Thursday, 5 January 2012

Waiatoto Adventure!! (Part 2: The River)

Continued from Part One.

Day Four:

New Years Eve!!

After a spectacular camp high up on the side of the valley with the curious Kea, one of which woke us up in the middle of the night as it crashed into the side of the tent, we woke up to begin our final descent to the river. The snowy summit of Mount Aspiring was bright and orange above us, Kea were still buzzing about overhead, and in the early morning light we managed to walk upon a Chamois having his breakfast.

Kea, Nestor notabilis.

After half an hour or so of descent through the mountain herbs and grasses, the vegetation gradually got taller and thicker, and before long we were amongst the ferns and mosses under the shady canopy below the treeline.

One of the fiew views out of the dense canopy.

It was a few hours of battling with the undergrowth before we eventually emerged out of the bush at the bottom and into the bright sunshine on Bonar Flats.

The river, after some huge flooding.

Honza was a bit surprised to find that everything looked a bit different from the last time he was here two weeks ago. The river bed was wider and there were huge tree trunks jammed all over the place. It turns out a huge landslip had occurred up into the glacier lake a fortnight ago and sent a huge torrent of water down the river, wiping out good chunks of native forest, and moving some considerable sized boulders about. We would have to be on our guard for log jams and boulder chokes when we get on the water...

After a bit of a scramble downriver over the bouldery river bed and through some flooded bush we arrived with relief at our big pile of gear! Awesome, the Kiwi heli magic had happened whilst we were walking in. We had a fresh supply of food and the equipment to float out of here. After quite a bit of faffing about inflating the raft, we packed away our walking gear and food into drypacks, got into our wet gear and launched out into the cool grey glacial water of the Waiatoto...

The Heli drop off, Mount Aspiring in the background.
Inflating the raft.
and we're away!

It was refreshing to be on the water, especially during the afternoon heat. After a few hours of cruising down some easy rapids avoiding the fallen trees we arrived at Drake Flats and set up camp for the night, and brought in the New Year with a few boxes of wine and vodka around the campfire.

Day Five:

The first day of 2012, a little bit hungover. A couple of hundred meters below camp the river narrowed and we hit our first taste of proper white water for the day. A nice bit of rafting carnage was thrown in as people were thrown overboard going through the first hole.

Rafting chaos! Time for some safety boating then...
All ended well though, with everyone rounded up in the eddy below, before floating down the gorge to the next rapids.

For the rest of the day technical boulder gardens broke up fairly long stretches of flat where the wind blew clouds of dust up over the water. In the late afternoon we arrived at Axius flats where the clear blue water of the Te Naihi river flows in, swirling and mixing with the milky grey water of the Waiatoto. It was nice to take off our paddling gear and wash away the dry dust and silt by swimming in the clean cool waters of the tributary. We set up camp and relaxed in the sunshine.

We had a fun last night by the river, where eel fishing and awesome scenery did a good job of distracting us from the hellish Sandflies. I was grateful this was the last night out in the tents as I was quickly coming to the very end of my insect repellant supply.

Disaster! We've run out of Smidge!?

Roast Eel anyone?

Day Six:

I woke to the what sounded like the pitter patter of rain on the tent. Oh no, not a wet rainy day!? Nope, it turns out it was the noise of thousands of sandflies buzzing about underneath the tent flysheet. Urgh. I was glad when we eventually got the camp packed up and could escape to the safety of the river.

We paddled some fun rapids on the last day as the river made its way out of the mountains. The last few miles were pretty tedious on the meandering flatwater, and as we paddled round the final bend the view of the road bridge, our take out, was a very welcome sight! But what an amazing adventure! I'd thoroughly recommend a mission down the Waiatoto if you get the chance.

Back to Wanaka for home cooking and cold beer!

Ben x