Day 53 – Bridge To Nowhere Camp to Matahiwi

Bridge To Nowhere Camp to Matahiwi (Whanganui River)

43kms

The rapids went ‘next level’ today. There were less of them but they were bigger. I got tipped out and floated about 100 meters on my back holding on to the kayak beside me but I had to let go when it got side on in front of me and I was getting dragged under it. Dad and Scott got through ok behind me. There were already a group who had gone ashore just past the rapid and some of them paddled out to fetch my kayak. Luckily they did, otherwise I would have had to have waited for a jet boat to find it and bring it up. There were about six of them today that came up the river. So I was left floating on my back with my feet in front of me, as we were instructed to do in that situation, so I could push off any obstacles I might run into like rocks or logs. There was nothing anyone could do to help me at that point until I had floated out of the rapid. I was able to stand up when I got closer to the shore but the water was still running fast at about knee deep so I very carefully and slowly walked about 15 meters to shore. It was all rocks and loose stones underfoot and one of my sandles had come undone. The only thing I lost was my hat. My phone stayed dry inside a snap lock bag in my shirt pocket which was held tightly against my chest by my lifejacket. No water got into the barrel I had which was lucky because it was fully submerged for quite a while.

Further downstream I was feeling a bit apprehensive going into some of the bigger rapids. There was one where the river became very narrow and there was a large rock that split the water into a fork. There was a canoe wrapped around it just under the surface. I opted to avoid this altogether because I wasn’t confident I had enough control to avoid the rock. To the left it was very shallow so I took my kayak over that and bumped and scrapped my way over the stones. Dad and Scott followed suit. Then there was another large rapid that is known as the 50/50. Again the river narrowed from about 20 meters across to less than five. I knew I could not get through it without tipping. It was the biggest rapid of the trip by far. I told dad and Scott that I was going to walk down the shoreline and tow my kayak. Dad and Scott were confident enough to have a go in the canoe which so far had proven to be more stable. I got out of my kayak as they entered the rapid and I watched them go into it. They started tipping to the right and then in an instant they flipped and were bobbing in and out of the waves holding onto the canoe. I had to get back in quickly to try and help them and caught up with them not far out of it as they were trying to swim to shore. I helped by nudging the canoe with the tip of my kayak. They managed to keep hold of it. Dad said his legs were tangled in the rope for a while which made it difficult to swim. A couple just ahead of us noticed what happened and paddled back upstream to help. Everyone was fine and no gear was lost and the barrells kept the water out again. So there was lots more action and excitement today!

There were three more rapids after that before we landed at Pipiriki. The hire company was there to load all our canoes and barrells. They also had the mountain bike for me and my backpack so I had to transfer all my gear back into it. I said goodbye to dad and Scott. It was really great sharing that experience with them and it was a really enjoyable three days down that section of the river.

I walked my bike and backpack and small backpack up to the top of the hill to the campsite. I wanted to keep going and knock some kms off to make tomorrow an easier ride to Whanganui which is roughly 80kms away. I had thought about continuing to Matahiwi where I knew there was a cafe and art gallery with accommodation. It was already 2pm and I thought it would take me 3 or 4 hours at least to get there because my map showed metal road for the whole 22kms with a third of it being uphill. The guy running the campsite was really helpful. His name was Junior. He knew all about the Matahiwi cafe and the owner so phoned them for me to organise it. $40 for a cabin. He then phoned the post lady to arrange for her to pick my backpack up and take it to Whanganui for me ($15). I had planned to organise all this myself but he just got on the phone and sorted it all in 5 minutes. Junior gave me a can of L&P after I told him I was raising money for Alzheimers Northland. I got an overnight pack ready and hit the road asap. I was peddling by 2.30pm. The road was sealed the whole way which was a relief and I made it to Matahiwi in under two hours. It was hard on the long uphill stretches but great fun coasting downhill and the views down the river were amazing. The cabin is nice and the place is like a mini holiday park with a good hot shower and kitchen etc. And of coarse the cafe for a coffee in the morning before I leave.

As I was writing there was a short earthquake that lasted for about 10 seconds. I have never felt one before and this one was a good shake. I was lying on the bed and the cabin suddenly started shaking. It took me a while to register what was happening and by the time I got up and out the door it stopped. There is an older couple in the cabin next to me and they had come outside not knowing what it was and a bit confused. About an hour later they knocked on the side of my cabin. They said that they were quite unnerved about it and so we chatted for a while outside. They were thinking about driving back to Whanganui. I reassured them that we are safe enough here and to come out onto the lawn if it happens again. I’ve had enough excitement for one day I think.

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