Sunday, January 6, 2008

New Zealand 2003: South Island

Well, my recovery is still slow, and since neither TRL or Bellingham Whitewater seem to be updating their posts that frequently, I've decided to entertain myself by remembering better days. My last post was a hacked introduction to an international boating trip to New Zealand, but I saved the South Island for this one.

Geologically speaking, the North Island and South Island are quite different places. The North Island is dominated by volcanic activity and hence deep smooth canyons through tuff, floating rocks and hot springs. South Island rivers actually remind me of northern WA and BC rivers: polished granite, schist, phyllite and landslides, jade and giant seives. Steep, ever changing creeks and big storms blowing in off the oceans. Generally scary and beautiful places.

Zach Miller, Hokitika River

Zach and I made the journal south of Rotorua, to Wellington and the ferry, on to Murchison and the west coast of the South Island in our seemingly undestructable van, with two 99 cent tapes in the boom box we bought as a sound system. I don't know why we never improved the musical selection. Meanwhile, fellow Hampshire alum Dave Scavullo slowly made his way south, meeting up with us a few weeks later since he had to avoid high spots in the road on the way down...

Dave Scavullo's rig. Super sketchy, super low.

Our destination, and the destination of just about every other boater, was Lake Mahinapua, south of Hokitika on the wet West Coast. The field west of the lake was a defacto paddling community, where international paddlers took advantage of the unwatched facilities, camped for free, planned and logistisized every evening at the Mahinapua Tavern (can you say tool?) or over breakfast at the cafe in Hokitika. We met Mickey Abbot and Allan Ellard (and I told them they could not join us on our heli trip...we were full and I didn't know who they were, then.). We ran the Arahura with John Grace, and I'm featured prominently holding a throw bag in LVM issue 11(?) Yes, times were good.

Lake Mahinapua, home base for a few weeks on the South Island.

One of the big draws to the West Coast are, of course, the heli runs. Bruce Dando flew relatively cheap (~US$50) shuttles up otherwise poorly accessible runs like the Hokitika, Whitcombe, Arahura... And usually all of your stuff made it to the put in too.

Helicopter shuttle courtesy Bruce Dando. Insurance sold separately.

Steve a.k.a. Captain America, and Zach Miller, lower Hokitika put-in.

Eventually your money runs out, or the weather sucks, or the helicopter has crashed, and you get to start hiking in to runs. But the gem of the Kakapotahi is still relatively easy, and even driveable...

Hiking into the Styx, which was too low to paddle anyway.

Owen Callahan, Airmail, Kakapotahi River.

Stef, Kakapotahi River.

Zach Miller, Postman's Falls, Kakapotahi River.

We ran the Kakapotahi a few days after I got out of the hospital, after experiencing my first of several gall stones attacks on the trip.

Owen Callahan on drugs, after one-too-many meat pies, which were really cheap, but not that good.

Eventually our van began a steady and inevitable decline, prompting an even more inevitable and much slower retreat back to the North Island. The black flies also prompted our decision to tuck tail. Along the way we stopped at Mauria Falls outside of Murchison, and I somehow mustered the courage to drop my first 30 foot falls. Since we had stopped by this drop on the way south, and since we knew we were going to stop there on the way back, I was literally kept awake with the thought of the falls weeks before hand.

Zach Miller, with bug net.

Dave Scavullo and Zach Miller discussing how not to boof Mauria Falls.

Dave Scavullo stepping up first, Mauria Falls.

Owen Callahan, moments before learning the importance of paddle placement on bigger waterfalls

Zach Miller stomping Mauria falls.

Next post, stills from the stunning Arahura River...

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

so beautiful, I fucking miss Aotearoa!!!!!!!