20th December 2020: Hurunui River

Date:   20/12/20
River:    Hurunui River, North Canterbury, NZ
River Conditions:  23.4 Cumecs at Mandamus. Grade 2 – 3, water swift & clear.
Weather Conditions: Sunny & warm followed by a southerly change, to overcast, with occasional rain.
Number on Trip:  28 kayakers (12 doing Maori Gully).
Time on River: 
4.5 hours
Comments:  Wishing to escape the stress that the lead up to Christmas always seems to involve, especially with the added worries of much delayed earthquake repairs, drug dealing neighbours and the demolition & development happening to the rear of our property, a run down the Hurunui looked just the ticket.

I hitched a ride with Nick and we drove up to the Jollie Brook put in, with a brief stop at Dozy Stream, to inspect Devil’s Fang Falls and make sure the lines looked good or at least runnable. Not many seemed keen to run the rapid as they thought it looked a little bony, I felt the right hand line would be fine.

Sorting out boats before hitting the river.

We split up into groups and got changed in to our gear, our group hit the water first and were underway while the shuttle was still being run.

Blair pulls a rock splat.

We had a reasonably experienced group, so there was a reasonable amount of playing to be done. Blair had a great time doing rock splats and other moves.

I love the Jollie Brook section of the Hurunui, as it is a good combination of boulder gardens, rapids, gorges, play spots and quiet pools to practice rolls of other tricks.

Kiran pulls a whoopie, while AJ lines up for his turn.

Whoopies seem to have made a come back, with many people now paddling RPMs & Axioms, and there were a number of places for people to practice their skills.

Getting some air in the club’s Jackson Duo.

As we neared the South Branch confluence, the clubs Jackson Dynamic Duo caught up with us near the Mezzanine Rapid and I was rewarded with this spectacular aerial shot, as it launched skyward over a rock. We played around on the Mezzanine, the lower flow allowing relatively easy access to the raised eddy at the base of the bluff, giving newer paddlers the opportunity to tick off this achievement. There was also some fun surfing too, before a brief “lunch” stop at the South Branch confluence.

The usual line on Devil’s Fang Falls.

The section down to Dozy Stream is pretty cruisy, though the weather was changing and our blue skies and sunny day gradually disappeared. As we neared Devil’s Fang Falls, the usual discussions on who is planning to do what occurred, who planned to take the left channel, who planned to portage and who planned to run the rapid and which lines they intended to take. I went down the standard right hand line, avoided the “fang” and pulled into the eddy at the bottom and got the camera out to capture the others as they came down the rapid.

Blair hadn’t inspected the rapid on the way up, so got out on the left hand side for a look. After watch another paddler run the rapid down the standard route, he got back into his boat and lined up on his preferred route…

Blair not taking the usual line on Devil’s Fang Falls.

But for some reason he chose a channel to the left of the usual line. I had looked at this line from the road, and it looked sort of ok, but from above, sitting in a kayak, it looked a lot less attractive.

Pulling cartwheels on Devil’s Fang Falls is the sign of a real pro.

Blair’s progress down the rapid involved pulling an almost cartwheel, before disappearing from sight.

Blair & his kayak are in the the centre of the photo. Honest!

Fortunately he soon popped up, quickly reoriented himself, and had a quick surf with a smile plastered on his face. I made a mental note to myself not to take that line in future.

“All good!” Blair survives an alternative line on Devil’s Fang Falls.

Several other paddlers went down the left hand channel of the river (the usual portage route) and then dropped down the bouncy staircase on the left hand curve of the rapid, into the foaming white water at the base.

Coming down the left channel on Devil’s Fang Falls.

I personally prefer the far right channel as it tends to be much smoother and you tend not to spend time under water. So far I haven’t had any issues with the “fang” at the end of the run out, the flow seems to push you away & round it, rather than into it.

The top of the play spot below the Dozy Stream put in.

We regrouped below the rapid and one of the other groups caught up, while we waited for those that portaged to get back on the water. Past the Dozy Stream put in, we sent a bit of time at the popular play wave. There was the odd bit of drama as the occasional paddler got swept in to the bluff below the wave and ended up swimming. It’s a tricky spot to roll up in as the small eddy on the right hand side feeds back against the bluff, keeping you stuck there. Not fun, I try to avoid this and probably don’t play here as much as would if I felt happier about the wash out zone.

A quiet family outing on the Hurunui.

This particular spot is a great place to get good photos and I generally use the “I’m taking photos” excuse, to avoid getting washed against the bluff after a surf & roll go wrong. Ok, so maybe that is a little chicken of me, but I do like to stay smiley side up.

Playing below the Dozy Stream put in.

Others, possibly with more competent or confident rolls, are more than happy to showcase there skills and I am more than happy to capture that on “film”.

One of the quiet gorge sections.

The weather had changed and what had started as a bright, sunny day was getting cooler and more overcast. We picked up the pace a little on the way down to Seawards and only had an occasional play as we worked our way down the rapids.

Getting ready to run Maori Gully.

At Seawards, some of the group left the river to run the shuttle, while the rest of us hung around until all those who wanted to run Maori Gully were assembled. Once we were all ready to go, we moved off in dribs & drabs, bouncing down the wave train to meet up at the Magic Roundabout. After enjoying weaving in & out, and roundabout on the various waves, eddies and flows of the Magic Roundabout, we carried on downstream.

Past Simon’s Hole, where no one was keen for a surf, down trough the boulder gardens and bum rock. The Elevator was relatively some and no one had any issues, despite having a few people who hadn’t been through the Gully before.

Going down the elevator.

There were a few nerves above Cheese Grater, I chose to go early and hopefully get a few photos of the rest of the team. I picked a line, just right of centre and slid down the tongue with a reasonable amount of boat speed and the nose pointing slightly right, no dramas, and pulled into an eddy on river right that afforded a good view of the drop.

Getting some air off Cheese Grater.

There was a fair bit of air, as kayaks shot up the wave below the drop. There was the odd person who got kicked to the left, but no real dramas and everyone seemed pleased to have braved the challenge of Cheese Grater. Some nice pics too, before someone parked in the eddy in front of me.

“I survived Cheese Grater!”

After Cheese Grater, the remaining rapids are a lot less daunting. Feeling a bit cold and tired, I was keen to get to the take out. The climb out is always tiring, but it was good to get to the top and get into some warm clothes, and out of the light rain.

As it was getting a little late, Nick & I just headed straight back to town, without the usual stop at the Brew Moon. As we hit the motorway, we ended up in the wrong lane which resulted in us getting trapped on the new Christchurch Northern Corridor (CNC) motorway bypassing Belfast and heading directly into the city. Turning back was not an option and it wasn’t until we reach Cranford Street before we could back track to Belfast. The CNC had only just opened and it was quite interesting to explore this new route, still it didn’t get us home quicker.