TA Day 50, Whakahoro to John Coull, (38 km)

Thru-canoer at the start of the Whanganui "Great Walk" at Wade's Landing in Wahahoro.
Thru-canoer at the start of the Whanganui “Great Walk” at Wade’s Landing in Wahahoro.

Waking up was with complaining sheep and the thwap-thwap of techno pop meaning only one thing – sheep sheering. It’s weird to have so much time before I have to move. The canoes will be here in an hour or so. My tent dries on a fence post.

My friends from Taumaranui canoe hire arrive and have us unpack our carefully packed gear and repack it in barrels. It’s all a bit of a drama as we hurriedly reorganize then get another briefing and small canoe lesson in the thick mud at the launch.

I paid for a bunk, but preferred the quiet and privacy of the alicoop in Whakahoro.
I paid for a bunk, but preferred the quiet and privacy of the alicoop in Whakahoro.
Wild boars were introduced to New Zealand by Europeans. They tear up the bush, but make for good hunting and eating.
Wild boars were introduced to New Zealand by Europeans. They tear up the bush, but make for good hunting and eating.
Packing our barrels and getting a briefing from our friends at Taumaranui Canoe Hire before setting off.
Packing our barrels and getting a briefing from our friends at Taumaranui Canoe Hire before setting off.

The Whaganui River is considered one of New Zealand’s ‘great walks.’ It is protected and filled with tourists, so a different feel for us long distance walkers used to isolated trails, not to mention how odd it feels sitting rather than walking.

It’s also a river with rapids and I’m lucky to have Andrew as our canoe captain. He turned 24 yesterday (nearly exactly 30 years younger than me) and is delightful – and a reasonably skilled paddler.

Apparently one in three flip and we leave it to the Croatians, with Bojan a competitive white water rafter, to be the first to tip. They are taking the rapids square on, but we did too, bumping and splashing into the V and only spinning sideways once but managing to correct.

The barrels mostly contain gear, but one is set aside just for beer.
The barrels mostly contain gear, but one is set aside just for beer.
Bojan, Andrew, Alexis, David, Alison and Marko at least pretending to know what they're doing before setting off.
Bojan, Andrew, Alexis, David, Alison and Marko at least pretending to know what they’re doing before setting off.

The river is magical. Muddy, but still cool and refreshing shooting through a gorge of bush, steep walls plastered with ferns followed by deep crevices worked over time by water and now filled with noisy, but often hidden, waterfalls.

Andrew and I talk about everything from family to movies to work. He also felt a bad vibe with the other group of hikers and yet is so filled with equanimity even as a young man – “People are going to be jerks and I just don’t let them ruin my experience.” I am so glad to paddle with a guy wh just like me, asked for time off from a job he loves and wants to walk it all.

Posing at a little break spot.
Posing at a little break spot.
Cliffs and waterfalls surrounded us as we paddled down this magnificent river.
Cliffs and waterfalls surrounded us as we paddled down this magnificent river.
We were not supposed to drink and paddle, but who was going to stop us?
We were not supposed to drink and paddle, but who was going to stop us?
One of thousands of secret streams joining the Whanganui.
One of thousands of secret streams joining the Whanganui.

I reserved a bunk, but the hut feels like a scene from Oliver, so I set my tent with the others, eat too much and catch a breeze by the river looking for pekapeka – a bat and the only native mammal to New Zealand – before turning in early. We get a flurry of cackling swallows dive bombing our perch before the last of the twilight and three bats flutter in and out of our view, stuttering as they catch a meal mid-flight.

Now the last of the paddlers begin to turn in and the bush night volume turns up. I am so warm, I leave the door open for maybe a peak at the stars. Til tomorrow back on the river.

Again, I chose to camp outside rather than stay in the crowded and loud bunk house. We saw rare lesser short-tailed bats flying above us that night.
Again, I chose to camp outside rather than stay in the crowded and loud bunk house. We saw rare lesser short-tailed bats flying above us that night.

Published by alison young

Alison Young is the Blissful Hiker, a voice artist and sometime saunterer. 📣🐥👣🎒

Reader Comments

  1. Before I forget, I wrote my Hamline University thesis on middle-aged women travellers. So we are kindred spirits.
    Glad you have beer after canoeing!

  2. you are making our coming journey to NZ very real…keep sending those photos and stories….perhaps we can meet in April before we head to Borneo on 4/16

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