Day 46: (December 20th) 21.4mi/34.5km Whakahoro campsite to John Coull campsite
We have a lazy morning, since the canoe company isn’t arriving until 10am. I wander over to the Cafe again, and order breakfast as soon as they open at 8am.
The canoe company, Blazing Paddles, arrives after 10am, and we do an intro, safety briefing & equipment fitting. We get on the river at 11:30, and after 30 minutes, Achille and I get the hang of maneuvering our canoe.
Most of the day is nice weather, but it rains towards the end of the day.
After 39km, we arrive at John Coull hut at 5:30pm, and it’s pouring rain. We warm up in the hut, and wait until it stops raining to setup our tents.
Day 47: (December 21st) 19.7mi/31.7km John Coull campsite to Tikae Marae campsite
I wake up to nice weather, and wander up to the cooking shelter to make breakfast. Usually I don’t cook breakfast on the trail, but since weight is no issue during this section, I carry heavier food.
Achille and I get on the river at 9am, and paddle an hour before a group break. The other canoe groups also stop and join us, Andrea/Alon, Franzi/Nathan, & Ruben/Amanda. We dry our tents on a nice warm gravel bar and have my favorite meal, 2nd breakfast.
The rest of the morning is an easy cruise on the river current, and we occasionally link canoes, play games, and generally do ridiculous things!
In the afternoon we dock the canoes, and do a quick side hike (2km) to the “Bridge to nowhere”, which was built with the expectation of a road that never came to fruition.
We paddle a little further, and arrive at Tieke Marae, a Maori site which shows river travelers a traditional welcoming ceremony, a “powhiri”. Cool!
It starts to rain at the end of it, and they quickly finish it and we retreat to our tents for the night.
Day 48: (December 22nd) 27.4mi/44.0km Tikae Marae campsite to Moutere Island
I’m getting used to these late mornings and hot breakfasts! We get on the river at 8 am, and after a couple of rapids, it’s smooth cruising.
After a couple of hours, we hit a big rapid, then take a break on a nearby gravel bar. It was a big rapid, so it was very entertaining seeing other canoes navigate it, and some flipped over!
We have an uneventful morning of paddling after that, and stop for lunch at another gravel bar.
In this part of the river, there are no more official campsites, so we aim for a grassy area near Moutere Island.
Nathan broke his tent…bummer dude!
Day 49: (December 23rd) 25.3mi/40.8km Moutere island to Hipango Park campsite
We woke up early, at 6am, and were on the river at 7:15am, to take advantage of the nice weather.
We have fun paddling a few rapids, then catch the other 2 canoes in our group, Paul/Richard and Kacka/Kuba. They had continued a bit further yesterday to land at the Flying Fox, a riverside camping/cabins.
We have a nice long lunch at a sunny gravel bank , and Ruben builds a “1300km” sign from canoes and humans! And I fix my broken jandal with a bread tie.
We get back on the water, and hit a couple of more rapids, and the rest of the afternoon is calm, and we create a canoe flotilla.
The current is slow, so we have to Paddle constantly to get to camp at Hipango Park, a DOC campsite on a hill above the river.
Day 50: (December 24th) 12.4mi/20.0km Hipango Park campsite to Whanganui Holiday Park
It rained steadily all night, and I slept great to the sound of the rain. Achille and I had agreed on a 7am departure time, so I got up at 6am and ate all my remaining food, since it’s only a couple of hours to town today.
It drizzled for the first 30 minutes, then it stopped raining.
We covered 8km in the first hour (as usual), then the incoming tide slowed our progress to 2km per hour… ugh. We finally got to the holiday park at 10am, such a relief!
I checked in to our cabin, unpacked, dried out, and had a nice hot shower. We got a ride into town, and I bought groceries for the next hiking section, but also for a Christmas eve dinner! Salmon, asparagus, and couscous.
Most of our group stayed at the holiday park, and we had a nice dinner together.