By Jade Johnston
The Wanganui river has its source in the Tongariro mountain ranges, and flows to the sea through some of the most impressive scenery and through some of the most remote countryside in the North Island of New Zealand. The three – five day canoe journey has been incorporated into the great walks system of New Zealand, despite having little to no walking involved.
However, despite this being a canoe journey, with little actual walking involved, I still managed to seriously sprain my ankle.
We set out from the Reatihi holiday park with Nils and Thomas and three others early in the morning and drove for what seemed like ages through what seemed to be mostly uninhabited landscape. I fell asleep, which was probably for the best, because I think I would have gotten car sick on those windy mountain roads.
Our driver pointed out some of the main “attractions” of the region, which included, one of the biggest auto wreckers in New Zealand and a giant kiwi sculpture made out of driftwood.
When we arrived, James and I quickly ate a peanut butter and jelly wrap which proved to be a very good idea as it kept us from getting hungry early on and to pass the others and be one of the first to arrive at the first hut.
We were off to a bit of a slow start as James and I got used to paddling together. A few spins around, and a small collision with a tree overhanging the shore later, and we were on our way.
The rapids on the first day were rather small and very easy to navigate, which quickly set me at ease. Also, my arms and shoulders held up well to the paddling and I didn’t even get any sore muscles.
We arrived at the hut and had to carry up all our barrels and other items up the hill to the hut facilities. It was much better equipped than I had originally expected, with composting toilets and gas cookers provided. No electricity though. We had the option to either set up our tents or sleep in the bunks provided. Since there was ample room, we opted to not sleep in the tent for once.
James carrying the barrels
While relaxing at the camp site we saw a really massive rat, which is the reason it is imperative to keep all your food in the waterproof barrels, because they are also rat and possum proof as well….unlike tents. Jen (my American friend who came on the Cape Reinga hike with me) met us at the waterfront the first day which came as a surprise since she was not at the same holiday park as us and had booked through a different canoe rental place. She opted to sleep in her tent, and had a visitor bite its way through in the night.
The first night we spent drinking wine and socializing with the other canoers who were staying at the tent, and with some local DOC (department of conservation) guys who were staying there – mapping out species density and hunting wild goats and possums who destroy the native forest.
The next morning we woke early and brewed up some coffee before getting ready to set out on day number two of three..….
Nils and Thomas in their canoe