River: Hurunui River, North Canterbury, NZ
River Conditions: 47.7 Cumecs at Mandamus. Grade 2 – 3, water clear.
Weather Conditions: Warm and sunny with light north westerly winds.
Number on Trip: 33 kayakers, with a number doing Maori Gully
Time on River: 4.5 hours.
Comments: This was my first white water trip of the season and it is already nearly November. As such we were treated to a beautiful warm and sunny day, a even the nor-wester wind Canterbury is known for, kept to a manageable strength.
Driving into the car park at the Belfast Tavern was a bit of a shock, there were cars, boats and paddlers everywhere. So many people I didn’t recognise, still managed to find some familiar faces, sign the trip sheet and get a ride sorted out, then off to Jollie Brook.
At Jollie Brook, we sorted out our gear and enjoyed resting in the sun as the shuttle was sorted out. Once the drivers returned, we got on the water and had an extended warm up session at the put in. As there were so many paddlers, smaller groups formed and then made their way downstream with significant gaps in between.
I always enjoy the boulder garden stretch down from Jollie Brook, it is a great way to warm up and remember how to paddle after an absence from the river. Working your way down the small rapids, catching eddies and surfing from hole to hole, brings a lot of your paddling skills into play without being too challenging. We did have a swimmer and it is the first time in a while that I’ve rescued anyone, towing Brian down a small rapid to reunite him with his boat and paddle.
The bigger rapids provided a bit more entertainment for the more experienced paddlers but everyone did well and there were no more swimmers and generally the only rolls were either for practice or play. We took our time on this section and really tried to get the most out of every rapid and feature.
We stopped for a lunch break at the South Branch confluence before continued on downstream. Devil’s Fang Falls was on my mind, I wasn’t sure how much it had changed since last season and we hadn’t stopped for a look at it on the way up. Brian mentioned that the preferred line was now on the left hand side, whereas in the past, I had always gone down the right side. As we approached the rapid, I was a little nervous as I was feeling a bit tired and unfit.
We all chose to run Devil’s Fang Falls and moved into to the right hand channel, pulling in to various eddies above the rapid. I watched the others go down, one by one, and made note of the lines they took. No one seemed to have any issues and all went down the left had side of the drop. I took my turn, working my way down the river until I was in the eddy just above the drop on the right hand side. Looking down stream, I could see that the line I would normally take was pretty messy and that there was a nice tongue a little left of centre, that should offer a good ride down and then you just needed to punch through the hole at the bottom and it should be all good. Of course, in order to do that, I needed to be on the other side of the channel. To do that I just needed to surf across the face of the first hole above the drop before turning down stream, pass the second hole and then down the tongue, what could possibly go wrong? Fortunately it all work and I made a pretty smooth descent and hit the smooth water below the drop and cut into the eddy. There were no issues in our group and we carried on down the river.
The trip down to Seaward’s was pretty cruisy as fatigue from a long day on the water set in. I also had to decide if I wanted to paddle Maori Gully, part of me was pretty tired and would have been happy to get out before the gully but another part thought it would be a shame not to. In the end, I decided it would be wrong not too and headed down into the gully with five other keen paddlers.
The Magic Roundabout was pretty boisterous and the two rocks in the middle were mostly covered so I opted not to have a spin. The first boulder garden was also a bit pushier than I expected, giving me a little start and prompting me to raise my game. On past bum rock and down the escalator and into the eddy above Cheese Grater with out any dramas, the higher flow making some of the larger features slightly easier.
Cheese Grater always makes me a little nervous, especially since I’ve had the odd bit of “excitement” in previous years. I watched the others go down one by one, dropping over the edge, disappearing and then surging upwards as they crested the large wave at the bottom of the drop. No one seemed to have any problems and then it was my turn. I lined up to the left of centre, looking down the tongue, my kayaks bow pointing to the right, a bit of speed as I dropped over the edge, down and then up, the kayaks’ nose pushing through the waves crest, a refreshing drink for me as I passed through it. The rest was easy and I bombed the rest of the rapid, pulling into an eddy below the rest of the group.
Two of the others decided to run Cheese Grater again, apparently to try and surf the wave. I also got out of my boat and walked back upstream a little to see if I could find a better spot to take photographs from. I usually shoot from my boat and this tends to limit my angles and what I can see. No really spectacular photos of their second run but it is nice to get a view of the rapid from downstream that isn’t obscured by the rocks that form the eddy on the right of the above photo.
The corner rapid was pretty bouncy and I weaved my way around the various holes, the big wave at the bottom was working nicely and was able to be accessed from both sides so much surfing was done.
More playing at the pop up spot and then on to the get out, followed by the traditional slog up the hill and then back to town.