Monday, December 6, 2021

Rangitikei Overnighter

A friend I'd made at a couple of packrafting meetups had offered me a bed at her house in Wellington to use as a base, which I was very grateful for. I didn't do much as my tummy was misbehaving a little, and I was feeling a little dizzy, so I mostly just rested. But I did go to Weta Works, for a tour of all things Hobbit, Lord of The Rings, and Thunderbirds, to name just a few...

Jenny also took me for a walk around the Miramar Peninsula where she lives. This region is almost predator free, and the birdlife is prolific. It's also very scenic.

After a couple of days of R&R I drove north to Mangaweka, to join Martin, Stu and a motley crew of packrafters on an overnight paddle down the Rangitikei from River Lodge. Martin had organised a minibus to shuttle us up to the lodge, where we had dinner and camped overnight. Some of the crew I'd met before at the meetups in St Arnaud and Hurunui, others were new.

We set off in groups of 5-6, but soon we had to portage through a couple of gnarly rapids, and then the rest of the river was pretty straightforward. Most of the excitement came from negotiating rapids regularly flowing straight into a wall as the river twisted and turned through spectacular gorges. It required a little timing to avoid capsizing in the back flow but I didn't find any of it intimidating. I must be getting better at this whitewater palaver...

The gorge is spectacular, with sheer walls on both sides for kilometre after kilometre. No way out but down the river...

Midmorning one of the guys managed to gash his boat severely. We reckon the side of his coffee pot and a rock in the river managed to create the perfect frictional moment and he was waterlogged! We did a fair repair job with sewing it up, aquasealing it, then Tyvek taping it inside and out, which got him back on the water but requiring regular stops to reinflate. We had a commercial rafting group behind us, and in the end he and his partner opted to take out with them and not continue downriver with us. 

We camped at a spot on the river called Poplars, finding spots amongst the trees to erect our tents, and a small campfire was built overlooking the river. But apparently we weren't exactly welcome, as the chap living across the river seemed to be hell bent on making our stay uncomfortable. 

First he started up his scrub bar, clearing the scrub on the cliff edge immediately opposite where we were camping. Perhaps he thought the noise would make us move on. Then he drove down to the river on his quad bike and walked around picking up stray pieces of driftwood. He didn't wave or acknowledge us, he just postured and drove off. Then, just after dark when most of us had begun to retire into our tents he started shooting across the river above our heads. Martin counted 35 rounds. He certainly wasn't hunting, nobody lets off that much ammo unless he's trying to intimidate. It didn't work, and the next day we discussed making a complaint to the appropriate authorities. (Further inquiries were made and apparently what we heard and saw were fireworks, still intimidating tactics in my books).

Day two was sunny and a really enjoyable float down to Mangaweka, with a couple of spicy rapids to keep up the hype.

We arrived early afternoon. After a beer and a burger I booked a cabin for the night as I was planning to head on further north. Initially I was going to do a tramp in the Kawekas, but there was some serious rain forecast so instead I decided to avoid the rain and go paddling on a few lakes instead.

That's next...

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