Without a Paddle

Taumarunui to Palmerston North
Day 56
1475km

With the Tongariro Crossing complete our group of 16 returned to the small town of Taumarunui for our next leg of the adventure… the Whanganui River!

Having 1 day to resupply for a 7 day expedition we found ourselves frantically searching the small rail town for goods.

Endless food possibilities were now available to us thanks to the use of onboard canoe storage. Soon we found ourselves with mounds of fresh food, bakery goods and a unhealthy amount of alcohol.

Having never canoed before the very thought seemed daunting at first. Encountering rapids, potential eel attacks and obviously taniwha are all on my mind. Yet there I was signing my life away on the legal waiver that put my health and safety in my own hands. Looking back I have the Te Araroa Trail to blame for these kind of decisions. Undertaking the trail gives you a sense you can do anything. It really does. While canoeing may seem like a no biggie, you overthink the possibility of situations going wrong. And why wouldn’t you? You are hiking the length of a country through terrible and sometimes dangerous terrain, unpredictable weather and half the time no clue where you will camp each night.

Enter Blazing Paddles.. aka Broken Paddles aka Busted Paddles. A canoe company based in Taumaranui for what seems countless decades providing adventurers with canoes that would leave your grandparents ornaments looking brand new. Having called around the area we found them to be the best (cheapest) provider of canoe hire. 7 days of canoeing for $150 seemed too good to be true right? Regardless of the answer, we promptly paid and ended up with canoes that would otherwise resemble a paddock bashing 1994 Toyota Corolla without WoF or rego…except on a moving water source with rapids.

For the next 3 days we floated rather than paddled down the stream relishing in the fact that we didn’t have to hike. The first two nights we stayed at DoC campsites enjoying our newfound way of making mileage. Upon waking up on the third day our trip seemed jeopardised. The water rose over 2 meters during the night and with the canoes half submerged, our group of 16 feared the loss of lifejackets, paddles and more importantly our canoes. After taking count, we mourned the loss of 1 paddle and made our way to the following DoC sites. On the 5th night we were fortunate to participate in a powhiri from the Chief of the Ngati Hau. A quite literal link with the river was explained as he told us of his tribes origins, existence and continuation. It was amazing to hear a point of view that is rarely seen and the way he mocked ministers and other supposed honourable members of parliament made my night. Following our stay at the Marae, we were then forced into a tough paddle towards Whanganui for the last 3 days of our trip due to tidal flow and headstrong wind. This intern brought severe moral decline as we were unfortunately put in a situation where we had to work for our final campsites.

Once docked we set off on foot to Palmy from Whanganui. A section that I had been dreading since the beginning of the river. The bain of the Te Araroa…road walking. While the Te Araroa predominately takes you through DoC tracks, road walking is a necessary truth given how new the trail really is. Access through farmland takes time to organise and DoC trails simply don’t exist in certain areas. Approximately 110 kilometres later after some thrilling road walking and some trail magic on the side we arrived in Palmy!

Here is a count of interesting stats concerning our 7 day adventure!

Paddles broken: 1
Seats broken: 1
Capsizes: 3
Total scrumpys consumed: 14
Possums potentially killed: 1
Phones water damaged: 28
Total litres of spirits taken: 8.7 litres
Total kilometres accomplished without paddling: 83 kilometres

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