A Travellerspoint blog

The Wanganui River Conclusion

Plus A Sprained Ankle

semi-overcast 20 °C

The second day of the journey we woke early with every one else, ate our breakfast and prepared our canoe. It was about a three and a half hour paddle to the stop for the bridge to nowhere hiking trail. It was hard pulling up to the "dock" due to it being a steep and slippery rock. We eventually made it up though, changed into our hiking shoes, and prepared for the 45 minute hike to the bridge to nowhere.

We had lunch first and then began our hike. On the way to the bridge to nowhere we had to pass a very frightening swing bridge, which to be honest, was more impressive then the bridge to nowhere. But to be fair - we didn't get to hear the story behind the bridge to nowhere, so perhaps if we had we would have been more in awe.

We arrived *almost* to the bridge to nowhere. We went to a nearby lookout. From there we could see the bridge to nowhere - which clearly went somewhere.


On the hike back to the canoe, I had the brilliant blonde idea to run back. We were not far from the trail head, and I was bored to death of the hike. So I started running, and everything was going rather well until I started slowing down. I guess since I was about to stop, I quit paying attention to my footing and stepped wrongly onto a tree root. The resulting grade 2 sprained ankle required James to help me to walk the rest of the way, and made getting back down that slippery steep rock to the canoe very difficult indeed.

The rest of the paddle to the next hut I periodically kept my foot in the river as a way of icing it, which was very effective in keeping the swelling down.

We eventually made it to the hut and carried our barrels up to the hut. That night another of the Belgian guys helped taped up my ankle and I hobbled around all evening until I passed out super early to have one of the best sleeps of my life.

The next day we slept in a bit and in effect were the last to leave the hut. This didn't matter much however, because James and I are a great paddling team and we soon passed a bunch of the others.


After playing "pirates" with Ian the Canadian in the kayak we relaxed into a nice game of "if you had to listen to one spice girls song on repeat for the rest of your life, which would you choose?" Jen, due to a lack of spice girl knowledge (which I think is impossible for anyone barely conscious during the nineties and I think she only made this claim to appear cool) chose "wannabe" and instantly regretted it. The rest of us made the wise decision of "stop right now." The best part of the game was, thirty minutes later, overtaking Ian yet again to find that he was singing "stop right now" to himself, while drifting along in the current in his kayak.

The final day had the most challenging rapids. At one point, we hit a very shallow area in the middle of the rapids and ended up "beached as" in the middle of the rapid. The force of the water, spun us around backwards and tossed us around a bit as we tried to dislodge ourselves. We made it ow without any mishaps, but I was shaken up a bit. The last thing I wanted with a busted ankle, was to get toppled over into some rocks.

At another point in the journey we almost flipped the canoe as well. We were in a rapid that had large pressure waves coming off the side of the gorge. At one point our canoe was about to flip but we managed to right it by shifting our body weight at the right moment.

Alas, despite all the practice, we did flip the canoe in the end. At an embarrassing 150 metres from the end point of the journey where the guy was waiting to fetch us. It was at a point where two sets of rapids were really close to each other. The first rapid we had to enter right, and the canoe took on quite a bit of water. Water in the canoe makes you less stable, but due to the close proximity of the next rapid, and the fact that it was enter left - we did not have time to bail the water. This made us extra unstable and right when we were almost out of the rapids, a large wave came and flipped us.

I amazingly enough, kept my hair dry.

There were no injuries in our little swim, and we didn't lose any possessions either, so I guess it wasn't so bad. Although at the time, I have to admit, I was pretty freaked out.


Posted by Jadabond 22:19 Archived in New Zealand Tagged new_zealand canoe wanganui great_walk Comments (1)

Wanganui river journey

overcast 20 °C

The Wanganui river has its source in the Tongariro mountain ranges, and flows to the sea through some of the most impressive scenery and through some of the most remote countryside in the North Island of New Zealand. The three - five day canoe journey has been incorporated into the great walks system of New Zealand, despite having little to no walking involved.

