River: Rangitata River, South Canterbury, NZ
River Conditions: 59 cumecs at Klondyke, water cold and clear. Grade 2.
Weather Conditions: Sunny, warm with light winds.
Number on Trip: 5 (plus 5 doing the grade 4 gorge section)
Time on River: 3.25 hours
Comments: There was a little bit of confusion over meeting times and other trip details after the trip had a change of leaders, so I was quite glad when I showed up at Caltex Hornby, running slightly late, to find there were a number of vehicles parked on the road with kayaks on them. Ian F was there with a small group of people keen to do the grade 2 section from Klondyke down, however after a sort discussion, it turned out that the grade 4 paddlers and the trip organiser had headed off or changed the meeting time and place. Ian made a few calls and then we headed off the BP Rolleston to sort out boats and vehicles. From Rolleston we drove up the Rangitata Rafts HQ to meet up with the rest of the group.
Once we were all together, we drove down to the Klondyke put in and got changed. From there we took all the vehicles to the OPC take out and dropped off the grade 2 paddlers vehicles off there. We then accompanied the grade 4 paddlers to their put in and shuttled the vehicles back to Klondyke. We kitted up and walked down to the river carrying our boats over our shoulders. We were just having our safety briefing for setting off, when a guy appeared and asked if any of us had a set of jumper cables. As we only had the shuttle vehicles, no one knew what was in the cars. In the end, we gave him a push start in all our kayaking gear (it was a very warm day) and he managed to get the car started and drive off. We completed our briefing and then took to the water.
I was paddling my new Blitz Special and was keen to see what difference the lower volume would make. Our first obstacle was the weir and I suggested a line and went down first, turned out not the best line as I hit the rock that Ben had noted and tipped over. I banged my elbow but soon rolled upright, a little embarrassed at not having exactly inspired confidence to the rest of the group I was leading. The rest of the team had no dramas, though Merv manage to take a swim after tipping out in the eddy below the weir.
From there on, we worked our way through the various rapids and boulder gardens, picking our way down trying to maximise our fun by trying to catch as many eddies as we could, while surfing as much as possible. By the end of each rapid I was pretty tired, but it was a lot of fun.
We were joining on the trip by Tony on his inflatable stand up paddleboard (SUP), which made an interesting addition to the our group and I was particularly interested in seeing how it would perform on the rapids. Tony was a very experienced paddler and we didn’t expect him to have any problems.
It was quite neat to watch Tony as he navigated the rapids and maintained his balance. As we were generally continuously on the move, in order to capture the action photos, I had to float down the rapids holding the camera and balancing the paddle on the kayaks deck.
The river had moved away from the set of groynes that had been put in to reduce bank erosion, but quite a good rapid had form there and we had a good surf on the wave at the bottom.
It was a beautiful day to be on the river and I soon settled in to my new Blitz Special, it felt very familiar but a little more responsive and certainly easier to dip the lower volume ends into the water. The main thing I did notice, was how sore my feet got. With my Blitz, I had to carve away some of the foam central pillar to make it comfortable and I thought I had removed enough from the Blitz Special, but apparently not. Mind you, at least I didn’t have to stand up for the whole trip.
There must have been some nesting sites for seagulls and in some places the air was full of their screeching calls as they wheeled and soared over head.
Everyone seemed to have a good day and really enjoyed the experience, especially as it was the first time the rest of the group had paddled the Rangitata. The river provides pretty of challenges if you choose to accept them and there aren’t very many stretches without any rapids. It is a good section for beginners and for those just wanting a good fun paddle.
It was great to paddle past the towering cliffs of gravel and rock, especially interesting from a groundwater perspective to see the volumes of water flowing out of the cliffs in specific locations.
At one stage Ben decided to get out of his boat and let it float away from him as he enjoyed a refreshing dip. Tony was kind enough to pick it up and ferry it back to him on his deck, otherwise there would have been more swimming involved.
Eventually we reached the take out, which was a bit of a relief as my legs were killing me and I was getting pretty tired. Once on shore we packed up all our gear and Tony deflated and folded up his board (try that with a kayak). We drove back to Rolleston, pausing for a well earned cider and a chat at the Mayfield Tavern, and then off home, feeling somewhat sore and tired.