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Monday, 9 April 2012

Don't Mess with the Mohaka

The Mohaka River is no river to be messed with, especially after three days of rain. Arriving at the brown, flooded river on Easter Friday was an eye opener. The muddy torrent owes it's source to high in the Kaweka Ranges, the full length winding its way through 140km of stunning and often very remote mountain country. Hawkes Bay's finest. And the only way to get there? On the water...

Don't Mess with the Mohaka

Over three days of the Easter weekend, I joined AUCC for a deluxe sequence of rafting and kayaking of the grade II and grade III sections of the mid-Mohaka. Our campsite was established at Willow Flat in the slushy riverside paddock. Over the following days we would learn to be satisfied living in the wet. That's what kayaking is about right? Three days of rain suited us fine, and could not stop us from setting alight a flaming bonfire every evening without fail.

Sam Manson in the thick of it

As the precautious club we were, we treated the first grade II section as an unknown river, confused by the turbulence and potentially blockaged by fallen trees in the past storm. So for the debut run, we took to the rafts to scope out the first 8km of white-water goodness.

No problems on the raft, we cruised down easily taking in the vistas for the first time, and enjoying being back on the water. The more experienced paddlers amongst us kayaked alongside also finding the river easy going despite the high flow.

Having graduated from the grade II, a night of fire food and folly rested us for the 'big day': it was time to tackle the grade III. Tight gorges, steep cliff faces, intense and extended rapids, small drop offs and more difficult route choice made this more challenging and more exciting than the grade II.. But again, this was an unknown river, still raging in flood - the nerves and apprehension showed on our instructors faces as they warned us of the dangers and tried to convince the weaker of us to drop out for another day...

Rip-roaring torrents did their best to flip us into the cold river.

The strong arm of hypothermia often punched through the river surface, licking our faces and trying to drag others down with her. One unlucky raft ahead of us plunged into a hole at an angle and were all ejected into the rapids - even with multiple thermals, a wetsuit and dry top, this meant a cold swim to shore. Out of the river to the stony bank, they needed to keep moving lest they make themselves a liability.

Precipitous eroded hillsides characterised the upper Mohaka section, and matched the greyish floodwater

A gourmet selection cooked over the Primus

Jenny showcasing her skills in the Grade III section, she was a fantastic instructor

Sigh of relief and a swig of satisfaction

A victory beer after surviving the Mohaka grade II sealed the deal. A huge buzz, and a fantastic Easter weekend.

Finally, read about a group of three adventure racers who decided to go 'Source to Sea' - kayaking the entire 140km of the Mohaka River. From the source located upstream of Tui's famous Mangatainoka Springs, winding through sections of up to grade IV rapids and waterfalls, the trio emerged at Mohaka township on the east coast in the winter of 2009.

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