Monthly Archives: April 2019

28th April 2019: Ashley River

Date:   28/4/19
Ashley River, Canterbury, NZ
River Conditions:  
6 cumecs at Ashley Gorge. Water clear and cool. Grade 2.
Weather Conditions:  
Overcast & cool, gusty winds at times.
Number on Trip: 
9 people doing the upper section.
Time on River: 
3.75 hours.
Comments:  We had been planning to do a run on the Klondyke section of the Rangitata, but with rain about the main divide send the flow gauge from 60 to 280 cumecs, we decided to look for other options. The Ashley was running at 6 cumecs, low but still runnable, so after some online discussion, a plan formed. Getting up and checking my phone in the morning confirmed the destination and it was off to the meet up at The Peg.

We loaded up the boats on to vehicles and headed off to the camp ground to meet up with the rest of the crew. Hugh, who had been waiting at the Hornby Caltex as per the original plan, would also meet us there. From the camp ground we drove up to the middle bridge, avoiding the flock of sheep that seemed to be all over the road, got changed and battled the prolific sand flies, before heading to the Less Valley put in.

Leaving the put in.

From the put in down to the Townsend confluence was pretty bony, but once the flows converged we had enough water to float our boats, though you did have to be careful where you chose to do a practice roll. There was plenty to play around on and we had fun making our way down the river.

Hugh points out the lines on the crux rapid.

Above the main rapid of this section, everyone pull over to the river bank and Hugh directed the newer paddlers on the route to take. The more experience of our group went down and set up in position, just in case anyone had any problems. No one did and we worked our way down the rapid without any dramas. At this flow the rapid wasn’t particularly challenging but the shallow rocks meant than anyone not giving the river their full attention, risked getting stuck.

Looking back at the river paddled.
Molly styles one of the harder rapids in this section.

I thought we were out of the main rapid but at this flow, the rapid below the main rapid was a bit more interesting and had a great play wave at the bottom. I got some nice photos of people coming down the rapid, as well as those who chose to have a play. The wave was very clean and smooth, as well as being easy to get on to. You could just sit on it and carve back and forth to your hearts content.

Hugh demonstrates his pack raft skills.
Molly surfs up a storm on one of the better play waves in this section.

We continued on down, occasionally catching up with Hugh, who was leading the way in his pack raft (a different one from his ANZAC day trip). The rapids eased off but there was still plenty of fun, though we occasionally struck shallow sections as gravel banks built up as the river snaked through the hills. This meant that sometimes through failing to read the river or poor channel selection, we ended up having to bounce down some riffles or in worst cases, getting stuck and having to hand walk the boat to get through.

Jacko makes a splash.

One of the spots we had a bit of a play around at, had an interesting little eddy just above the play wave. It provided a challenge to get into and once you were in to its boily, turbulent swirl, getting out provided another slightly harder challenge. The eddy was just a little small for the Salto, the first time I managed to back out into the current and then bring the nose around to break out into the current. Silvie gave it a go too and in her shorter play boat was able to get out without drama. She encouraged me to give it another go and this time I had a bit more difficulty bringing the nose around, with the Saltos stubby tail being buffeted by the turbulent flow along the eddy line. I also managed to get free but flipped, my first roll failed and I received a solid knock on my left arm and a thump from a rock to my helmet as I flushed out of the eddy. Next go, I was upright again, having performed my first roll in the Salto. Had a little more play before carrying on down the river.

AJ runs a rapid.

Another play spot, with its green moss covered rocks, provided some fun in a very picturesque location and we spent some time there practicing our skills. The Ashley is a beautiful river and it is always a privilege to paddle through its gorges and glide over its crystal clear waters.

Silvie surfs one of the more picturesque rapids on this section.

Eventually the river opens out and the river becomes more braided, with the limited flow this meant less water in the channels and this resulted in a few strandings, as kayakers struggled to bounce over the slightly damp rocks. Some routes were better than others and we all ended up going in different directions, looking for the “perfect” channel. I came across a cattle beast standing in the middle of the river, which took flight as I approached but I still managed to get a photo. It should probably be noted that there were a number of willow trees, that in some places had the current flowing through them and care needed to be taken around them.

Crystal clear water and a paddle in your hand, what could be better?

On through the final gorge and under the bridge to the get out. We quickly got changed to minimise the amount of flesh available to the swarms of sandflies and then waited while the shuttle was run. Chatted to a hunter, who was heading down stream, to see if they could get a deer heading out for a twilight feed. They apparently had 22 river crossings ahead of them to get to where they were going and then a repeat journey on the way back, possibly in the dark. Definitely keen. When the cars arrived back, we loaded up and headed back to town, feeling tired but satisfied at a fun day out.

