Monthly Archives: December 2020

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.

17th December2020: Avon River (Ōtakaro)

Date:    17/12/2020
Avon River, Christchurch, NZ
River Conditions:   
1.656 cumecs at Gloucester Street bridge. Water clear. Grade 1.
Weather Conditions:   
Overcast and cool, NE winds.
Number on Trip:    
11 people.
Time on River:  
1.5 hours.
Comments:  We had talked about doing a trip down the Avon River as a Christmas or team building exercise for the Groundwater Team at ESR, for a couple of years now, this year we finally took the bull by the horns, the bit between our teeth and actually organised it. The main logistical issues was that not every one has or can borrow a kayak. I had thought those without boats could buy a cheap inflatable raft, for a leisurely float down the river, as we’d done with a group of our friends many years ago, floating downstream from the Puriri Street bridge to the Botanic Gardens. However, with days to go before the trip, a census of rivercraft indicated that there were still a number of people without suitable aquatic transport. Fortunately, between Phil & myself, we own more that a few kayaks and so were able to outfit those bereft of a boat, with a suitable whitewater solution.

The weather forecast looked less promising, the day that had been chosen as the result of a Doodle Poll, seemed to be an almost winter like day, cold with showers, flanked by sunny, warm days with temperatures in the high 20s. The proposed day dawned, grey and cold, but with the hope it might clear by the afternoon. By the time I was driving out to our storage lock up to pick up some additional kayaks, I had the wipers on, with rain dotting the windscreen. Lashing three boats on my roof rack was interesting, with multiple straps keeping the kayaks in place, and I found myself missing the convenience of my old upright bars. Still, the kayaks stayed in place on the trip to work, via a stop at the supermarket for some food for the picnic at the end of the paddle.

Despite the weather, people at work seemed quite excited with the prospect of a paddle. I checked in with people to make sure everyone was happy and knew what we were doing and as the proposed meeting time near, I got changed and then drove down the the Botanic Gardens entry. Phil turned up a little after me and we unloaded our combined fleets on the grassy riverbank, and waited for the rest of the crew to arrive. Spray decks were put on and kayak fitted into, or not in some cases, leading to modifications or boat swaps. Once everyone was sorted out, we drove down to the Margaret Mahy Playground, parked up and crammed into Panan’s Prius for the shuttle back to the park.

Sorting out kayaks and gear.

Back on the river back, novice paddlers, squeezed into unfamiliar kayak and Phil assisted in launching them into the river with words of advice and a steadying hand. Once all the ducklings were on the water, Phil climbed into his own playboat, secured his deck and then slid down the bank and launched into the river. I briefly considered doing likewise, but the possibility of it all turning pear shaped and me looking stupid or wet or both, had me opting for a more conventional seal launch from the rivers edge.

Phil helps to launch Panan in my Blitz Special.

Judging by the smiles, everyone was enjoying themselves and no one was too cold, despite some people having dressed for a more summery day. Some of the newer paddlers, were learning how to paddle and steer their kayaks, and Phil was happy to provide additional coaching. The lack of spraydecks on some of the kayaks made things a little precarious for some, especially Greg who was using Murray’s son’s canoe polo, which had a low profile and risked flooding the cockpit if he railed too much.

Hard to believe we are still in the centre of New Zealand’s second biggest city.

Paddling through the Botanic Gardens is an enjoyable experience, as the river winds through the park with its’ diverse assortment of greenery and water fowl.

Paddling through the Botanic Gardens.

Floating past the Antigua Boatsheds and down the riffle that marks the downstream limit that can be paddled using the hired boats, we passed into the central city. Paddling under Montreal Street, the Canterbury Earthquake National Memorial comes into view, giving one a chance to reflect on the lives lost & changed, as well as the changes wrought on the city & its’ environs. Since the quakes, much of the city has changes dramatically and the Avon River corridor has been the focus of some of those changes and although we are in the urban centre of Christchurch, much effort has gone into restoring the river into a more natural state, as well as making it more accessible.

Paddling past the Earthquake Memorial Wall.

Passing under the Bridge of Remembrance allows for some reflections on the destruction & lives lost in past wars, before drifting past the The Terrace.

