>Leaving Taupo, we hitched a ride from a school principal out of town. Then an Aussie picked us up and took us to the small town of Turangi. From there, a Maori guy named Charlie picked us up (I think that he was pretty stoned). He was cool and like most Kiwis, he wanted to show us around. He showed us his tribe’s marae. A marae is a gathering place when the tribe has a hui (meeting). They can gather for a funeral, wedding, or just to have a meeting. The tribe has a sleeping house full of bunks, a place to prepare food, and a large outdoor assembly area. Charlie dropped us off in Manaranui. (He was off to play music with a lady that plays ukulele.) A construction worker picked us up and gave us a lift into the town of Taumaranui. That was where our five day canoe trip began.
We camped at a place called Cherry Grove just outside of town. There were no cherry trees, but a couple of rivers came together there so we tried out our new fly rods as well as the tons of flies, gear, and advice that Fishy Steve had given us.
A couple of tangles, no fish, but one beautiful sunset later, we went back to the tent. A giant local guy with a group of rambunctious kids in a mini van advised us on where to sleep as sometimes the local kids come down there to harass people and break into cars. We woke up the next morning with no problems during the night. We made breakfast and just as we were finishing our tea, a truck pulled up with a single canoe bouncing on the trailer behind it. We were going to have to river to ourselves! A guy got out and our conversation was something like this:
Dave: Hi, I’m Dave. What time did they tell you fellas I’d be here?
Us: They didn’t.
Dave: Good, then I’m not late. Have you ever canoed before?
M: On a lake once.
R: I’ve paddled a bit, but
Dave: Good as wood, you’ll be sweet as. Let’s put this canoe in the water. I have some maps, but you won’t need them. Skip the first campsite, sometime the local boys go down there and harass the campers. Right-o. Jump in, you’re off! Just don’t stack the boat.
There was more slang, but no subtitles in real life, however, you get the point. We skipped the first camp site like he recommended. As we rounded the corner to land at the first camping area, there were no local hooligans but three naked men in the water. Two scrambled to put on their shorts and the third jumped into the water. There is a lot of glacial melt so after a couple of minutes in the cold water, he decided to get out and just hold his shorts in front of him. We snickered a bit and kept paddling glad not to be staying there. The next campsite was deserted.
Just us and the river. So I did what everyone else does and took off my clothes. We never saw anyone else the first two days. The first day we paddled for about 5 hours averaging 7km an hour.
The second day the weather turned a bit and we got rained on for about 20 minutes. Out of nowhere the skies opened up and it poured. It is typical that shortly after donning rain gear the weather gets better. That was true while canoeing. We reached our campsite the second night as the rain began again. Luckily there is Dave’s house where he lets everyone shower and use his kitchen. He wasn’t there when we arrived, but he left a note telling us to make ourselves at home, so we made tea, got dry and waited for him. There is an old schoolhouse that has been converted to a Department of Conservation camping bunkhouse. With the thunder getting louder, we slept in the hut with a German and a Dutch girl. They were paddling for four days along the river. We awoke the next morning to the valley covered in fog and Dave running around in a towel. We made breakfast and chatted with Dave until the sun came out and we headed downstream again. Everyday we would stop to make lunch, fish, or just watch the river go by. It still took us over 5 hours to go the 28km. Without a schedule, we could take as long as we wanted. The water was murkier than in Taupo and I have a million excuses of why we didn’t catch (or see) and fish. Guides are amazing! We missed Steve.
The third night was very busy. A commercial operation had started that day with 4 adults and 5 kids. We arrived at another DoC (Department of Conservation) hut, but seeing the 24 beds, we decided to camp on the lawn. We met some cool people (there were about 20 people staying there) and had an uneventful evening.
The following day, we met a guy named Luke that was in a kayak. He too is from the States. He quit his job, sold his car, and is now traveling around NZ. I have an appreciation for people that are willing to do that. We paddled and talked for a while together. The large group was at the next campsite so we decided to paddle a bit further and avoid the crowds. It worked well. There was only 5 of us in absolutely surreal beauty. It took us 8 hours on the river this day. We paddled over 40km.
The last day we had less than two hours of paddling to the end. The 10km we had left went by pretty quickly. We were tired of sitting in wet clothes, eating dehydrated mashed potatoes, and already cooked pasta. We had instant noodles for lunch…every day. Finishing our five day trip felt good. Our upper bodies are exhausted, but strong!
Dave was going to bring our packs to us so that we could hitchhike to a town on the coast called Wanganui and eventually head to Wellington. From there we wanted to get on the ferry to the south island. Dave forgot our packs. A two hour trip in the opposite direction brought us to Slalom Lodge. Dave hooked us up with a free room and a bottle of wine to say that he was sorry for forgetting our packs. The weather was crap anyway so it all worked out in our favor. To top it off, Luke was staying there. We hung out drinking with him, found out that he had a car, and he was going to Wellington the next day.
We woke up hungover, drove a really curvy road for 5 hours and we all tried not to puke all day. We found a hostel that was completely full, except for their tiny areas for tents. The three of us set up camp, again, but this time in the middle of the city. At some ungodly hour in the morning every vehicle with a siren went blaring by us. That got us up early enough to enjoy the free breakfast by ourselves and head off to the ferry. Luke stayed in Wellington for the day and we went to the south island. Last night we stayed in a cool hostel that has free chocolate pudding every night, a hot tub, free breakfast, and cool people staying here.
Now we are off into the bush again. 5 days of walking and camping on the Queen Charlotte Track. No computer for a while. So, we are doing well. I will post again when we get back.