Tauwharenīkau River – Tararua Forest Park

Trains, Tubes, Bikes and Boots

‘The 9.55 am train to Masterton has been delayed’ boomed the loudspeaker at Wellington Railway Station.

Harry was unfazed. ‘This always happens to me’ he sighed. With a tight timeframe, we planned to train to Woodside, cycle to Bucks Road, tramp to the Tauwharenīkau River, tube the gorge and then cycle to Featherston before catching the 5.20 pm service back to Wellington. Phew, things were going to be tight on this carbon neutral trip.

Soon after leaving Wellington, another announcement, ‘there will be delays due to track maintenance work at Ngauranga’. Harry didn’t flinch an inch. Talk about cool under pressure.

At Woodside Station, we met up with Mark and his fellow conspirator Hayden. Off we peddled, as fast as the new cycleway connecting Greytown to Featherston would allow. Soon we were traversing the longest suspension bridge in NZ across the Tauwharenīkau River, before turning off down Bucks Rd.

Time to stash the bikes and change into tramping attire for the haul up and over to the gorge. 40 sweaty minutes later we stumbled down to a deep green languid pool, Hayden getting in a cheeky swim while the rest of us pumped up tubes whilst wolfing down sandwiches.

It was time for costume change No.3. Rubber. Harry and I opting for a one piece neoprene in demur colours, Hayden and Mark going full bogan camouflage with matching trucker caps. They could have passed for the poor unfortunates in Deliverance, that classic movie telling the cautionary tale of mayhem deep in a river canyon. Were those banjos I could hear?

Once Harry was finally satisfied that the patented, three-layered rubbish bag system would keep his valuables dry, we were off into the uncharted darkness of the gorge. We had two hours to get back to the bikes and another 30 minutes for the desperate dash to meet the train at Featherston.

Would we make it? You’ll have to watch the movie….

Tauwharenīkau Gorge tubing from Paul McCredie on Vimeo.

* As part of the Ngāti Kahungunu ki Wairarapa Tāmaki niu-a-Rua Waitangi Treaty settlement (2020), the Tauherenikau River (and hill) revert to the traditional name of Tauwharenīkau

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