Monthly Archives: April 2017

25th April 2017: Hurunui River

Date:    25/04/17
River:    Hurunui River, North Canterbury, NZ
River Conditions:   28 Cumecs at Mandamus. Grade 2 – 3, water clear.
Weather Conditions:  Warm and sunny with light north easterly winds.
Number on Trip:    8 kayakers, with 4 doing Maori Gully
Time on River:  4 hours.
Comments:  A bonus ANZAC day trip meant the opportunity for an extra, and unexpected, day on the river. The weather forecast and the flow looked good, permissions were asked and granted, so it was off to the hills. The 9:30am meeting made for a leisurely start, maybe too leisurely, with French toast in bed and then a rush to be at the Belfast Tavern in time.

We made our way up to Seawards, got changed and then headed up to Jollie Brook, leaving one vehicle at the take out. We stopped briefly at Devil’s Fang Falls to check the lines and what we saw wasn’t very encouraging. Much of the flow is going down the left side of the river, making the normal line very bony and definitely full of teeth, at this point most of the group decided they liked their own teeth just where they were, and decided to portage the rapid. The day was perfect, sunny and warm with scarcely a breath of wind, rare indeed as fine days are often plagued by gusty nor-westers.

The Jollie Brook put in, looking towards the mountains.

We had a good warm up at Jollie Brook, as we had a number of newer paddlers and I always need to take the opportunity to remember how to paddle.

Warming up at Jollie Brook.

Moves were made and rolls tried out before letting the flow take us down stream.

Fighting for the same “wave”.

I always enjoy the section just down from Jollie Brook, there aren’t really any specific rapids, just plenty of rocks making an easy boulder garden that can either be drifted through or can make a good practice course as you work your way down the river from eddy to eddy or wave to wave, and surfing where you can. Nothing is particularly hard but it does pay to stay upright as some bits can be a little shallow, causing the potential for some helmet vs geology interactions.

An almost perfect day on the Hurunui.

The sun blazed down, turning the water to glittering silver, and it made it seem like the height of summer rather than the middle of Autumn.

Paul runs a rapid.

The newer kayakers were generally keen to try new things and push their boundaries, all seemed to have reasonable combat rolls as well as a good range of general skills. Obviously the quality of training methods and paddler development has improved greatly since I did a beginners course with the club in 2000. Eddies were caught, waves were surfed and whoopees were attempted. It was also good to see that most were paddling more play orientated river runners rather than the big creekers of a few years back.

We stopped for a break at South Branch before carrying on down the river towards Dozy Stream. As we neared Devil’s Fang Falls, I checked if anyone was going to run it and the consensus was that they would portage down the left hand channel.

Devil”s Fang Falls from another angle.

I briefly considered running it before taking the left channel with the intention of portaging. As the river got increasingly shallow, I decided to have a look at the left hand side of the rapid, with the possibility of getting a photo. As I moved into position, I noticed that there seemed to be enough water flowing down the rapid and it looked like it would be possible to bounce down the channel pictured above without too much drama, so this is what I did, avoiding the need to get out of my boat.

The bluff below Dozy Stream claims another victim.

Below Dozy Stream, the bluff rapid claimed another paddler, after he broke out of the small eddy just above the bluff and got swept into the bluff and failed to roll up again. Paddler and gear were soon reunited on the bank before breaking out and styling the rapid like a pro.

Surf’s up.

The hole at the top of the rapid was looking reasonably big today and their weren’t many takers, but those who did made it look easy.

Styling a rapid.

The rest of the way down to Seawards pasted without incident. I was happy to get out there as it was getting later in the day and I’d had a good day out already, but we had a few who were keen to run the Gully so I could hardly say no, especially as Paul wanted to do it for the first time. So half the group got out to run the shuttle while we ran the gully.

Playing on the Magic Roundabout.

The Magic Roundabout was fairly boisterous with some interesting currents and we didn’t spend long there. From there we left the sunshine behind us and as the daylight faded, the air  got cooler as we entered a somewhat gloomy Maori Gully. As this was Paul’s first time through, Nick & Heidi gave him plenty of advice and we took fairly straight forward lines through the rapids. No problems at Bum Rock or the Elevator but Cheese Grater had us all feeling a little bit nervous. We talked through the line and what you needed to do to avoid the kick to the left and the spanking that often followed. Mike showed how it was done and took up position at the bottom, Heidi went next then Paul. Everyone seemed to go fine, and though Paul did a slight tail stand and ended up tipping over, he soon rolled up right with no drama. I went last, feeling a little worried as I ran through the list of things I needed to do I kept my nose pointing to the right and as I reached the lip, just right of centre, I clearly saw the line I needed to take, put in some good strokes and powered down the green tongue and over the wave and out, probably the cleanest run I’ve done on this drop.