The Bridge of Remembrance.

The Terrace is a popular entertainment area, that morphed from the ruined Strip after the quakes.

“Is anyone stopping for a drink?”

We didn’t stop for a drink here or to enjoy at tasty meal at one of the many dining venues, but carried on our journey downstream, though I think Lee looked quite tempted. Often there are eels around the landings, but we weren’t able to spot any this time and we didn’t feel like trailing our fingers in the water to attract them.

No trolls under this bridge.

One of the neat things about kayaking along the Avon, is getting to see the city from a completely new angle or seeing sights that you wouldn’t otherwise see. Under another bridge, a number of steel waratahs had been hammered into the river bed forming a sort of slalom course, which caused some of our group a few difficulties.

The Gormley Statue with the new convention centre in the background.

We paddled past Gormley’s “Stay” and admired the almost completed Convention Centre, which is apparently meant to open later in 2021.

Paddling past the refurbished town hall and fountains.

It was nice to see the fountains working as we paddled through Victoria Square and past the Town Hall. Further down they are working on building a new foot bridge and there were a few workings to avoid.

Paddling past the partially repaired band rotunda.

Work has begun on the repairing the band rotunda, but it will be a wee while before anyone enjoys a meal there again.

Wakas under the bridge.

We were surprised to find a couple of traditional Maori waka under the Manchester Street bridge. The waka are used for paddling tours on the Avon and trips can be booked via their website, which would make for a very unique way to explore Ōtakaro.

The Poplars, with the take out at Margaret Mahy Playground.

Once we reached the Poplars, others from the group who had not been able to join us on the river, met us at the Margaret Mahy playground landing. While most of the group got out at the landing, Louise’s children had a go at kayaking under Phil’s tutelage, there were some smiles, splashing and a few tears, but I think they mostly enjoyed themselves.

We paddled down a little further, so we didn’t have to carry the kayaks as far to get them on the vehicles. From there our team huddled under the playground shelters and enjoyed a pot luck picnic and conversation. Lee provided some entertainment with his climbing skills. Eventually as time and the chill of the “summer” evening got to people (apparently not everyone had dry clothes or clothes suitable for “balmy” nor-easterly winds), numbers dwindled and we all headed home. It had been a fun trip and many were keen to do it again next year, possibly with a BBQ and better weather.

13th December 2020: Ashley River

Date:   13/12/2020
Ashley River, Canterbury, NZ
River Conditions:  
5.5 cumecs at Ashley Gorge. Water clear and cool. Grade 3.
Weather Conditions:  
Sunny & warm, with brief cooler, overcast periods
Number on Trip: 
Time on River: 
3.5 hours.
Comments:  We had the CWWC Christmas BBQ planned for this day at the Ashley Gorge Domain and Hugh thought it was a great idea to get a paddle in before the BBQ. Even though the flow was a low 5.5 cumecs, I was keen and soon a plan evolved, meeting at the campground at 9am. This meant a 6am wake up and I struggled out of bed, got dressed and loaded up the car. Breakfast was French toast with bacon, fried banana and fresh blueberries from our garden, a splash (or a slosh) of maple syrup, coffee & grapefruit juice. I was just mopping up the last of my maple syrup when 8am, my intended leave time went past and didn’t actually get away until around 8:24, somewhat behind schedule.

The route is pretty straight forward but a stop for petrol and a cycle race delayed me further. Everyone was changed and ready to head up to the middle bridge when I arrived. I quickly changed and left my dry gear in John H’s car and together with Cody and John H, headed up to the put in. We had quite a big group and Hugh had lent out a number packrafts for people to trial, so had five packrafts on the river too.

Gear was sorted out and packrafts were inflated. I decided to embed myself with the Hugh’s packrafting crew, to provide a “safety” kayaker and get some good photos for promotional purposes. Soon enough, we were on the water and bouncing down the river.

Kerry dodges the tree.

Everyone seemed happy driving their packrafts and everyone avoided the tree in the river, that forms the first hazard on this section. Pretty easy to avoid, but still a hazard.

When the boats hit the water, the air contracts and you have to stop to put more in.

