River: Hurunui River, North Canterbury, NZ
River Conditions: 24 Cumecs at Mandamus. Grade 2 – 3, water swift, clear & cold.
Weather Conditions: Sunny & warm, with strong north westerly winds.
Number on Trip: 11 kayakers.
Time on River: 3 hours.
Comments: This was my first trip of the season and my first paddle since May, work, Lauri’s health and the weather meant that I didn’t get in any paddling over winter and as a result I was feeling a little rusty and unfit. At the Belfast, it looked like all the vehicles were full and if I wanted to go, I’d need to drive by myself and I was close to just heading home. Fortunately Blair came up with a plan and I headed off with Paul, my kayak went on Andre’s car and our paddles went in the third vehicle.
We put in at Dozy Stream, below Devil’s Fang Falls and warmed up while the shuttle was run. The winds were strong and I was glad we weren’t putting in further up and some of the more exposed sections can be somewhat less fun in strong winds (when wind gusts blow you over, it isn’t fun anymore). Devil’s Fang Fall was looking fairly bony and Hugh noted that it appeared as though some of the large boulders had moved over winter.
Once the whole group was on the river, we made our way down to first play spot for some fun. Andre demonstrated what you can do with just hand paddles and everyone surfed up a storm. Interestingly no one was paddling a creek boat, RPM’s and play-styled river runners seem to have returned to popularity and with them tail stands and whoopees. I took some photos from one side and then cut across to get shots from another angle. After sufficiently documenting proceedings, I decided to have a bit of a surf. Unfortunately it didn’t go so well and I found myself upside down and in a place I didn’t really want to be. The first roll failed, as did the next and I felt myself being pushed against the bluff near the bottom of the rapid so I pulled my deck and towed the boat to the opposite bank. The water was definitely cold but the swim was quite “refreshing”. I soon emptied out the boat and was back on the water, it is always nice to get a swim out of the way so I don’t need to worry so much about it happening.
Further down we spotted a few cows by the river, it looked like the paddock was fenced off, but the gate had been left open, they weren’t in the water but it wasn’t a good look.
We also spotted a pair of inflatable double kayaks making their way down the river. Looks like it would be a good option for Lauri & I, as the wouldn’t be as difficult to move and store as a plastic double kayak and they seem to handle the white water well too. We might have to investigate that when Lauri’s health improves and our bank balance also looks a little healthier.
Hugh took out at Seawards and we were joined by a group of kayakers from the UCCC. We headed into Maori Gully and through the Magic Roundabout. Andre briefly flirted with Simon’s Hole but didn’t plunge in.
Somewhere in Bum Rock boulder garden, a kayaker and his kayak were separated. The kayaker ended up on the right back, I got the paddle and Paul was left with the task of getting the kayak to shore. Holding two paddles (especially as my 90 degree paddle doesn’t sit nicely with lesser angled ones), I was particularly inclined to go charging down the next drops in pursuit of the errant boat. Eventually Paul got the run away kayak to the left bank, somewhere above Cheese Grater. To reunite the paddler with his gear, he was thrown a line and got to swim / swing across to the left bank (the right bank is a little too steep to walk along easily) and then walk down to his kayak.
We caught up with the UCCC group above Cheese Grater, as they were instructing their newer members on what too do. I didn’t hang around too long and was soon lined up to run the drop a little left of centre and heading right. I made sure I had a bit of boat speed before reaching the horizon line. From the top, you realised that there were a lot of rocks just below the surface on the right side. I followed a greenish tongue down and caught a bit of any eddy on the right before carrying on down and taking up a position to get photos of the others.
Cheese Grater can be a little tricky and it was interesting to see the various lines and their results. The woman above from UCCC, got kicked left into the rocks but kept her cool and her balance, finishing upright with a big smile, the guy below wasn’t so lucky and at that point the camera went away away and I broke out in case any assistance was required. It wasn’t as the rest of his group were there and he may have rolled up anyway.
The rest of the river was fun, with a bit of a play at the corner rapid and a line up at the pop up spot. Then on to the take out and up the hill to the vehicles. It was good to be out on the river and even the strong winds weren’t much of a problem. Back to town via the Brew Moon in Amberley with a glass of Blood Moon IPA to round off the day.