River: Ashley River, Canterbury, NZ
River Conditions: 14 cumecs at Ashley Gorge. Water clear, swift and cold. Grade 3.
Weather Conditions: Sunny & warm with strong NW winds.
Number on Trip: 9 people.
Time on River: 3.5 hours.
Comments: Matt organised a mid-winter trip down the Ashley River to celebrate the Winter Solstice and I was just coming to the end of a course of antibiotics to treat a chest infection that still hadn’t completely cleared up, I was in two minds as to whether to go or not. With the flow being a cruisy 14 cumecs and the temperature predicted to reach 17 degrees (pretty good for mid-winter in Canterbury), I decided I’d kick myself if I didn’t go. As the water would still be cold even if the air temperature was warmish, I packed by wet suit & a few extra warm layers (but forgot to bring my towel).
The 10am meeting time was also a welcome relief, meaning that the sun was well up and the temperature was reasonably pleasant. After short wait for John to arrive from his mid-winter swim at Sumner (something he didn’t repeat on the river), we were off. We met up with Ross at the Domain, got changed and drove up to the put in at the middle bridge. We were all dressed warmly, even Murray had a dry suit on and once we were on the water it almost seemed too warm, though once out of the sun and a bit wet, I certainly appreciated the extra layers.
The flow was pretty low, meaning there were plenty of rocks to dodge but there wasn’t much push so there were some nice opportunities for playing. As I wasn’t feeling 100%, I tended to take fairly easy lines and didn’t spend much time catching eddies on the way down the rapids. Our Chilean visitor, the only one in our group who hadn’t paddled the river before, tended to spend most of his time at the front, bombing the rapids and often disappearing into the distances, until it was explained that this probably wasn’t a good practice.
No real dramas, Colin took a swim (possibly after getting stuck on a rock, not really sure, but it was in an odd place) and while he self rescued, we spent a bit of time chasing it down the gorge proper, trying to push it into an eddy. Ross also to a brief swim after tipping in an eddy and his roll not quite working, but was soon back in his boat. I had a brief bit of excitement on the last major rapid, coming down the left channel, I ended up running over a series of shallow rocks and finished with an unplanned tail stand before completing the rapid. John noted the moved, decided to avoid that line and then apparently repeated my actions due to the current doing unexpected things to him.
After the main drops the paddle out was a little harder than usual, with the low flow making for some fairly flat sections and the effects of the chest infection reducing my overall energy levels (not to mention my lack of recent paddling leading to some sore muscles). Still there were still some nice little rapids, wave trains and even the odd surf spot to make it all worth while. Still I has quite glad when the get out came into view.
The scenery was really great with the rock, cliffs and bush cover hills and with the warm weather and sunshine, being there was a real pleasure. It is something really specially to be in these beautiful places, enjoying the river & what nature has to offer with a nice bunch of people. These are the kind of days that make you glad to be alive.
After the shuttle was run, we headed to Cafe 51 in Oxford for a well earned cup of coffee & a muffin before driving back to town as darkness fell early. Home with fish & chips by six o’ clock, feeling tired & sore but glad to have spent an excellent day on the river.