25th April 2019: Hurunui River

Date:   25/04/19
River:    Hurunui River, North Canterbury, NZ
River Conditions:  26 Cumecs at Mandamus. Grade 2 – 3, water swift & clear.
Weather Conditions: Sunny but cool with nor westerly winds.
Number on Trip:  6 paddlers.
Time on River: 
4.5 hours
Comments:  I’d been looking forward to getting out in the kayak again and so when ANZAC day dawned, bright and clear, it was off to The Peg to meet up with a group of keen paddlers for a run down the Hurunui. We decided to run from the fish farm down and as the group had a number of less experienced, we would get out at Seawards and not run Maori Gully. We drove up to Seawards and got changed, before carrying on to the Jollie Brook put in to catch up with Sylvie, who had traveled from the West Coast to have a paddle. To leave a shuttle vehicle at the take out, we all crammed in to the remaining two vehicles, packing the back of AJ’s van with people and boats. We stopped off at Devil’s Fang Falls to check out the lines, it looked fairly toothy and most decided they wouldn’t run it. While at Jollie Brook, we met a group of pig hunters with their dogs. The dogs got to check out the back of AJ’s van to check out all his doggy smells.

Walking down to the put in.

We then all crammed back into the van and drove up to Sisters Stream. The walk in to the top gorge is about 1 kilometre and I could definitely feel the additional weight of the Salto as I carried it up the hill, once there though, I switched to towing it behind me down to the river. It was a beautiful, sunny day and the mountains and river looked lovely in their autumn colours.

A beautiful day, great scenery and a river to paddle.
Looking up stream & enjoying the autumn colours.

The top gorge was enjoyable with its rapids and drops, and the run down to Jollie Brook, with its many boulder gardens was lots of fun, catching eddies and surfing waves. By the time we got down to Jollie Brook, I was feeling a little tired but the river had plenty more to offer.

Enjoying a calm spot in the top gorge.

Down to South Branch was plenty of fun too and is probably my favourite grade 2 section on the Hurunui, with its gorges, rapids and boulder gardens. The Salto handled it all very nicely, without sacrificing the fun of surfing and playing around (something that had worried me about getting a creek boat).

Silvie runs a rapid.
Sylvie has a surf.

We had a brief stop at the South Branch confluence for a snack before carrying on. More rapids and more fun, before we neared Devils Fang Falls above Dozy Stream. We had a brief discussion about what everyone wanted to do and most decided to portage, either on the left hand side or down the road on the right. I decided to run it and waited until those portaging had got in to position. I decided to take the right hand line, which meant punching through a couple of holes before the main drop and then avoiding the fang at the bottom of the drop. The first bit went smoothly, but the hole above the drop was deep and I apparently disappeared from view, stopping briefly at the bottom of the hole before punching through and carrying on down the tongue and past the fang without any drama.

Hugh runs a rapid in his pack raft.

The others got back in their boats and carried on down the river. We had a good play around at the play spot below Dozy Stream and some great surfs were had. Krysia got into a little bit of trouble after tipping over on the wave. She got swept into the eddy by the base of the bluff and this made rolling difficult and she ended up in the water. Fortunately she kept all her gear with her and was able to climb out, empty out her boat before getting back on the water and cutting back across the river. While she was doing this, Silvie also got caught in the small eddy by the bluff and had a few nervous moments before escaping its clutches.

Krysia enjoying the play wave
AJ gets some air.

The trip down to Seawards was pretty quick, with the wind getting up and blowing Hugh in his pack raft before us. It was also quite a long trip and I was certainly feeling quite fatigued by the time we reached Seawards. No one was keen to do Maori Gully, as we were lacking time and experience (plus I didn’t really want to carry the Salto up from the Maori Gully take out.

Enjoying the scenery on a beautiful autumn day.

We got changed and the shuttle was run. It definitely got a bit chilly when the sun disappeared behind the mountains and we were glad when the vehicles arrived back and we were able to head back to town, arriving back after dark.

7th April 2019: Hurunui River

Date:   7/04/19
River:    Hurunui River, North Canterbury, NZ
River Conditions:  31 Cumecs at Mandamus. Grade 2 – 3, water swift & clear.
Weather Conditions: Rainy & cold, with south easterly winds.
Number on Trip:  9 kayakers (4 doing Maori Gully).
Time on River: 
3 hours
Comments:  I had been wanting to test out my new Eskimo Salto for some time (I actually bought in around Christmas but it took quite a while to get it to Christchurch) but one thing or another meant that I hadn’t been able to get it out on the river. So when it looked like the possibility of a trip to Hurunui, I was keen to get out despite the less than promising weather forecast. The end of daylight savings meant that I got a little bit of a sleep in, much to the disappointment of our cat, who hadn’t adjusted her watch. It was spitting slightly as I left home and was raining lightly when I arrived at the Belfast Tavern, during the drive I considered turning back as a relaxing day in a nice warm house seemed like an attractive alternative to spend the day being cold and wet. Still there was a small group already waiting in the car park and everyone seemed keen, so boats went on roof racks and we were soon on our way. A brief stop in Waikari for a fuel up of hot pies to keep us going on a cold day and on to the Maori Gully take out. We’d hoped that the weather would clear but as we crossed the saddle, the Hurunui Valley was misty with a light rain falling. We got changed into our kayaking gear and discussed our trip plans, deciding to paddle down from Jollie Brook with some of the group getting out at Seawards and the remainder doing Maori Gully, part of the group decided to just run Maori Gully.

