In December I headed to New Zealand with Susan Doyle and Ultan O’Kane to paddle as many rivers as we could and see as much of the country in one month. We flew into Auckland (all three of us on different flights) having bought a camper van before we left on www.trademe.nz. The owner of the Nizzmo, our thirty year old very reliable Nissan Caravan, met us in the airport and handed over the keys.
We stayed on the North Island for a week and headed straight to the Kaituna (we had all seen videos of this amazing river and so couldn’t wait to paddle it). On arriving we discovered that the Okere Falls Enduro race was being held there later that week and after a few runs on the river we decided to enter the race.
The Okere race is a six hour relay race for teams of three paddlers. After each lap of the Okere Falls section, racers carry their boat to the car park and leave it by the trailer before taking on the 1.5 km run back to the top, pass their bib to their team mate and take a well-deserved rest before they need to go again.
The three of us had matching Palm Gradient river boots so our team was aptly named Matching Shoes. The race was much tougher than I expected and as the day went on the breaks seemed to get shorter and shorter, but I really enjoyed it. After six hours the race was over and the Irish team Matching Shoes came in twentieth place overall. We were happy with our performance, definitely a highlight of the trip for me.
After a week on the North Island we travelled down to the South Island straight to Murchison. We stayed in the Riverview Holiday Park, where the friendly owner introduced us to other kayakers staying there. We found loads of other paddlers to paddle with. There are lots of lovely big and bouncy fun runs on the Buller River, but my favourite river in the area was the Glenroy. We got it at a low level which made it technical and great fun.
Then we were off to the Karamea, where got a helicopter into the river and did a three-day trip. This was my first multi-day and I absolutely loved it. New Zealand is the perfect place to do a first unsupported multi-day as there are huts along most of the river so there’s no need to bring a tent.
The Karamea is a stunning river. The grade increases as you paddle. The first day was a very relaxed grade 2 with a little grade 3 at times. We stayed in the Roaring Lion hut so we would be rested and ready for the biggest rapid on the river the next morning. Reaching the Roaring Lion (4+) very quickly, we paddled parts of this rapid and walked a lot of it. One thing I didn’t like about the multi-day was carrying my fully loaded boat over massive boulders. My favourite day was the third day, the rapids were all class 3+ to 4 and great fun. The Karmea has left me wanting to do more multi-days.
We headed further south to Hokatika, where we paddled lots of rivers. My favourite round there was the Lower Perth. We got a helicoptered into the river and spent the day paddling out. This a great river with constant grade 3 rapids all the way to the gorge where some of the rapids increase in difficulty. The colour of the water and the remoteness of the river made for an incredible day on the water.
We brought our boats with us from Ireland but sold them while we were there, which turned out to be a very straightforward process thanks again to www.trademe.nz (they were sold within a few days).
I really enjoyed my trip to New Zealand. I would love to have spent more time there, there are so many rivers, beautiful places to see and exciting things to do. I’ll definitely be back.