However, despite this being a canoe journey, with little actual walking involved, I still managed to seriously sprain my ankle.


We set out from the Reatihi holiday park with Nils and Thomas and three others early in the morning and drove for what seemed like ages through what seemed to be mostly uninhabited landscape. I fell asleep, which was probably for the best, because I think I would have gotten car sick on those windy mountain roads.

Our driver pointed out some of the main "attractions" of the region, which included, one of the biggest auto wreckers in New Zealand and a giant kiwi sculpture made out of driftwood.

When we arrived, James and I quickly ate a peanut butter and jelly wrap which proved to be a very good idea as it kept us from getting hungry early on and to pass the others and be one of the first to arrive at the first hut.

We were off to a bit of a slow start as James and I got used to paddling together. A few spins around, and a small collision with a tree overhanging the shore later, and we were on our way.


The rapids on the first day were rather small and very easy to navigate, which quickly set me at ease. Also, my arms and shoulders held up well to the paddling and I didn't even get any sore muscles.

We arrived at the hut and had to carry up all our barrels and other items up the hill to the hut facilities. It was much better equipped than I had originally expected, with composting toilets and gas cookers provided. No electricity though. We had the option to either set up our tents or sleep in the bunks provided. Since there was ample room, we opted to not sleep in the tent for once.

James carrying the barrels

While relaxing at the camp site we saw a really massive rat, which is the reason it is imperative to keep all your food in the waterproof barrels, because they are also rat and possum proof as well….unlike tents. Jen (my American friend who came on the Cape Reinga hike with me) met us at the waterfront the first day which came as a surprise since she was not at the same holiday park as us and had booked through a different canoe rental place. She opted to sleep in her tent, and had a visitor bite its way through in the night.

The first night we spent drinking wine and socializing with the other canoers who were staying at the tent, and with some local DOC (department of conservation) guys who were staying there - mapping out species density and hunting wild goats and possums who destroy the native forest.

The next morning we woke early and brewed up some coffee before getting ready to set out on day number two of three..….

Nils and Thomas in their canoe

Posted by Jadabond 15:03 Archived in New Zealand Tagged new_zealand canoe wanganui great_walk Comments (0)

Destination : Reatihi

Jump through the window!

Pipiriki: Fun to say, more fun to make a sign of

Unfortunately, no one knows where it is. Also unfortunately, our hitchhiking destination was changed from Pipiriki to Reatihi by Nils, after the sign was made and we were on our way. No worried though. We used the other side to say "Wanganui", the closest major town, and where the highways split. Everyone knew were that was.

The hostel were we were camped was near to the edge of town, so getting to a good hitching spot was easy. Unfortunately there was already a hitch hiker there which made it awkward since we were now competing for rides. It was also awkward cause no one was stopping. Finally someone stopped for us - Jasmine and Blaine, who were heading to Statford. Jasmine was called to New Plymouth for jury duty, but was relieved when she wasn't chosen. They left us in Stratford near what appeared to be some sort of crack house, in front of which we waited for quite a while. Our hitchhiking luck was definitely not as good as the day previous.

Eventually a fishermen guy named G stopped for us, and took us up to the next town. Here we didn't have to wait long for Hamish to pull over in his shiney sports car and take us another 20 minutes or so down the road.

Again, we waited, for a long while. But finally Liz pulled over and took us as far as Patea. Liz is a community lawyer who is interested in labour unions, and environmental issues. We had a great time talking and had loads of common ground.

We were dropped off in Patea, and had a very long wait ahead of us. We probably waited for at least 45 minutes, but possibly longer. But there was no turning back. Finally Deb, in her bright yellow car stopped for us. Deb is a sheep farmer in Patea who was heading to Wanganui to meet a friend whose father had recently passed away. She told us loads of stories of her travels around New Zealand and of her canoe trip down the Wanganui river that she did several years ago. She dropped us off at the place where the 4 motorway headed to Reatihi and we settled in for another long wait.