After getting changed, we headed off towards Jollie Brook and were nearly at Dozy Stream, when there was a sudden thump as Cody clipped a large rock jutting out from the ground on a corner. The impact punctured both the left hand tyres and damaged the rims. We pulled in to a safe place and surveyed the damage. Now one puncture is annoying but two is a problem because generally people don’t carry two spare tyres. Dave walked back to Seawards to get a lift up to Jollie Brook to get the space saver wheel from Matt, who had the same vehicle as Cody. Cody set about changing the tyres and then we stood around in the rain. Funnily none of the vehicles (a lot of 4×4) that passed us while we were waiting, stood to see if they help, no windows were wound down to ask if we were OK, so much for the traditional Kiwi helpful spirit. Around this time I realised that I’d left my camera in my pack so there would be no photos of our predicament or our adventures on the river. Eventually Dave returned and we fitted the extra space saver wheel and were off again.

Twin space saver tyres.

The Jollie Brook put in was crowded with the UCCC holding their beginners day on the river, with over 30 paddlers hanging around and sorting out their gear. We got on the river as soon as possible to avoid the pack that was soon to follow. I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect from the Salto, as I’d never paddled one before, but I was pleasantly surprised. The Salto, with its rounder hull wasn’t quite as stable as the Blitz but it did seem to be pretty nimble and I was soon cutting in and out of eddies and surfing on the various small holes around Jollie Brook. I had been worried that the Salto wouldn’t be as much fun to paddle as the Blitz, but working my way down the boulder gardens below Jollie Brook, I had plenty of opportunity to surf as I worked my way down the rapids, having plenty of fun. The Salto seemed to surf nicely, though of course not quite as well as the Blitz with its planar hull and slicey ends. I was very pleased with the latest addition to my fleet.

Testing out my new Eskimo Salto. Photo by AJ.

I enjoyed the section from Jollie Brook to South Branch, there are some nice gorges and rapids and it was fun to see how the new boat handled them. From South Branch the river opens out a bit and it tends to be a bit cruisier, also by this stage my lack of fitness was making its presence felt so I took it relatively easy. As always when we approach Dozy Stream, thoughts turn towards Devil’s Fang Falls and since we hadn’t stopped for a look, it meant having to boat scout it. I watched Matt run it so I could check on his line and then watched Tori do it, before I lined up on the right side and went for it. The Salto pushed through the waves at the top of the rapid and easily followed the tongue down the drop and glided effortless across the foamy mass at the bottom, no worries. Pulled into the eddy at the bottom and watched the others come down without any issues, really missed my camera at this point.

We regrouped and headed on down the river to the play spot just below the Dozy Stream put in. The wave was pretty big and people were keen to have a bit of a surf. I cut across into the eddy on the far side and then waited for my turn. Once the wave cleared, I moved out to get on the wave, had a wee surf and broke out (or got washed off) and then next thing I know I’m over and upside down. I attempted to roll but it didn’t work, so instead of hanging on and trying again, I pulled the tab and bailed out, my first swim out of my new boat. As I kicked my way towards shore towing my boat and paddle, I decided I should probably do some practice rolls at some stage. Emptying the boat was pretty hard as I was quite knackered but eventually I managed to muster the strength to tip it over and watched the water pour out as I gathered my breath. Back in the boat, I refueled with a muesli bar and watch the other dramas as another paddler had got stuck in the eddy by the bluff and was out of his boat. This all got sorted out and we were underway again, but I was feeling pretty spent.

UCCC at Seawards.

Eventually we made it down to Seawards and being as I was pretty exhausted and a little cold, I decided that was far enough for me. I’d had a good day out and had enjoyed paddling my new boat, but I couldn’t really face having to carry it up the hill from the Maori Gully take out.

After we’d got changed into our dry gear and the drivers headed off to pick up the vehicles from Jollie Brook. I was reunited with my camera and so took the opportunity to capture a few pictures, while we waited in the light rain. A little while later, the large group of UCCC paddlers we had seen at Jollie Brook arrived , with some getting out while the rest ran Maori Gully.

Looking up Maori Gully from the road.

Once the vehicles returned it was off down to the Maori Gully take out to await the rest of the group.

The last rapid in Maori Gully.

Eventually the rest of our group appeared in the distance and made their way down to the take out, with the UCCC paddlers not far behind.

Looking back up the River from the Maori Gully take out.

The water looked almost inviting and the misty rain gave the hills an almost magical look, but I was glad I didn’t have to carry a boat up the steps.

The dreaded climb up from the Maori Gully take out.

After getting back to the car and loading the rest of the gear, we drove slowly back to town with the space saver wheels limiting us to 80km/h. We had a brief “comfort” stop in Amberley at the Brew Moon, where a warm fire and a glass of cider provided plenty of comfort after a long cold day. From there it was back to Belfast and then home. I’ll probably keep the Salto around home over winter and see if I can get a bit more practice in it and then roll out the Blitz when the weather gets a bit warmer again.