So far in this new year, we've been making the most of the beautiful rivers available for us to paddle in New Zealand – its a hard life!
New Year's Day brought us a (somewhat) delayed paddle down the Earthquake section of the Buller with its bouncy waves and lovely gorge, the decision not to wear a cag may have been a little optimistic but at least it helped clear the head. It was a good start to the year with paddlers from all over the world enjoying the same section and lack of sandflies.
Soon, the campsite at Murchison cleared of paddlers as they headed to the West Coast or back home, but we enjoyed a yummy barbecue prepared and cooked by Sandy and Jason – it seems the Aussies can cook a decent barbecue! We cleaned all our paddling kit ready to head off to other rivers. The plan was to find a heliboat run that wasn't particularly hard core and we had thought of the Mokihinui. However talking to the pilot soon put us off when we found out the price. His suggestion was the Karamea which was closer to where he was based and therefore significantly cheaper. It sounded like a plan and so we drove up to the tiny village of Karamea, picking up a Canadian hitchhiker who wanted to get up to a commune type place up there – goodness knows how she managed to hitch back from there, and she broke one of our beers…
Anyway the next morning saw us at the take out battling with sandflies, when our shiny blue helicopter turned up. I got to video this while David, Andre and Phil helped load boats into the net and then Phil went up to the put in. Pretty soon the helicopter returned and it was our turn to head up the river, trying to look at the rapids as we flew. One thing to remember is that rivers look much smaller from height! The Karamea was a stunning green river with tight technical grade 3 rapids, at least in the low levels we were paddling it. There was a harder rapid called Holy Shit which I decided to walk, having pretty much talked myself out of before we got there – something I need to learn to stop doing! It was a great run, well recommended.
Sadly then we had to say goodbye to Phil and Andre as they had to catch the ferry to the North Island and we started the long drive south to Queenstown. En route we stopped to take a look at Fox Glacier, again a stunning sight especially in the sunshine! We stayed near Haast and had breakfast the following morning at a view point by the sea. Signs told us that dolphins and orcas were sometimes seen here, and I wondered how anyone would see anything from there when the sea was vast. Then, to my surprise and delight, I saw something jumping in the water and we realised we were watching a pod of dolphins – a fantastic start to any day!
We made it to Queenstown after a quick stop in Wanaka for lunch and some puzzles in the Puzzling World, having seen some fabulous scenery in the rather intense heat. Queenstown is a different town in the sunshine and has a lovely atmosphere, especially while you sit by the lake eating fish and chips! I better head out now but will update soon about the river adventures we've had around here.
Hope everyone is having as good a start to 2008 as we are!