River: Hurunui River, North Canterbury, NZ
River Conditions: 66 Cumecs at Mandamus. Grade 2 – 3, water swift & clear.
Weather Conditions: Sunny & warm with occasional strong easterly wind gusts.
Number on Trip: 8 kayakers (4 doing Maori Gully).
Time on River: 3 hours
Comments: The stars finally aligned and I was off on my first white water trip of the season. It was good to load up the Blitz and head off to the Belfast Tavern, even if I was feeling a little nervous. We sorted out vehicles and then we were off to Hurunui. I was travelling with Crispin and his son Zac, with Zac practicing his driving skills by driving us most of the way. We were team Bliss-stick, as our roof rack was predominately Bliss-stick boats, with a lone Jackson kayak.
We stopped off at Devil’s Fang Falls for a brief inspection, with the river running a bit higher than normal, there were plenty of lines to choose from. Many of the rocks under water, but there was a foaming mass of white water below the central line and going down the left hand side would have been interesting to say the least. We picked our lines and noted the features for future reference, then back into the cars.
When we arrived at Jollie Brook, there was a big group of WWCC beginners gathered for additional training on the river. We also found that Crispin’s roof rack had come loose on one end and the boats were only just held on, so it was lucky that nothing had fallen off. We unloaded and got changed, then waited around while the shuttle was run. We got on the river for a bit of a warm up before our shuttle drivers returned, it was good to be back on the river and to find out that my skills hadn’t departed, even if my fitness was somewhat lacking.
Once our drivers returned, we started off downstream so as not to crowd out the beginners. I enjoyed working my way down through the boulder gardens, surfing on the various holes and waves, splashing through the wave trains, and feeling my confidence returning. We took our time, enjoying the sun and the river, taking photos where I could.
We had a good team and everyone was keen to play and push themselves. It is good to be on the river with a solid group of people, enjoying the sunshine and a great flow, it always reminds me why I love white water kayaking. At the bluff before the confluence with the South Branch, Jono demonstrated his skills by getting over the pillow at the base of the bluff, which looked somewhat daunting at the increased flow, and up into the micro eddy against the rock face. Others gave it ago, but no one pulled it off quite so successfully.
I always get nervous coming up to Devil’s Fang Falls, even though it is relatively straight forward and I’ve done it many times, I still get butterflies. Today I took the lead as I wanted to get into position at the bottom so I could get photos of the rest of the group. Having scoped out the line from the road, I took the right line, avoiding the centre rooster tail and the turnover at its margin, then breaking into the eddy at the bottom to quickly get the camera out before anyone followed me down. Everyone else came down a similar, though the odd person disappeared in to the foaming mass towards the centre, there were no dramas. Once down, Crispin, Jono and a few others had a bit of a surf in the hole at the base, sometimes with only theirs heads visible above the foam.
At this flow, the next rapid with its’ popular play wave and not so forgiving run out, had few takers. I intended to drop in to the eddy on the right to take photos, but found myself washed through and heading for the bluff. I dodged that turmoil and got in to the left hand eddy and only managed to get a few pictures before we carried on downstream. By now I was feeling a bit tired but still enjoying the river. I wasn’t feeling confident enough to do Maori Gully and was quite happy to get out at Seawards. Chatted with Zac in the sun, while waited for the shuttle to be run, before heading down to the Maori Gully take out to wait for the rest of the group to arrive. Crispin and Zac did some work to lash the roof rack in place, before we loaded up and headed back to town, with a brief stop at Brew Moon for beers & pizza.