7th March 2020: Hope River

Date: 7/03/20
River: Hope River, North Canterbury, NZ
River Conditions: Hope stage 0.267m at Glynn Wye, Waiau 34 cumecs at Marble Point. Grade 2, cold and clear.
Weather Conditions: Sunny and warm, with strong nor-easterly winds
Number on Trip: 20
Time on River: 2.5 hours from the Hope Bridge to Waiau Confluence.
Comments: Graeme’s Mild West Coast Trip has long been a favourite of mine, so when I noticed it in the WWCC trip list, I checked my schedule and applied for a leave pass from Lauri. She approved and I booked the accommodation at the Old Nurses Home Guesthouse. I then spent the next few weeks worrying about going away, transport and generally logistics! Just for a single night away! Eventually the weekend rolled around, I had decided just to take my own car, rather than car pool and leave the Impreza overnight at the Belfast Tavern. I loaded up the vehicle, revelling in the ability to take as much as much as I liked, without having to worry about cramming it in to another vehicle.

Saturday morning dawned and by the time I had finished breakfast I was running sort on time. I made it to the Belfast shortly after 8am and signed to the trip register. With no need to swap vehicles or load gear, I was able to get away easily once the plans were sorted. We arranged to stop in Culverden for food, before heading to the Hope take out to consolidate vehicles to make the shuttle after the run easier.

When I hit the motorway and got up to speed, the cockpit cover popped off and began flapping around, meaning I had to slow down and then take the first exit I came to, which turned out to be Tram Road. After I unclipped the cockpit cover and stowed it in the car, I had to make a bit of a detour through Kaiapoi before getting back on the motorway. It was a pleasant drive to Culverden, where we regrouped and had a bite to eat. Graeme’s pie looked tasty, so I treated myself to an early lunch (around 9:20am) to keep me fuelled up for the river, as you never know when there’ll be another suitable stop.

We stopped on the roadside near the Waiau confluence, where we planned to get out, and got changed in to our paddling gear and we left mine and Thomas’s cars at the get out with the dry gear and transferred our gear to other cars for the trip up to the put in. At the put in we split in to two groups, with our group going first so we could unlock the vehicles when we got there.

Preparing to set off from the State Highway 7 bridge.

It was a beautiful day when we put on the river and the water was crystal clear, we’d split in to two groups to keep numbers manageable on the river. I was in the first group so there would be no waiting around for me to arrive to allow access to dry gear. I couldn’t remember much about the river from previous trips, except that we’d pass through two small gorges.

Playing on the first rapid on this section of the Hope River.

Paddling passed the spectacular bluffs that are visible from road, was pretty cool and there were a number of small, boulder garden type rapids and it was fun to play around, running the rapids backwards, dropping in behind the rocks and surfing the various features.

Whitewater fun on a sunny day in North Canterbury.

While not difficult, the rapids were bigger than I expected and certainly provided the opportunity for some fun.

Hugh contemplates the wreak of a Holden Torana that has been here for many years.

The first gorge featured the wreck of a much battered Holden Torana, that has been in the gorge for many years. Hugh joked that it was from New Zealand’s version of “Thelma & Louise” and the gorge should be named after the movie.

Hugh wonders if Indiana Jones managed to get across before the bridge collapsed.

Further down was the remains of a wire footbridge that crossed the river at some stage. It looked like something that belonged in an Indiana Jones movie, I only hope he made it across before it collapsed. Apparently these old, abandoned bridges pose a real hazard to low flying helicopters.

Hugh enjoying the sun and whitewater in his pack raft. Still going strong at 77.

We had a good paddle on a beautiful day and it was a good warm up for the rest of weekend, with the paddling difficulty increasing as the weekend continued. No one seemed to have any difficulty and there were no dramas.

As we neared the confluence with the Waiau, the right bank was scanned to spot the track that led back to where we left the shuttle vehicles. Thomas spotted it and we climbed out, shouldered our boats and walked back to the road. Once I got changed and loaded up my gear, I drove some other the other drivers back to the put in so they could collect their vehicles and then go back and pick up the rest of the group. I rested in the sun and chatted with Fiona before Graeme turned up and said we’d be meeting up in Springs Junction before heading out to run the Upper Grey.