The rest of the run went smoothly, though I’m not sure I took the best line through the corner rapid as I think I ended up punching through the odd hole.  From here it was on to the Pop Up Spot, where Nick demonstrated some moves to Paul. I had a brief go but wished to stay dry so didn’t push it too hard. I had a brief drama as I ended up going left at the big rock in the last rapid before the take out and had to make some quick moves to avoid what might have been an uncomfortable situation. I had been that way before but might check it out next time but maybe with a little more care. Paul was very pleased with his first trip down the gully and he did very well, especially considering this was his first kayaking season, having only done the club’s beginners course at the start of the season.

The climb out wasn’t much fun (as usual) but the new steps and work on the track has improved the walk quite a bit. We had a short wait for the shuttle vehicles to arrive and then it was back to town as the sun sank behind the hills. On the way back to Belfast, we spotted a bright object in the sky and since the sun hadn’t fully set, we assumed it must be a plane. It didn’t seem to move much so I thought it might be a planet but when we got bank to the Belfast Tavern there was nothing in the right location on my Star Chart app. When I got home Facebook informed us it was actually the NASA super pressure research balloon, that had been launched from Wanaka earlier in the day.

23rd April 2017: Avon River

Date:    23/04/17
Avon River, Christchurch, NZ
River Conditions:  
1.25 cumecs at Gloucester Street bridge. Water mostly clear. Grade 1.
Weather Conditions:  
Sunny & warm, no wind.
Number on Trip:   
2 people.
Time on River:  
1.5 hours.
Comments:  This was the first time we had been out for a paddle on the Avon since before the earthquakes. We put in at the new boat ramp near the site of the old WWCC gear shed, now long since demolished and the site cleared. We paddled from Swanns Road bridge down to the Gayhurst Road bridge and back again. This section of the Avon flows through the Red Zone so now has a very rural feel, where once the banks were lined with houses. It was a beautiful, sunny day and the autumn colours were lovely. It was really nice to be out on the river with Lauri again.

Heading off down the Avon in to the Red Zone.

Near where we put in Lauri spotted a largish flounder that was startled by her kayak. As we made our way down the river, we encountered plenty of Canada geese, ducks, paradise ducks, black swans and the occasional shag. Near the Gayhurst Road bridge, I spotted a bicycle in the river and spent a little time fishing it out and leaving it on the bank. Mountain bikes get kind of heavy when their frames fill up with water.

Paddling through the new “rural” landscape of the Avon River as it winds it’s way through the middle of the city.

On the way back, working our way against the current, a voice called out from behind and Murray cruised up beside us in his race boat. We chatted as we paddled along beside his significantly faster kayak, struggling to keep up even though he had slowed his pace considerably. When he slowed down too much, his boat got awfully tippy until he picked up speed again, and this increased pace left both Lauri and I feeling a little tired by the end. Fortunately since the put in was very close to home, we were soon able to have a rest and some left over pizza for lunch.

9th April 2017: Ashley River

Date:    09/04/17
Ashley River, Canterbury, NZ
River Conditions:  
17 to 14 cumecs at Ashley Gorge. Water slightly discoloured, swift and cold. Grade 2 to 3.
Weather Conditions:  
Sunny & warm, no wind.
Number on Trip:   
20 people.
Time on River: 
5.5 hours.
Comments:  This was planned to be a trip to the Hurunui, but heavy rain over the week pushed the Ashley up to over 200 cumecs, a little too challenging for me at that flow. Fortunately by the weekend the flow had dropped to much more manageable levels and I had the choice of both a Saturday or Sunday trip. The weather looked better on the Sunday plus there was the added bonus of running the upper gorge (grade 2) as well.

There was quite a group at the Belfast Tavern and we consolidated vehicles for the trip up to the camp ground, where we were meeting up with even more paddlers. Hugh was along and was planning to paddle his pack raft, a recent addition to his fleet, and there was also another pack rafter along for the trip. These seem like a great idea, as they are light and easily transported but are still more than capable of running a wide range of white water, including some that would be very hard to access carrying a kayak.

