River: Hurunui River, North Canterbury, NZ
River Conditions: 65 Cumecs at Mandamus. Grade 2+(3), water clear.
Weather Conditions: Sunny, cool with occasionally gusty winds.
Number on Trip: 8 (7 doing Maori Gully) kayakers & 5 on the raft.
Time on River: 3.5 hours.
Comments: This was my first trip of the season and given the promise of a cold sou-westerly change on the cards, I was almost tempted not to go. But after inspecting the mountain weather forecast closely the night before and having spent an unexpectedly sunny Saturday wandering around the Botanic Gardens, I decided it would be worthwhile. The flow for the Ashley River looked a little on the low side but the Hurunui, flowing at 65 to 70 cumecs looked good. The overnight rain cleared and the day dawned cool but clear, so they was now no question as to what to do and it was off to The Peg. After a bit of discussion and sorting out of logistics, we decided to paddle from the top gorge down, but after considering the impending southerly change and the difficulty in running the shuttle, this was changed to putting in at Jollie Brook.
Looking upstream towards the mountains
We drove up to the Hurunui, did some shuttling for a group that just planned to run the gully and then drove up to Jollie Brook with one of their group, so he could drive our vehicle back to the Seawards takeout. On arrival at Jollie Brook, we found everyone else had parked by the swing bridge, instead of at the camping area further up, meaning that we’d miss out on the Jollie Brook rapid. Some of the group walked upstream and ran the whole rapid, but I wasn’t feeling up to lugging my boat around and so just did a bit of a warm up below the swing bridge. Not having done any serious paddling for a while left me feeling pretty tired and weak after just a little playing, but it was nice to note that my new spray deck and dry jacket seemed to be doing their job and I didn’t have that cold dribble of water down my back. Eventually the rest of the group made it down from the top of the rapid, Ian got his raft inflated and we were underway. The sun was out and after the warm up, I was feeling pretty hot inside my new jacket and not cold and wet like usual, despite the snow on the surrounding hills.
Matt surfing in a hole
At 65 cumecs, the current was pretty swift and the rapids and wave trains were a lot bouncier, its was really good to be back out on the river. The river was much as I remembered it, with the only major change of note is that the old “Eddy of Doom” is now completely blocked off by a rocky, gravel bar and the river bypasses the bluff completely. As we had a strong group so there where no dramas, even though I was still had the “early season” lack of confidence and was feeling pretty nervous about Devil’s Fang Falls. We hadn’t stopped to check it out on the way up and I wasn’t really sure what it looked like at this flow.
As I was tail end Charlie, I watched the others go over on by one. Matt was first and took an unusual left-hand line and I watched his small play boat perform an unintentional tail stand before disappearing from sight. The rest of the group, mostly in creek boats, disappeared over the horizon line on the more common right-hand line and didn’t seem to have any problems. Finally it was my turn, I drifted down the rapid, checking ahead, skirted the holes at the top of the rapid and then down a clear tongue. None of the usually features were visible, the fang buried under foaming white water. It was messy at the bottom and when I hit the aerated mass, a wave hit me from the left and I was over, a quick failed roll in the boiling water to grab a breath and then a second successful one to paddle out and down the out to the eddy at the bottom. There are few things as confidence building as knowing you can successfully roll when you need to. Now I felt much better about running Maori Gully.
Nicole runs a rapid
Two of our group got out a Seawards and we gained an extra paddler at the magic roundabout. I was playing it safe and generally bombing the rapids, avoiding the other paddlers where possible. I had another successful roll near the bottom of bum rock rapid, when something caught me off balance. The escalator was pretty tame at this flow, mainly washed out but cheese grater was pretty messy. Recently people have been having some exciting experiences on it, as it has been kicking strongly to the left where there is a hazardous under cut. This time I took the chute on the right-hand, paddled hard and punched through the wave at the end, beyond the boiling water tried to spin my kayak while I tried to stay on line and up right. It must have worked and I paddled into the eddy.
Bill surfs one of the big waves above the corner rapid
The river wide waves above the corner rapid were big but presented no dramas and several kayakers stopped to have a bit of a play, while I took a few photos. We also stopped for a play at the pop up spot, which was in fine form, easily flipping even the larger creek boats. Then down to the take out and up the steep track to the top. As I clambered out of my boat, it was nice to note that the inside of my kayak was still dry and I had stayed warm throughout the entire trip, despite the occasional roll, thanks to my new gear. I felt exhausted and my boat seemed to now weigh a ton, but I staggered onwards and upwards until I made it to the car park where our vehicle and dry clothing awaited. We got changed and the shuttle got run and then it was off to Brew Moon for a beverage and a bite to eat before heading back to town.