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Sunday, 25 March 2012


This weekend I learnt several important things about rivers and life. Life is more enjoyable above the river than hanging upside down beneath it!

I decided to join the Auckland Uni Canoe Club (AUCC) this year to get on some wild rivers and experience the thrill of white water kayaking for myself. It has been too long thinking about it, and now after jumping into the Aniwhenua River and letting the current take me away, I'm looking forward to the new adventure. I had an interest in Dragon-boating for a time, but never pursued it. Until now.

Rafting the Rangitaiki

Beyond Rotorua you venture into thick country. Classic North Island outback where the most popular past time is heading out to the bush to hunt wild pigs. As our van and trailer-load of kayaking gear bustled into the bush just out of Murupara I half expected to bump into Sjors Corporaal running along the forest road with a boar carcass on his back.

Instead, a massive windfall from last week's storm had plummeted exactly twenty-six thick pine trees across the entrance road to the Rangitaiki River. Our plan to raft down the grade 2-3 mid-section of the rampant Rangi was now foiled, no-one was game enough to try carrying the 40kg plastic inflatables down the mile-long obstacle course. We retreated to the Aniwhenua to salvage the day.

Aniwhenua Falls
Aniwhenua Falls is spectacular in full flow. A tumultuous accelerates from the still canal in a moment, exploding into the get-in hole. The more experienced kayakers were having a crack at paddling off the falls, nothing to it right? Nothing but a rocky ledge to the left side, its all about the line. The rest of us were launched off the power station walls...

Thrown into the deep end

Reacquainted mate after 6 years, Scott Osborne was one of the first in, fortune had it that he flipped over as soon as his kayak plunged into the boils. The stage was his as he busted out a clean roll to show its done.

Rafting up before hitting the first rapids
The Aniwhenua river run is 8km in length, with about 8 sections of rapids separated by longer stretches of calm flow. Getting the rapids was a simple case of leaning forward and powering straight into the wave trains, each stroke keeping my unstable Bandit stable.

A river rat infiltrates Richard's kayak!

Out of the red zone, relaxing, right way up
Bernoulli's equation now gained new meaning as we emerged from the narrowest section of gorge, the river valley really widened out just and as sun finally broke through. Stiff and cramping up as we limped up the bank carrying our kayaks, what a relief it was to be back on dry land!

I revelled in the new experiences that I'd had on the Aniwhenua. The moments that follow overcoming personal boundaries are always the best. It was awesome to get to know a whole new club - AUCC are a great lot and I'll be back for more white-water this easter for their most remote trip to the Mohaka River near Napier. Four days away camping in real North Island wilderness, I can hardly wait.

A taste of the Mohaka...

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