The drive in to the Lees Valley is fairly long and winding, but seemed to have stood up to the recent storms reasonably well. Some of the rapids can be glimpsed from the road but the major grade 3 rapids flow through a section quite distant from the road. After leaving the middle bridge, we climbed into the low cloud which blanketed the Lees Valley and obscured the sun.

Leaving the Lees Valley, overhung with fog.

Nineteen of us put in by the Lees Valley bridge under a heavy blanket of fog, with Doug and another driver planning to meet us at the middle bridge. As usually it was good to be back on the river and I soon found I hadn’t completely forgotten how to paddle. We started off as one big group but soon split in to two smaller groups, with the front runners disappearing off down the river and Bruce and me acting as tail end Charlies to keep the stragglers in line.

Upper gorge rapid, the last wisps of fog disappearing.

We soon left the fog behind and paddled out into the sunshine on an almost perfect Canterbury day with plenty of sun and little wind. We had a good strong group, with even the newer paddlers having a good solid roll and plenty of skills to keep them out of trouble.

Running a rapid in the upper gorge.

Everyone had plenty of fun, pushing personal boundaries and playing along the way. The grade two section is a great little run with enough challenges to keep even experienced paddlers amused.  It took us a bit over two hours to reach the middle bridge and we stopped for a wee break to stretch our legs. Doug joined us here and Hugh and another kayaker got off o shuttle the vehicles back down to the campground.

Once we left the bridge behind, the level of challenge gradually increases. Our groups had changed slightly with our rear group gaining a few extra paddlers. At this flow, most of the bigger rapids are not quite so pushy and you have a bit more time to pick lines and catch eddies, the downside is that more of the rocks are exposed and this can catch out the unwary. Everyone seemed to rise to the challenge and I didn’t see any out of boat experiences, with all the upside down paddlers I saw, quickly righting themselves. Rolling training has certainly come a long way since my beginners course.

Bruce runs the boulder garden rapid.

The boulder garden rapid above the main gorge was particularly fun today. It is long and with this flow has plenty of rocks to dodge and eddies to catch, great fun. After a brief rest in the forever eddy to regroup, we entered the gorge proper. Here the walls move in and the rapids are more closely spaced but still with plenty of recovery space between each major one.

A jet boat in the Ashley Gorge!

One of the surprises of the day was encountering a jet boat in the gorge. A cry of “jet boat” went up and we all pulled over to the side as the tiny one person boat sped by. Bruce had encountered the boat the day before and he seemed to be on the look out for kayakers. The cry “jet boat” went up again as he returned down the river just after we had negotiated a fairly tight rapid. He pulled over for a chat below the rapid and we were all quite impressed that he had managed to navigate such a tight and rocky river at such a flow without mishap.

Looking back up one of the grade 3 rapids in the lower gorge.

The gorge is really beautiful and it is a real pleasure to be there on such a perfect day, especially with such a great bunch of people.

A clean run down John H’s nemesis.

There are some nice rapids in the gorge and no one seemed to have any dramas. The main drop was good and I didn’t do too badly, avoiding the upside down experience from last time. There was the odd roll but everyone managed it well, even those doing the grade 3 section for the first time.

Everyone enjoyed surfing this wave.

There are some great surf spots with the one pictured above, being enjoyed by everyone. It was wide and smooth with very nice open ends. It was easy to get on and if you got it right, you could ride it forever (or at least until you felt bad about being a wave hog and let someone else have a turn).

The large rock with the buffer wave wasn’t too challenging today and several of the braver paddlers went into the eddy on the right hand side above the rock. I choose the option that avoided this, the vision of breaking out and then being swept upside down against the face of the rock seemed an all too real possibility.

Last grade 3 rapid, Start left, move right and straight through the gap.

The last major rapid always looks impressive, with its narrow gap to run but didn’t present any dramas. From this point I always feel a bit more able to relax and really enjoy what the river has to offer. This resulted in my only roll of the day as surfing a hole didn’t quite go as planned. Still I popped up quickly and just a little wet, so no harm was done.

After a long but enjoyable paddle out (there is still plenty of smaller rapids after last grade 3 rapid), we finally reached the get out, feeling tired and sore. Drivers quickly got changed and Doug drove them back to Lees Valley to complete the shuttle. It was a long wait, broken only by conversation and a brief game of ninja warriors (a standing tag type game), and by the time the vehicles returned, it was getting rather chilly and the sky was darkening. The drive back to town was quiet as we were all tired after spending over 5 hours in our boats, sleep was well earned that night.