|hard earned cash transforming into unimaginable transportation|
|over the ocean somewhere... long flight|
The first weekend in New Zealandwas a whirlwind. My kayak got confiscated and fumigated for transporting a couple of live ants from West Virginia. Paul Siratovich took me out on the town but we got denied access into the downtown bars for wearing "jandals" (flip-flops). I bought a used Nissan mini van, and traveled six hours to Queenstown.
|getting the kayak out of hock at the international fumigation terminal|
Go figure, none of the US certificates transfer to NZ. So I spent a week in a New Zealand swift-water course, after which I was seriously itching for some real creek boating.
Hokitikawas the next destination, known as being the "creek boating capital" of New Zealand. Swinging through Hokitika for some groceries, I poked around looking for anyone that was paddling. Bumping into a paddling crew, that I am sure to paddle with in the future, we did the classic. "Hi… yea you paddle… well we are going into this hard section… and umm…" I have the utmost respect for that crew to deny me a spot on the difficult, helicopter access, river section. For gods sake we just met in a parking lot. Stated in many previous stories, it is imperative to know your crew. That crew did help me out with some beta. Another group of paddlers was heading to the same helipad the next day to do a slightly easier section. I was jonesing hard enough to paddle with strangers, especially if it was not going to be a super hard West Coast run.
Special Note for traveling internationally: Make sure you wash your boat and gear WELL! Not just to save the eco system you are visiting, but also so you don't get hassled at Customs. Another new trick I implemented this year: tip out the curb side baggage guy. $40 bucks made the imposing task of getting the boat past the check-in agent smooth. The curb side guy pocketed the cash, gave me a hand getting all my stuff out of the cab, wheeled it to the first class counter, and everything went on the plane without getting weighed or charged for being over sized.
The next morning I arrived at the helipad. The crew from the previous day, along with a few new faces, were all getting prepped for the incoming helicopter. Once again they stated there was another crew coming that might be in for an easier section.
A few minutes passed and another kayak laden car pulled into the parking lot. The occupants got out and after a quick couple of seconds, Mark Basso and I made the connection. We had bumped into each other seven years prior at a race on Big Timber Creek in Montana. Hands shook, and some catching up started, as he introduced me to his traveling companion Dag Sandvik. Dag classically shares a ton of mutual friends, and has become an instant buddy.
Traveling paddlers unite!The days paddling strategy was agreed upon. We would go up the namesake river the Hokitika and paddle back to the cars. Moments later we received some beta from the helicopter pilot. A landslide had come in on the Hokitika and had changed a particularly narrow and inescapable canyon, not to mention the flow in the Hoki was really low. Mark went up for a quick reconnaissance flight and confirmed our change in strategies. We reassessed our options and decided to put-in at the same place the other crew did, and paddle the "difficult" canyon.
|part of the lower canyon, from way above|
|make the easy leg of the journey|
|Dag Sandvik, on one of the countless fun moves|
The crew was rather dynamic. The fact that I didn't know either of the guys really well meant that we all kept the communication lines wide open. Chatting about different paddling options, and laughing at off color jokes, all while staring at death defying rapids.
As we exited the first canyon, the walls start to widen but the rapids did not let up. Huge boulders from the canyon have been strewn downstream and it took another kilometer of tricky boating to clear the class 5 whitewater. Finally the "difficult" section was over and the next few kilometers through the "flats" went rather quickly. Our stomachs were starting to grumble as we spotted Frew's hut. The rather well kept backpackers hut was a great lunch location as it offered resistance to the obnoxious sand flies. We took a few extra minutes at lunch getting to know each other and refueling for the final canyon.
Back on the water the final canyon arrived quickly. Thankfully the second canyon looked much more paddle-able than the first, from 1500 feet above in the helicopter. As we clamored out of our boats for the first scout of the lower canyon, the rapids exhibited the same eerie construction. Nothing was boat scoutable and hidden hazards were everywhere. Gracefully the rapids had a larger margin of error and the overall gradient was less than half of the upper canyon making the downstream progression much easier. A few hours and more than a few generous boofs later we made our way into the last flat section. Another couple of kilometers of conversation and a quick, but not very obvious hike, brought us back to the vehicles.
|Mt. Cook in the distance|
|another adventure from Chris Baer|