Always looking for ways to escape the miserable British winter, Zet Team paddlers Lee Royle and Sandra Hyslop headed down under to check out the offerings of New Zealand’s rivers.
We started off the trip at Okere Falls near Rotorua which is on the North Island. During their first couple of months we were able to check out the local staples of the Kaituna and Wairoa rivers as well as heading further afield when the rain came. The Kaituna offers perfect low-stress fun kayaking with a lap taking us anywhere from 7 minutes to an hour depending on how much we wanted play around on the way down. The highest commercially rafted waterfall in the world, Tutea Falls, offers a little spice to the run and definitely gets your heart-rate going when you are running it on a pitch-black glow-worm tour nightlap. Downstream of the commercial section the ‘lower gorges’ offer great white-water in some of the most spectacular canyons I’ve ever been in, just have to watch out for the wood!
The Wairoa releases every Sunday throughout NZ summertime and offers a slightly more challenging run with plenty of great eddy moves and surf waves to try and catch. For higher adrenaline hits the infamous Huka Falls and Tree Trunk gorge are not too far away and offer a great buzz in incredible surroundings. When the rain hits Tongariro national park the rivers get going and there are some fun waterfalls to plop off and some spate runs to get your heart in your mouth.
Highlights for us included the Whakapapanui (pronounced fackapapanooi) at high flows and the Tauranga-Taupo gorge run where Lee kindly decided to drop his boat in the river on the one portage. Luckily it was recovered quickly and he only needed to navigate one rapid without his kayak! Lee has since headed down to the South Island whilst I am currently working saving money to head down later in February. He has this to say about the rivers down there: The South Island has been having a bit of a mild summer so far, I'm writing this after scraping ice off my car but also wearing shorts and sun cream, so mixed weather as expected. The kayaking has been good so far, I headed straight to the West Coast to get in some heli runs, however the weather had different ideas with drizzle to keep the rivers at just the wrong levels, and low clouds so that when we did try and fly, the choppers weren't having it. Not to say that there wasn't plenty of other rivers to do in the meantime, so I've managed to get on some classic West Coast choss, and some other things around Christchurch and on the way to Queenstown where I'm heading to scare myself on some big water!
The South is very different to the North Island, some huge mountain ranges (when the weather clears to see them), and long rivers flowing through beautiful canyons wherever you look. It's certainly a place you could spend years exploring if you were willing to hike for days with a boat and endure sandflies trying to eat you all the time.