Sunday, January 6, 2008

New Zealand 2003: North Island

I recently had breakfast with a friend who recently landed a job doing geology in New Zealand. After suppressing my extreme jealousy, I decided to take action. Seeing as how I'm currently laid up with a slowly recovering right shoulder, I've got lots of time to daydream and reminisce about better boating days. And often I'm brought back to my trip to New Zealand in 2003. So, instead of leaving the same blog post up about my little accident, I thought I'd post some photos and stills from better days, a little trip down memory lane.

This is the first installment of my nostalgic/inspirational (for me) journey (yes, I did once have a functioning right arm...).

New Zealand:

I finished my undergrad degree in December, 2002. Two summers prior, I met Zach Miller on a geology project in Colorado, and somehow we stayed in touch enough to realize 1: we were both graduating at the same time and 2: we had no immediate job prospects (imagine that). So we "planned" a trip to New Zealand. All told we spent over two months traveling around the islands and boating.

I drove cross country to meet up with Zach in LA, and after a mad dash to the airport that involved packing on the sidewalk outside of the car storage facility in south central LA, we began an incredibly long flight, that included an even longer layover in Fiji, which we both hated.

Within 24 hours of landing in Aukland we had purchased a van. It was beautiful, to us, and relatively cheap. The lack of back seats translated into optimum gear storage, even after we built bunk beds. We learned later that the key would not open the doors, so we always had to leave the van doors ajar to avoid getting locked out. Surprisingly, we never had anything stolen. Except for one of my sandals. Which disappeared while we were sleeping. Actually, I think Zach jettisoned one of them so I'd have to get better smelling shoes.

The apartment that I shared with Zach for two months in New Zealand...

Zach Miller building the bunk bed in the back of our van.

We cruised down to Rotarua, where we met up with kayaker extraordinaire and fellow Hampshire College alum Douglas McCormick, who unfortunately was recovering from a badly broken ankle acquired while on a steep first descent.

Rotarua, or more precisely, Douglas's front yard, was our base camp for a few weeks while we built the bunk beds and got settled in (I don't think his girlfriend approved...). Not a bad place to stay, considering we had incredibly easy access to the Kaituna River, a famed North Island run with a great play hole, and a play-boatable 18 foot falls. A flat water paddle from Douglas's front yard brought us to the put in, and we could walk the shuttle in under ten minutes.

Zach Miller waiting for the late lefty boof as he drops over Tutea Falls on the Kaituna River.

Zach Miller, same as above, from below.

Owen Callahan, dropping onto the pillow below Tutea Falls, Kaituna River.

Zach Miller, bottom hole, Kaituna River. Photo by Owen Callahan.

To tell you the truth, the Kaituna kind of weirded me out. The walls are super smooth and slimy volcanic tuff that rise straight out of the water, and you couldn't scout anything. The still of Zach running Tutea from above was shot while I sat in my boat in the staging eddy above the drop, holding onto the wall with one hand, waiting for a whistle once he was clear. Plus, there are freshwater eels.

On a few weekends we made it up to the Wairoa River, a great Class IV+ run with easy shuttle access and fun, technical rapids.

Owen Callahan, early on the Wairoa River.

Roller Coaster, Wairoa River. Photo provided by Douglas McCormick, unknown source.

Owen Callahan, the bottom of Roller Coaster, Wairoa River.

Zach Miller, bedroom stroke, Roller Coaster, Wairoa River.

Zach Miller, flying off the last ledge, Wairoa River.

After a while in Rotarua, we started south. On the way we made the typical stops at Huka Falls (too much water for me) and Full James wave, paddling a few rivers along the way with peculiar floating rocks. Eventually we wound our way to Wellington and the ferry to the South Island, where lots of steep creeks and (relatively) cheap helicopter shuttles awaited.

Which I'll get to next post.

Zach Miller, Full James wave

New Zealand, where the rocks float. This Basque fellow, who we think was named "Juice" constantly referred to Zach as "Sack," which in fact was a pretty good nickname.

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