The next section of the Te Araroa hike for us was down the Whanganui River; 150km of river wilderness only passable by boat. We opted for the 5 day journey, starting in Taumaranui.
Day 1 & 2, Taumaranui to Whakahoro (57km)
We were picked up by our canoe hire company (Taumaranui Canoes) and given a whistle stop briefing on the boat and the river. Next thing we knew we were heading downstream in our Canadian canoe; tent, food and clothes all packed up tight in the barrels.
I don’t think either of us quite knew what to expect from the rapids. As it turns out there were loads on the first two days! One of which got the better of us about 20 minutes in to our first day. We ended up floating down the river clinging on to our boat, oops not the best start!
We camped at Poukaria on the first night and at Whakahoro hut on the second night which were both awesome DOC campsites. Here we met fellow hikers Michael, Katie and Peter plus Max and Marvin who were also doing the river journey. The evenings were part of the fun as we all just kicked back and relaxed, playing games and drinking beers!
Day 3, 4 & 5 Whakahoro to Pipiriki (88km)
Over the first two days the farmland either side of the river had been getting steeper and steeper, giving way to native bush and big bluffs. By the third day the river had narrowed and the river banks were big cliff faces that reminded us of fiordland. The current of the river meant we really didn’t have to paddle all that often, which gave us time to sit back and enjoy the ride.
There were still the occasional rapids but nothing the size of the white waters on day one. However…. This did not stop us hitting a rock at high speed, me panicking and falling out, Alex losing balance and the boat capsizing. The result; one lost camera and two damaged egos as our friends paddled past us without incident.
Thank you Peter for taking some photos of us over the next few days to use in our blog!
Night 3 we opted to stay in the John Coull hut which gave us chance to dry our sodden clothes. Spent the night playing cards with the gang and the addition of Joe and Josh.
On our final night of river life we stayed at the Tieke Kainga hut which is part of a Maori marae which meant no drinking. Instead we paddled over to the other side of the river for a bottle of wine at the Bridge to Nowhere Lodge. It was a real novelty to arrive at the pub by canoe and even more fun to paddle back across to the campsite after a few drinks and against the current.
The final day of paddling was our shortest day on the river, just over 20km, but a lovely way to end the trip. We managed to get an early start so were out on the river before all the other canoes. The scenery is amazing, so prehistoric that I honestly wouldn’t be surprised to see a dinosaur grazing happily along the river bank. Very glad we decided to do the Whanganui River it has definitely been a trail highlight for both of us!