Whanganui River – Te Awa Tupua

On a nice sunny Thursday evening in mid-November we drove up to Ohakune feeling very excited to be having yet another long week-end—and with no need to carry any heavy packs!

I was eager to get back on the river (which now has its own legal status) after a break in my annual pilgrimage, but not for the early mornings that unfortunately accompany club trips.

Day 1 – Whakahoro Roadend to John Coull Hut (approx. 37 kms)

Whanganui River
Loading the canoes

After a comfortable night in a cabin at Ohakune we had an early start at Canoe Safaris headquarters to gear up and pack everything into waterproof barrels before the 1½ hr drive to the Whanganui River via National Park. Once at the river we were all very impressed with the Canadian canoe paddling lesson ending in the ultimate test of being able to ferry-glide in a straight line across the river and back before being free to go (we assume due to the new Health & Safety legislation), which was actually not as difficult as I was expecting.

It was a beautiful day to be on the river, and according to Richard’s GPS gizmo we were making great time so after about an hour we stopped on a lovely beachy spot for some morning tea (and someone even went for a swim—actually several times that day). Despite having some very seasoned clubbies in the group we indulged ourselves in the sun for quite a while before heading to our picnic table lunch stop at the first DOC campsite (Mangapapa). We then continued on our merry way, enjoying a very pleasant afternoon’s paddling past the next DOC campsite (Ohauora) towards the lovely John Coull Hut and our host, a retiree from Waikanae.

Whanganui River
Easy and scenic paddling

Day 2 – John Coull Hut to Tieke Marae (approx. 29 kms)

Whanganui River
At John Coull Hut

With a successful Day 1 we decided to keep the same paddling partnerships as we headed through the picturesque gorge to the next DOC campsite at Mangawaiiti. Despite having mistakenly floated past it on a previous trip and warning everyone how difficult it was to spot, we then missed it again! But no matter, we pulled in further down the gorge for morning tea which was where Tony’s paddle flew away in the wind (NB: always remember to carefully secure your paddle). Luckily Sharleen was standing nearby and being a good Piscean very quickly leapt in to retrieve it, but not in her swimmers this time though.

Whanganui River
High water in the gorge -so very few rapids


Whanganui River
You have to be able to say you went there

Just a little further down the river was our lunch stop at Mangapurua and a ½ hr walk to the infamous and stunning Bridge to Nowhere, a welcome leg-stretcher for our seasoned hikers.  It was the first real contact with non river-rats (people who travelled in by jet-boat from Pipiriki, and some mountain-bikers waiting for their pick-up from the Mountain to Sea track). Unfortunately the strong Wellington southerly then found us on our last stretch of the day, and some interesting GPS tracks were made as we tried to keep our canoes in a straight line. It was with great relief to receive a very warm (log fire!) welcome at the Marae.

Day 3 – Tieke Marae to Pipiriki Roadend (approx. 21 kms)

Whanganui River
Almost at Pipiriki – and the end of a wonderful journey

Like all good WTMC clubbies we started early this day to be sure to meet our transport on time! This was the day of the larger rapids with the possibility of capsize, though no-one did. Despite the continuing wind we still made good time to the next DOC campsite at Ngaporo, where we fuelled up for the more turbulent sections of the river, which were a lot of fun. Some people (guess who?!) chose to head straight for the larger waves so had a bit of work to bale water out of their canoes afterwards, but there were no great Kodak moments to record.

Thanks to everyone for a fabulous trip … next up is the Rangitikei!

Star moment: Tony being indebted to Sharleen for rescuing his wayward paddle

Star of the day: A very cute 5 year old boy at Tieke Marae

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