January 31st 2017
Hipango – Whanganui 
12.5 miles 
Total distance: 923.8 miles

I felt like I wanted to chop my feet off in the night because they were so itchy. It was unbearable. My tent was also soaking wet from two nights ago so it was dripping on me in the night which was unpleasant. We had a later start today because we had to time our departure with the tides. We needed to wait for high tide which was around 1pm so we could ‘ride the outgoing tide’. We weren’t really sure where the tide started to effect the river so we decided on an 11am start. We told the group it was a 10am start in the hopes we would make it out on time and it worked!

Our goal for the day was to get to Whanganui holiday park for 3pm to meet Mike from Blazing Paddles, collect our bags and had back our canoes and barrels. Julia and I set off with Mike and Heather and we decided that as we were already tied together we would just stay together and be a paddling floatilita all the way to Whanganui. No one was prepared to break up the floatilita.

Paddling was difficult. The wind was blowing towards us and we were all tired and sore. We listened to some music to try and power us through, can’t beat a good 90s playlist. We went from paddling to uptempo songs and floating the slow songs, to paddling hard for the uptempo and paddling gently to the slow songs, then we just had to paddle hard all the time as we realised we weren’t going anywhere. We had set off first but gradually everyone stared to overtake us. Still we maintained the floatilita. Marjory and Erin, and Sara and Creya tried to form a flotilla but it was too hard to paddle, so they broke off and formed their own floatilita and they powered on past us. Mike and I appear to know all the words to the same songs so we had a great singalong, highlights being Whitney Houston, I Will Always Love You, and A Whole New World from Aladdin. It was a big highlight of the day for me.

We had done 6 miles in 2 hours 40 minutes and we still had 6 more to go. A few times we were definitely being blown backwards, pushed by the wind. Julia took the difficult decision of suggesting we split up for the next 3 miles and try and make up so ground. It was absolutely the right thing to do because we moved so much quicker! And it was so much easier to paddle our canoes! After what seemed like hours of paddling to catch up to the group, eventually we saw a canoe and it looked like Erin and Marj. We thought that was odd because there would be no way Erin would have stopped paddling with our deadline only about 10 minutes away. We caught up and they had called Blazing Paddles. Our packs were at the holiday park and they would come and collect the canoes tomorrow! Which meant we no longer had a deadline, so we downed oars immediately, roped together and floated.

We stopped at a cafe along the way, the owner was a bit short with us and I didn’t feel inclined to give her any of my money. She was closing in half an hour and she told one girl to eat outside because she had already swept the floors and she didn’t want her to make a mess. Not sure that’s how a cafe should operate but there you go!

We got back in the canoes and continued to float until it started to rain a bit. We were so close and everyone broke off and paddled individually to get there. Aside from Belinda, Emily (Mike & Heather) and Harriet (Sara and Creya), we stayed tied together. We had a great final push to the holiday park and it all worked out for the beast as there wouldn’t have been enough room for all of us on the boat ramp anyway.

By the time we had unloaded everything it was nearing 5pm, we decided to get cabins as it was only NZ$5 more than camping. Julia and I were having to leave stupidly early in the morning, probably about 6am to make sure we were on time for our bus to Palmy. We bounced about on the big bouncy thing, very difficult in the rain, and then we jumped in the pool. We didn’t have a lot of time before the shuttle left to take us to town. The Whanganui holiday park has been the best one so far, so much to do! It’s was a shame we had so little time.

I put on my sleep clothes, which were the least smelly and driest thing I owned, and we got dropped off in town to have a farewell dinner together before we all head out on our separate ways. We walked past the cinema and saw a few films listed that we would be interested in seeing. Julia and I were very quickly peer pressured into staying another day in Whanganui and after a few phone calls to the bus company we had changed our ticket to the following day for a small fee.

Now we could relax as we didn’t have to run back to the hostel to do our laundry and chores before the morning. We finished our meal and went to the bar across the street, they said we could have one drink as they were about to close, but Julia and Mike ended up talking to the owner and he said he would stay open for us. So we had the whole bar to ourselves. We played pool and a few people drank a lot of alcohol. I had a couple of glasses of wine and that was enough for me considering how little I have drunk in the last 6 months. I felt like I was swaying at one point when I went to the toilet.

We were in the bar for a long time, we had two huge bowls of chips (or hot crisps and Marj called them) and we sang happy birthday to the bar lady’s daughter when she came in. It was a great night and I got back to the holiday park by taxi at around 1am, a few others stayed in town, they have no idea when they got back!

I’m walking thousands of miles for Just A Drop because everyone should have access to clean water. Please donate here, every little bit helps.