful scenery, nice rapids and the occasional play spot. Feeling tired and a little sore by the time we reached the camp ground, then into some dry clothes before clambering into the back of the van for the ride back to the vehicles. We completed the shuttle, loaded up the boats and headed back into town. Such a excellent way to kick off the holidays.