It is lucky that we got a ride at all because despite the number 4 being a major highway, it is not well used as it is more a windy mountain road than a proper motorway. And there are no towns in between Wanganui and Reatihi - 80 ams apart. Finally though, we did get a ride. A white camper van came to an abrupt halt in front of us. We were instructed that they would take us wherever we needed to go, but that we had to climb through the window because their doors were broken. We climbed into the back with four sweaty, topless, drunk, and spray painted young men. They were on their way to a concert in Auckland and seemed to be completely unaware of how far away they were from Auckland.

They were the most hilarious hitch I have ever had as we were passed bourbon and colas (a premixed can drink which is absolutely disgusting, but everyone here seems to love it) and periodically had to stop at the side of the road for the drunk boys to fall out of the window to go for a pee.

They dropped us in Reatihi and after having a look at the town (all half block of it) we were shocked at how we managed to hitch to such a place at all. We had even gotten there before Nils and Thomas - our friends from Belgium who had their own car - got there. Amazing.

We set up in the motor camp which was to arrange our next day's journey and waited for our friends to arrive while going on a mission in the town for takeaway.

Best New Zealand take away food: Kumara chips (sweet potato hot chips)
Best way to say "I love you" to Nils and Thomas: filling their tent with balloons
Best way to spend the last moments of daylight hours instead of packing the waterproof barrels for the next day: Applying temporary tattoos to my tent

Packing up the waterproof barrels
A breakfast of energy drinks

Posted by Jadabond 14:53 Archived in New Zealand Tagged new_zealand hitch_hiking reatihi wanganui Comments (0)

New Plymouth

sunny 25 °C

Luckily it stopped raining sometime in the night, and luckily our tent + tarp + tree equation added up to dryness. We packed up, ate breakfast, and stole a piece of cardboard from the recycling to make our hitch hiking sign.

New Plymouth


We started walking on the one road out of the town (a generous description) and were dismayed to see not much traffic passing us. We kept at it though, and soon enough, an elderly Maori gentlemen stopped for us. He explained that he is from the Rotorua region, but that his family is from the Waitomo region and that he is involved with helping to rebuilt the tribes marai. A marai is a Maori meeting or gathering house.

He drove us as far as Te Kuiti where the 3 motorway and the 30 intersect. From here we started trudging up the steep hill when only a few minutes later another car stopped for us. This time is was a Maori woman and her son, named Avery and Buckly. We shared the space with their little dog. We drove with them for quite a long way, all the way down the coastal 3 motorway, through tunnels simply hollowed out in the mountains, past crashing waves and steep cliffs, and through some truly annoying road works. They took us almost all of the way to New Plymouth - about 20 km north.

From here we only had to wait about another 10 - 15 minutes before a Maori woman and her daughter stopped for us. They were one of our favourite rides, despite the fact that they had very traditional names which I can't remember right now. The mum was super enthusiastic about everything and was particularly pleased that James and I had met in New Zealand. She also complemented my pronunciation of Maori words. Her daughter was also super cool and works in the hospitality industry and also does poi and the haka. They dropped us off in the i-site in New Plymouth.

New Plymouth is the largest town near to Mt. Taranaki…. aka Mt. Fugi from The Last Samurai. The women at the i-site directed us to the most amazing hostel ever, which unfortunately we unpacked and paid for right before finding the most amazing wild camping spot ever. The hostel is called the sunflower lodge, and it was a bit of a hike from the i-site but totally worth it. A really cozy atmosphere with a great little tent site, verandas, bbq's, and even a little herb garden. We told our friend Frederik, who we met at the bar in Waitomo the day previous and he agreed to meet us there later that evening as he was also heading to New Plymouth.

The best wild camping spot…EVER…is near to the sunflower lodge. As you walk towards it from the town centre you pass a race course, and beside that racecourse is one of those photobox things where the photographers and commentators can stand. We went to investigate and found that it was not private property, it simply had a warning sign posted to it. We climbed up, about 10 metres, and we rewarded with the best views of the mountain you could get in town.


The box also had a trap door, so if you wanted you could totally roll out your sleeping bags up there and be completely undisturbed.

