January 26th 2017
Taumarunui – Poukaria
Total distance: 803.5 miles
I was feeling pretty nervous about the canoe trip. All I’ve done is walk for over 6 months so not sure how the transition would be. We ate breakfast and Mike from Blazing Paddles arrived at 9am to load our barrels and deliver our life jackets. After a whole bunch of confusion we were on our way to the river. We parted ways with our backpacks which feels very odd.
The Blazing Paddles lady offered to take some people on an alcohol run. So far I hadn’t got any, I’m not sure a day on the river in the sun would have been a good mix, but I felt left out so I bought some cider at the last minute, and some sprites, I assumed we would be able to get drinking water from the river but apparently it’s not great for drinking.
We loaded up the canoes, Julia and I have Belinda and we were very excited about that because of the podcast we have been listening to. We got a quick safety briefing and canoeing lesson from Mike and then all of a sudden we were off. We seemed to get launched into it very quickly and I don’t think either of us had any previous experience and neither of us seemed to be naturals.
I was in the front and Julia in the back, the back person steers and the front person is the eyes. It was all going well for the most part, beers were cracked open early on and we were cruising down the river. We tied our canoes together with Erin & Marjory and Dave & Kristen and we formed a bit of a flotilla. I had heard it was harder to get tipped over if you are tied together. We went through a couple of rapids without flipping but waves came over the boat and our one in particular got full of water. I didn’t realise it was full of water because I couldn’t see it, so when Kristen and I were dicking about at the front, Julia got angry and I sulked.
This resulted in our first real falling out. Both of us being out of our comfort zones probably didn’t really help things. We untied from each other to go separately down the next rapid. That’s when it all went wrong. Our canoe still had too much water in, we hit a wave and I bounced out of the canoe and started drifting down the river exceptionally quickly. I remembered what Mike had said which was knees up and bum first if you fall out, so I did that and it was so shallow I was bashing my bum on the rocks. The current was so strong. Our boat hadn’t tipped but Julia was in the water too. Next thing I was aware of was that Erin and Marjory were floating past with their canoe upside down. They had tipped and their was stuff bobbing around everywhere. I grabbed a shoe, a beer can and a paddle as I was drifting. I managed to stand up and make my way to the side where I tried to catch up to Julia but she was going too fast.
Kristen and Dave went to rescue Julia and Mike and Heather gave me a ride in their canoe further down to meet them. It was a little scary, the river is so powerful and its flowing so quickly. Back in the canoe things were a little frosty between us, a conversation helped a little but didn’t solve our problems. Further down the river we saw Vicky and Remi and we all stopped for a lunch break.
When we carried on we followed Vicky and Remi and we managed to find our stride a bit more, we successfully negotiated the rapids and worked better together. We stopped at a lavender farm and some people got coffee and cake. When some of the others arrived they had drunk way too much already and they were a bit worse for wear. There are another group of three who set off with us but aren’t really with us. The girl was paralytic. She had been drinking Jäger, whiskey and tequila I think. She couldn’t function. It’s a pretty dangerous situation to get yourself into.
We continued on and left them to sort themselves out. We tried to follow Remi and Vicky again which we did for a bit but they were too fast for us to keep up. It is murdering our arms and I think I am getting blisters on my hands. My whole body from the waist up was hurting but my arms felt like they were about to drop off at points.
The atmosphere in the canoe improved as we had a more successful afternoon, the river became more of a canyon in places and it was beautiful. We continued to negotiate the rapids without any problems. The wind, which was blowing towards us, very unhelpful, came and blew Julia’s hat off but luckily Sarah and Creya were able to rescue it. We paddled and paddled and paddled until we were exhausted.
Eventually we saw tents and Vicky standing on the back beckoning us in. We had finally made it. We unloaded our canoes which was difficult with our tired arms and dragged the canoe up the bank which was even harder. It took us a few goes and ended up with me on my knees pushing in stages. This isn’t the flattest campground, and it was really busy with people already so all the best spots had been taken. We managed to find a couple of semi flat spots and pitched up. The others came in over the next hour and we sat under the shelter to have dinner. This campsite has harvested rain water and a pit toilet.
Everyone else said their arms felt fine so we must be doing something wrong in our canoe. Even lying down hurts! The worst pain is in my back. That muscle that runs along your spine. Everything was hurting so much I popped an Aleve PM and hoped for the best.
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.