The Otaki water catchment had little to no rainfall until Friday before our trip. On Friday morning, it started raining in various degrees from 1 to 5 mm per hour until Friday evening. Around midnight before our trip, it rained again 2 to 3 mm per hour, then the weather turned to dry and overcast conditions in the early hours of the morning.
As a result, the river levels had risen sharply on Friday afternoon from 5 to 19 m3/sec, then eased out overnight to 11 m3/sec and rose again to 18 during the hours of our trip.
These river levels were excellent conditions for nice rapids, wave trains, but on occasions so low that some stretches were a bit boney.
Jenny met up with Bart, Marie and Bob (Marie’s boat) at the Kaitaura Bridge at nine in the morning. We discussed some logistics and made a cunning plan to keep Jenny’s perfectly ironed Stage dresses dry and free of creases among all the soon-to-be-wet gear. (Jenny opted to wear her dry suit for the trip and kept the dresses for the night).
We left 1 car downstream and took the other car up to Otaki Forks campsite. From the road end, we followed the Waiotauru track for a few kilometers up to about grid ref 861698, from where we tracked a small creek for just 20 meters down to the river. This spot worked for the 3 of us, but would be small for a larger party. The extra bit of Waiotauru Rwiver we gained with this short tramp was new for all of us and we can absolutely recommend it. It has a couple of nice grade 1 rapids to warm up and then a few slightly harder rapids before you reach the swing bridge of Otaki Forks campsite.
At the forks where the Waiotauru and Otaki meet, Bob let Marie down for the first time in their relationship and pushed her out. We eddied out right after the forks, walked back up stream and tried again. This time, Marie and Bob remained on floating terms, but Bart flipped over. There is no harm, it is actually a really good spot to fall out of your boat and learn how to deal with that.
From here the river has nice rapids and wave trains and you can easily step out at every bend to inspect the next rapid. Up to the car bridge at GR 884759 was terrain that we had all covered at least once and we went through it without much stopping. After the bridge, the river gets a bit easier and we had a nice paddle until we reached our downstream car.
We spent about 3 hours on the river, with a 20m lunch break, but few other stops
We rolled up our boats, put on some dry cloths and drove up to the campsite, where we arrived right in time to cheer on all runners of the Tararua Mountain Race that crossed the finish line at Otaki Forks.
Okay, this became quite a serious report, because I am new to packrafting and still trying to find the best way to report on such trips. But packrafting is seriously fun and it totally changed my view on the rivers of the Tararuas.