Monthly Archives: November 2020

15th November 2020: Ashley River

Date:   15/11/2020
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: 
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.

Enjoying a beautiful spring day 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.

Making a splash.

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.

John R tidies up some bottles & other rubbish dumped by a drunken rafting party a few days earlier.

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.

Cruising down one of the grade 2 rapids.

John offered to take the camera for some of the rapids and capture some rare photos of me paddling, which was much appreciated.

Me & the Blitz enjoying a beautiful sunny day on the Ashley.

I don’t often see what I look like when I’m on the river, so it was cool to get these pictures.

A rare photo of me running a rapid. Photo by John R.

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.

Running the main drop in the Ashley Gorge. Photo by John R.

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.

Catching the eddy after the main drop. Photo by John R.

Still he did get some very nice pictures.

Following John R down a rapid whilst holding the camera.

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.

Enjoying the scenery on one of the calmer stretches.

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.

John R making some moves.

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.

2nd November 2020: Avon River

Date:    2/11/2020
Avon River, Christchurch, NZ
River Conditions:   
1.656 cumecs at Gloucester Street bridge. Water mostly clear. Grade 1.
Weather Conditions:   
Overcast and coolish.
Number on Trip:    
1 person.
Time on River:  
30 minutes.
Comments:  After a long day doing science in the lab, I headed home, dropping off a DVD at Alice’s and picking up extra groceries (almost a little too much for my motorcycle). Lauri met as I pulled up, needing to tell me something before I’d even turn of the bike and taken my helmet off.

Apparently the family of pūtangitangi (Paradise shelduck) that had been living around Swanns Road bridge and Avonside drive, which had originally consisted of two adults and fourteen ducklings had been stuck with further tragedy. The mother duck had been hit by a car a week or so earlier, with papa duck soldiering on with a rapidly diminishing troop of ducklings. Down to just two ducklings, papa duck was killed by a car and his remaining youngsters were being bullied by other adults birds (pūtangitangi can be very territorial).

A group of bird rescuers had been trying to catch the remaining ducklings so they could be relocated somewhere safer and be taken care of until they could look after themselves. They had been trying to catch them for most of the day, but being restricted to the river banks, had made the task quite difficult. Lauri had seen the request for a kayak and had offered her one up, if anyone was willing to pick it up, as she wasn’t up to getting down to the river and chasing ducklings.

When I got home, the group was still down at the river after nearly 10 hours and once Lauri had filled me in on the details, I quickly changed into my kayaking gear while she put away the groceries. Shouldering the Blitz, I hurried off to the Swanns Road bridge. Spotting a group of people upstream, I headed in that direction while looking for a good launch spot. The banks were a little steeper than expected and the water was a bit shallow, but I managed to select a suitable spot and then struggled to get my deck fitted, feeling a bit tired and out of practice.

I paddled over to where a guy on a sit on top kayak was trying to catch the final duckling, who was playing hard to get (the other duckling had been caught earlier). I tried to herd the duckling to the sit on top, so the guy could scoop it up in the small hand held net, but the duckling was very good at evading and when we got close, it would often dive under the water, swim under the kayaks and pop up somewhere else.

Chasing a paradise duckling on the Avon. Photo by Verity Tearnan Verster.

We tried various variations on this theme, without success. Eventually I took the net to see if my luck was any better. Paddling, maneuvering and chasing a fast moving duckling isn’t exactly easy, especially when you’re holding a net as well as a paddle, and are trying not to scare or hurt a young, fragile bird. Eventually, after a number of attempts, the duckling surfaced next to my kayak after diving to avoid the net. With the net still under water, I was able to lift it up under the duckling, trapping him and lifting him out of the water. From there, he was transported carefully to the waiting rescuers on the bank, where he was able to join this sister.

Job done, I said goodbye and wished them luck, before paddling off downstream. The river was quiet and empty and I briefly reveled in the peace and solitude, before clambering out of my boat and up the bank. A short walk home and then I filled Lauri in with the news. I then changed and wander down to the shops to pick up some well deserved takeaways for dinner.

The ducklings were given a full check over and one was treated for a minor infection. Once they were sufficiently recovered, they were relocated to a sanctuary with sprawling fields, a private stream, various other animals. Hopefully they will have long and happy lives.