River: Hurunui River, North Canterbury, NZ
River Conditions: 42.5 Cumecs at Mandamus. Grade 2 – 3, water swift & slightly discoloured.
Weather Conditions: Overcast & cool, with strong north westerly winds.
Number on Trip: 15 kayakers (11 doing Maori Gully).
Time on River: 4 hours
Comments: With Tekapo running, a number of club members head down to enjoy the course and run the Pukaki River as well. For those that remained in Christchurch, Blair organised a trip to the Hurunui. The weather was looking hot and someone suggested that there wouldn’t be any winds, though when the Met Service site was checked, gale force nor-westerlies were predicted. We met up at The Peg and sorted out vehicles, one group didn’t know where they were going so planned to follow us in John Rs’ car but seemed to get lost on route.
We arrived at the Maori Gully take out and there was no one waiting so we carried on to Seawards and got changed before carrying on to the Jollie Brook put in. There was further confusion with one group heading up to the Sisters Stream put in, the on / off shuttle with one vehicle heading off with the pack raft on board. We put on the river around 11am to have a warm up while we waited for the shuttle to be run and for everything to be sorted out. I spotted a largish eel swimming close to the bank and managed to get a quick underwater photo of it before it disappeared down into the depths.
Eventually everyone arrived back, sorted out their gear, got on the river and we were away a little before 12pm.
At around 43 cumecs, the rapids down from Jollie Brook were lots of fun, with most of the rocks covered and plenty of bouncy rapids and small waves to surf on. It was a good warm up and I found it very enjoyable to work my way down the river, often backwards, from eddy to eddy, wave to wave.
We had a fairly large group and we got quite spread out at times, but there didn’t seem to be any dramas. I didn’t witness any swims and every time I saw people upside down, it was followed by a roll.
Once through the boulder gardens, the river passes through a series of gorges on its’ way down the confluence with the South Branch. The gorges sheltered us from some of the winds but at times, gusts threaten to push us over and it was just a matter of keeping your paddle low and trying to keep your balance.
There are some nice rapids on the Jollie Brook section and plenty of fun to be had, but eventually we reached the South Branch confluence and the river open up, exposing us to the increasingly strong winds.
Sheralee borrowed one of Hughs’ pack rafts and really put it through its’ paces. Having thigh braces fitted to the pack raft meant that she was able to pull some tight turns and exert some very kayak like control over the raft. Quite impressive for something so light and easily portable.
We discussed lines for running Devils’ Fang Falls, John R suggested aiming for the highest point of the wave above the drop on the river right and then straight down the tongue, as at this flow most of the rock would be covered. This seemed to be more or less the line that everyone took, I had to bit of a brace at the bottom to stay upright and everyone else seemed to manage with similar results. John R had a good play on the wave above the drop before carrying on down, enjoying it so much he carried his boat back up to run it again.
Taking good photographs at Devils’ Fang Falls was pretty tricky as the strong winds kept whipping spray into the camera lens and the increased flows meant that kayakers were moving swiftly, but still managed to get the odd good shot.
It was good to see such a variety of river craft on the trip, with Sheralee in a pack raft, Chris is his huge open canoe, as well as a wide variety of kayaks from RPMs, Axioms, play boats, rarer creek boats and even Ian Fs’ new slalom inspired 303.
We spent a bit of time surf on the wave below the Dozy Stream put in, always a good location for photos, then on down to Seawards. The wind was being to blow harder and we just focused to getting down the river, with a lot less play, it was still fun but you definitely had to keep your paddle low.
At Seawards, some of the group got out to run the shuttle while the rest continued on through Maori Gully. The wave train was great and bouncy, the wind knocked some of the fun out of the Magic Roundabout, but some people were keen to have a play, cutting back and forth between the rocks and eddies, and riding up on the pillow at the base of the bluff. Kerry encouraged Ruth, who had swapped boats with Kerry, to push through Simons’ Hole without any drama and John R choose to give it a surf, but almost got caught on exiting.
Worked our way down the boulder gardens and past Bum Rock. The Elevator was pretty good, with people choosing to run it either side of the rock in the centre. As usually there were a few nerves around Cheese Grater, but with the higher flow it was pretty straight forward, running it just right of centre, heading to the right. I went down the tongue and then straight of the top of a pretty big wave at the bottom of the drop, I’m pretty sure I got some air off that. No were good for me to pull over to, so no photos.
On down through the corner rapid, where some of the group had a bit of a surf on the wave, but it gets a bit hard to get on it and stay there at this flow. The next stop was the Pop Up Spot and a few pop ups where attempted to varying degrees of success, the rounded bows of RPMs seem to spill too much water to really work well. Off down the last few rapids to the get out and then the dreaded hike up the hill, before packing up and heading back to town.