Day 46. Whakahore – John Cullen campsite. Canoeing.
What a great night in a hut, everyone was so silent and had a long sleep in. I can’t even remember when was the last time I didn’t wake up and felt like I need to get going. But today the canoes won’t be delivered before 10-10.30am so I have all the time in the world. I just stay in bed reading until 7.30am. The sun is back and so I do some exercises for my back and feet and stretching outside in the morning sun. Then a slow breakfast and packing up my stuff to join the Canadians in the cafe. I even have time for some WiFi session and calling my parents before the canoes arrive. In between its again pouring rain, but we hide beneath the shelter to put all our gear inside the barrels.
We get some last minute advice and I am a little scared just before going into the water…. Like if we drop out we might have to float for 45minutes before finding a place to get back into the boat….
But once we are off on the water it’s just perfect. The rain of the last days actually makes it easier for us, there are less rapids with higher water level and you can flow pretty fast without too much paddling. The rainforest is beautiful from the river, it’s such a different perspective we are now having. I am in the canoe with Brad, he’s in the back as I didn’t feel comfortable enough doing the steering. It’s so nice also to be able to talk a lot and enjoy all the beautiful waterfalls, trees, plants, goats,… without any big effort. Of course the shoulder and arms start to be tired after a while but in the end we only paddle from noon or so till 4pm today. And the best thing, it didn’t rain! A little bit of dripping and clouds but no heavy rain as in the morning. Wonderful! What a great change from hiking.
As we reach the campsite we have to carry up all the barrels plus the boat which is pretty heavy. The campsite is rather full but there is a nice spot for us all to camp together next to a table that still gets a lot of sun. Alexander and Michaela, a couple from Seattle we already met yesterday is there as well. We are excited about all the food and start sharing our snacks and drink some vine and cider. We start cooking dinner early, my dried Shitake mushrooms are a success, with rice vermicelli and a honey-soy sauce. It’s the first time though I found them in a supermarket, hopefully there will be more. Everyone makes the others taste their dinner and Alex and Michaela even share their nice fresh paprika and onions. Then a big group brings us their leftovers of rice and curry, it seems everyone knows already we are the bunch of hungry hikers!
Best of all, Alex and Michaela are baking brownies in their pan and share this perfect dessert with us. For the first time I feel really full and I am so happy about the day I could share with so many nice people. I know now I made the right choice hurrying up and getting on the Whanganui river journey with my Canadians. I even have a kind of trail name now, Brad calls me Queen B 😉
Day 47. John Cullen campsite – Bridge to Nowhere lodge (opposite Tieke Kinga). Canoeing. Total 1265km.
We have only a short day ahead so we take it slowly in the morning. I do my exercises as I had back pain the last few nights, then tea, breakfast, hot chocolate and packing up. Carrying all the barrels and gear down to the river, tying it all well up and getting started takes quite some time. I think we start around 9.30am finally together with Alex and Michaela. I am now in the backseat, the navigator and a little bit scared in the beginning. There isn’t so much you can do wrong but it’s not easy to navigate and keeping the boat straight in the direction I want without slowing it down. Brad is pretty patient though and the others are waiting from time to time. And the river is stunning, plenty of waterfalls, gorges, little caves…. I can already feel though that I prefer to hike. I feel a bit restraint in the boat, I can’t just stop and take pictures, get food or anything else out of my pack, go to the loo…. It’s still a good change and at least my feet and legs appreciate the break. My shoulders aren’t so happy though 😉 Plus, it’s cloudy but not raining!
Around 11.30am we reach a landing where we stop to hike up to the Bridge to Nowhere. Plenty of people have already tied up their boats and it’s not easy to find a spot for us. It’s very cold suddenly and my feet are frozen. We hike up to the bridge in around 40minutes, warming us up slowly. The bridge is nice and we take a few pictures before having lunch up there and going back.
Then it’s only an hour further to our campsite. While the DOC campsite Tieke Kinga is expensive, our Canoe company Taumarunui Canoe advised we should camp just opposite on private land for just 10$ including a hot shower. I am not feeling very well, somehow angry, I am not sure if this whole boat thing is something for me. I guess 2 days would have been enough for me. The shower is not working but we are the only ones on the campsite and have plenty of space to stay and shelter and gas. Everyone is going food crazy again, eating so much, drinking vine, eating more and more, playing cards, drinking coffee, chatting, relaxing, enjoying the view and eating more chocolate. I am amazed that other people can actually eat more than myself – but they also could buy more food. I am worried though how it will be to go back to leas food after these few days of eating like crazy but without moving that much. Let’s see!
Day 48. Bridge to Nowhere lodge – Flying Fox lodge. Canoeing. 50km. Total 1315km. 50k Day!
After a good night of sleep I get up at 6am again for a few exercises and taking a good cup of tea before the others get up. We start around 8.30am, it’s such a hassle to carry down the barrels and tie them to the boat. It’s again very cloudy but still no rain, just short showers. It’s so beautiful to be floating and paddling today. I have finally adapted to the new rhythm and found my peace again. I have snacks next to my seat and we just stop for toilet breaks so I am not restraining myself from drinking water. There are two bigger rapids today but Brad steers us well through it (just going a little bit too far down into the white water and giving me a shower).
We go explore a sidearm which is so narrow and beautiful before Alex and Michaela catch up on us. Soon we are already in Pipiriki where we have lunch followed by a coffee in a small shop. We wave goodbye to Alex and Michaela, who as all others are handing back their boats here. It’s just the TA hikers who get to continue to Whanganui by boat. Next stop is in Jerusalem where we visit the church and the (empty) convent.
Before we know it we are then already through a final rapid (and another shower for Bettina) and at the Flying Fox campsite. It’s 5.30pm or so and we have just made our first 50km day! Plus, the Flying Fox is the most wonderful place. There is a big house, small cottages to rent, a glamping and a camping place, a little kitchen with nice seating area, a shower and bathtub and a fireplace with wood. I almost forgot the little shop! They have a nice selection of food, some handmade like that jam or rhubarb-crumble -ice-cream (which I totally buy of course). I am also getting an onion for my dinner and we order two big loafs of handmade bread for the next day. While I am taking a shower, Matt and Quinn cut down some fresh orange, pamplemousse and lemon and mix it with red wine for Sangria. It’s so delicious, I might get drunk tonight! I cook myself a perfect little dinner with onion, peas, noodles, tomatoe soup, cheese and wine. Everyone else loves it too so I am sharing. We are all eating and drinking and lighting a fire. It’s such a perfect evening! The rain then has us head back underneath a shelter and then to bed. It’s like 11pm and I am a bit drunk, hopefully I won’t get sea sick tomorrow 😉