Most of the day was spend doing errands - grocery shopping for our up coming canoe trip, eating spicy thai food, and repacking our bags Eventually Frederik joined us and we hung out and played my backpacker card game (best game EVER) over beers in the sun room.

Tomorrow is off to a town in the middle of nowhere. It will be one of the most obscure hitch hiking destinations yet.


Posted by Jadabond 13:23 Archived in New Zealand Tagged taranaki new_plymouth Comments (0)

Black Water Rafting

I DO NOT jump backwards

rain 17 °C


It looks like the night sky, but this is actually a view from within the glow worm caves at Waitomo. After the conclusion of kiwiburn we got a ride with Owen as far as Hamilton and he dropped us off at the turn off to the motorway that we needed. We waited for about ten minutes maybe until we were picked up by a guy named G (or something....the accents here....) who took us most of the way to Waitomo. Here we had to wait quite a while as there didn't seem to be much traffic, and it also started to rain which was disheartening. After about half an hour of waiting, we decided to give up, sit under a tree, a make lunch. I had only pulled out the tortilla wraps (for peanut butter and jelly wraps....obviously) when a car pulled up beside us and asked if we needed a lift. We were super grateful, especially when we found out that they had originally driven past us and had turned back to get us, even though we were going to a different place than them. They were a super chatty young couple, John and Holly, who live in Hamilton. Holly is finished up her last year of law school and John is an accountant. They dropped us off at the i-site in Waitomo.

It was lucky for us that the cave operator for which we were doing our tour was in the building right beside the i-site. Our tour was booked for the next day at noon, but considering our great luck hitch hiking, we opted instead to do that days last tour. We had about 15 minutes to quickly eat some lunch and got ready for the tour.

We piled into a van only to be driven about 500 metres to another building. It was here that we were kitted up in our wetsuits, gumboots and helmets. Getting into the wetsuits was an adventure in itself, and I guess the man handing them out thought I was skinnier than I am because I got royally stuck in my wetsuit and had to have assistance to get it peeled off me so I could go get another one. This one worked better and soon we were ready to go. We all got back into the van and drove into the country side. We stopped near some farm property, were given rubber inner tubes, and had to walk a fair way through a field before we came to the cave entrance.

With our lights off we could see the hundreds of glow worms which dotted the ceiling of the cave. As we walked deeper into the cave it became wetter and wetter, until the water was past our waists. Here is where the adventure started for real. We were lined up in single file, with one hand on the side of the cave and one hand on the left shoulder of the person in front of us. We were then instructed to switch off our headlamps and blindly walk into the darkness, with the water to our chests. Looking up we could see more glow worms, trying to attract their dinner with the light from their bums.

At the end of our walk through the darkness, we were given light once more, only to see a ladder up to a waterfall. We were told to climb up, turn around, and fall backwards so that we landed with our bums in our inner tube.

I was the third in line.
I went last.
I DO NOT jump backwards.

After a conversation which concluded with:
Guide: "There is no other way around it, are you just going to go back?"
Me: "Yes."

I was told that there was a ladder I could climb down. I DO NOT jump backwards.

From this point on we floated through the water until it became too deep for the guides who were pulling us along. Then we had to swim with our inner tubes. At this point of the cave system, the water was 30 feet deep.

Swimming while wearing gum boots is not so easy.

After this point we came to a massive water slide, for which, I must admit, I also had a mild panic attack over, but in the end I made it down. This concluded our cave tour. Now we just had to climb the stairs leading out of the cave....with our gum boots full of water. Not easy. Great thigh work out though.

That evening we set up our tent at a backpackers under a tree since the rain was still relentless. If only we had a camo tarp instead of my blue one...we would have been well hidden. We then trudged into town for a hot meal, and made friends with a Swedish guy named Frederik.

The next morning we headed out once more.... destination New Plymouth


Posted by Jadabond 02:29 Archived in New Zealand Tagged cave waitomo glow_worm black_water_rafting Comments (2)

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