There was a short stop to add some additional air to the packrafts, because no one likes it when their boat goes soft. This done, boats were back on the river and the adventure was underway.

Kerry & Becs, smiling down the river.

With only 5.5 cumecs in the river, this was definitely at the low end of the paddleable range for the Ashley. Some of the rapids were a little bony, but still easily navigable, though you did have to pay careful attention to picking your routes and avoiding rocks. I watched John H going down the big boulder garden above the forever eddy, and he seemed to be taking an unusual route and he disappeared behind a big rock for some time. I had taken up a position to photograph the others coming down the rapid, so I waited for him to reappear. Eventually he rounded the rock, hand walking his kayak, having run out of water on that route.

“We got soaked for this?”

On the previous Ashley trip with John R, we had noted flashes of yellow on the bottom of the river but didn’t stop to investigate further. This time John H was keen for some underwater action and with some assistance from Kelly, managed to recover a couple of raft paddles. The shafts were well made, crafted out of stainless steel, by someone obviously skilled in metal working. There was just one small problem, they were very heavy and if dropped, would sink to the bottom of the river, not entirely desirable but at least they wouldn’t rust whilst sitting on the river bed.

Kelly shows her style & skills.

It was quite impressive to see the skills presented by the paddlers and the way the packrafts could be moved down the rivers and through the rapids. The modern packrafts from Blue Duck Packrafts with thigh braces fitted, can come either as self bailing or with a spray deck fitted, and can be paddled & maneuvered in a way very similar to a white water kayak.

Smiles are contagious, Kelly is having a fun time.

Everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves and there were plenty of smiles.

Sergi resurfaces.

Several of those paddling a packraft for the first time had no issues and clearly showed their skills on the river.

Becs & Kerry enjoy a rest & the beautiful scenery.

It was a great day to be on the river and it was quite fun to be part of the group of packrafts as they bounced down the river. While quite maneuverable and able to be paddled like a kayak, there was less playing on the rapids, though Keri and Sergi spent some time surfing when the opportunity arose.

Hugh’s in his happy place.

It was also great to see Hugh really enjoying his time on the river too. He has been through various rivering permutations as he has aged, as kayaks became difficult to roll due to reduced flexibility, catarafts emerged as the rivercraft of choice. Unfortunately the bulk, lengthy set up times and difficulty moving the raft once it was set up, reduced the convenience and usability. However packrafts are an amazing alternative, they are lightweight, can be inflated quickly & easily, are stable & maneuverable and can be paddled like a kayak, hopefully extending Hugh’s paddling career for many more years.

Kerry has a nervous moment before the smile breaks out again.
Packrafts must be a lot of fun, as there were plenty of smiles.

For a first time packrafter, Kerry had a ball and really showed off his paddling skills. I got some great photos and seeing Kerry’s smile coming down a rapid really brightened my day.

Kerry makes a splash.

Kerry gave his boat a good work out, testing its’ maneuverability, working his way down the more technical rapids, the lower flow exposing more rocks and making the lines tighter, though the slower flow giving more time to make decisions.

Kerry boofs like a pro.

Boofing and surfing, Kerry gave it all a go with impressive style. Sergi also enjoyed his time in the packraft, pulling plenty of moves, though I suspect he missed his usual play boat, whilst surfing on the regular spots.

Sergi runs the main drop in the Ashley Gorge.

I rushed the approach to the main drop and didn’t get the line quite right and tipped at the bottom. Fortunately I rolled up quickly and was still able to quickly get into position to catch Sergi running the drop with style, but sadly missed the opportunity to photograph the others.

Kerry chills out and takes in the natural splendor in one of the quite sections.

Leaning back on the soft pillows of air that make up a packraft, made for a relaxing float down the quiet sections, giving the paddler time to soak up the beauty of the Ashley’s gorges.

Plenty of big smiles on this trip.

It was a great trip and we were all a bit tired when we reached the take out at the Ashley Gorge camp ground. Chris P had the barbecues set up and the great spread of food on hand was greatly appreciated by the hungry paddlers. After a tasty “lunch”, I headed back to town feeling satisfied by an excellent day out.