River: Ashley River, Canterbury, NZ
River Conditions: 9.5 cumecs at Ashley Gorge. Water clear and cool. Grade 3.
Weather Conditions: Sunny & warm, light winds in the afternoon.
Number on Trip: 2
Time on River: 4 hours.
Comments: I’d been watching the Ashley come up and go down repeatedly, but often life and other commitments or responsibilities would get in the way and the opportunity would pass. The Show Weekend club trip was off to Murchison, which would have been great but I couldn’t really leave home for too long, so it was a nice surprise when John R, suggested a low flow run down the Ashley Gorge. There were a few others interest but when 8:45 rolled around, there was only the two of us in the Belfast Tavern carpark. We decided that two was enough and headed off to the Domain.
It was a pleasant drive out to the Ashley Gorge Domain, we got changed, left my car at the take out and drove up to the middle bridge. With just two of us we were soon on the river.
John was keen to provide some coaching on pivot turns, something I’ve never really done intentionally. They used to be something that happen when I was leaving an eddy in an RPM or my old Super Sport, as the tail sliced beneath the surface and the nose shot into the air, followed by me being upside-down and unable to roll. Swimming was usually the result of an unexpected whoopie.
I got the basic idea, but it often seems so counter-intuitive to my “not tipping over” natural responses. Realistically, I need to be happier with my roll before I try moves like this with any serious intent. Still it was good to get some understanding of the techniques involved, even if I couldn’t really commit to trialing them on the river.
Further down we came across a collection of bottles and other rubbish on the river bank. John cleared it up and we carried out the rubbish in our boats, something those responsible should have done. Later, in a conversation with Phil at work, he mentioned that a few days earlier on the river, he had encountered a group of drunken idiots in a raft. They didn’t have proper safety gear and seemed to be lacking in clues too, telling Phil to F off when he asked if they were OK. We suspect they may have been responsible for the trash, plus the yellow bladed raft paddles that seemed to litter the river bottom further downstream.
John offered to take the camera for some of the rapids and capture some rare photos of me paddling, which was much appreciated.
I don’t often see what I look like when I’m on the river, so it was cool to get these pictures.
Sometimes I think I look kind of funny, Lauri says she can tell it’s me from a distance purely based on the way I paddle, which I’m not sure if it’s an entirely good thing.
The main drop is interesting, as there is a bit of a hole above the main drop, to avoid, before riding down the tongue or boofing to the left, to land in the eddy. Or some combination of these, depending on how successful your relative techniques are. Fortunately this time I was successful, though a little quick so John didn’t have quite enough time to set up to capture the sequence.
Still he did get some very nice pictures.
It was such a beautiful day and it was so nice to be back on the river after such a long break. The Ashley Gorge is a wonderful place to spend a sunny day.
During one of the quieter stretches, I spotted a large trout, one of the few I’ve ever seen from my kayak. It vanished pretty quickly, speeding out of sight to hide in the shadows.
We worked or way down the river, taking our time and enjoying the various features. Lack of paddle fitness started to show on the lower sections and the flow slowed and the rapids became less frequent. As we got closer to the campground, groups of people enjoying the warm sunshine and cool water, appeared along the bank. It is always good to see others appreciating the natural environment and our special water resources.
Eventually we reached the domain, got changed and then shuttled back to the middle bridge so John could pick up his car. I stopped in Oxford for an ice cream and a drink to keep me going, before arriving home at an almost reasonable hour.