• Jenny

Days 115-118 Whakahoro to Pipiriki

Day 115 ~ Walked: 0 km ~ Start: Whakapapa village ~ End: New Plymouth

After a delicious steak dinner and good fun night with Grant and Leisha at the Chateau, we checked the weather forecast before going to bed. We were concerned about the amount of rain over the coming week so called our canoe operator first thing in the morning to see what that meant.

It wasn’t good news. With the river in flood, and more rain on the way we were very unlikely to be able to go. Instead of waiting it out for a week or more we decided we might as well do that at home so grabbed the ride with Grant and Leisha back to New Plymouth.

We stopped on the way to retrieve our bounce box from Rob and George in Whanganui, and donate my retired shoes to their Henry’s hut. Rob performed a very moving ceremony in which my shoes were thanked for their service, and my feet were blessed.



George had baked the most delicious scones which along with his plum jam made the previous day and fresh cream went down a real treat.

Thanks so much Rob and George.

Grant and Leisha got a real taste of of what an amazing network of kaitiaki /trail angels exist around the trail. And thanks to Grant and Leisha who themselves have been much appreciated trail angels to us.



We are now glued to the weather forecasts to determine where and when we can soonest return to the trail (with my third and final pair of shoes).

Thanks Frontrunner for all the surprise goodies with my new shoes

Day 116 ~ Canoed: 35 km ~ Start: Whakahoro ~ End: John Coult campsite, Whanganui river

So we ended up being at home for eight days (not counted in trail days above). We were delayed firstly with all the rain from the tail end of the weather bomb that caused serious flooding around Greymouth. Then after a few nice clear days cyclone Dovi was due in, with again a lot more rain. The Whanganui river was consequently in flood for a good week.

It was great being home unexpectedly. We loved being able to see family and friends. And it was a good opportunity for a hair cut and a few gear swap outs. Photos will now have me in a blue T-shirt for the final third of our trip.

Finally we got word we could go on the river so we got back to Taumarunui on the day of our 25th wedding anniversary. We had a dinner out but it wouldn’t have been our usual choice of restaurant for such an occasion. Quite retro decor and menu (authentic- not a modern take). It was a nice meal and I was happier with that than a dehydrated meal and camping.

We had an early start to the day with another 7am briefing. It was good to have a refresher and there were different things focused on as the river was now at lot higher levels than expected from our original briefing and trip dates. The main difference is that the rapids were going to be easier and a lot less obstacles, so I was pretty happy with that news. That in itself was worth a weeks wait. We were now in for the scenic trip rather than the adrenaline trip.

Loading the boats up

And so it proved to be. After getting the steering and paddling coordination sorted we pretty much cruised down easily admiring the scenery. Very lush cliffs dripping with ferns and waterfalls. Pretty little grottos and deep chasms in the cliffs with thundering but small or hidden waterfalls. Unfortunately I didn’t take any photos as hadn’t properly prepared for waterproofing and securing my phone before we left and I didn’t want to take any chances.

We had two stops at morning tea and lunch, neither of which had graceful beach landings as both were at or just after rapids. But we managed to land without capsizing.

Morning tea stop

Lunch stop

And the final campsite landing went quite smoothly luckily. I was worried about missing it and having to find another site further downstream. Getting back upstream at any point is not an option.

We didn’t get a hut booking with our changed dates and the fact that a weeks backlog of trips have all started on the river today. There are a lot of big groups and the hut is full and noisy so it’s quite nice to be in our tent in this good weather.

John Coult campsite

Day 117 ~ Canoed: 22 km ~ Start: John Coult ~ End: Tiake Kainga campsite, Whanganui river (km 1,266)

I had my phone a bit more accessible today for photos on the go. It still seemed hard to get it out in time for the best of the scenery though. With the high river level and number of rapids we were moving quite swiftly often. And more so in the narrower gorges which were the most spectacular.



Morning tea stop

The main feature today was a stop at the bridge to nowhere. The big group of 15 had just left when we pulled up so it was easy to get a spot at the landing. Although in peak seasons there can be up to 90 parked here at any time. Now that would be a challenge.


Mangapurua landing at bridge to nowhere


Walking to the bridge

It was an easy 7km round trip to the bridge and it was quite nice to be walking again after our weeks break. Quite incredible seeing a bridge of that scale in the middle of such inhospitable terrain and no access.




Stream the bridge is spanning

Although the rapids weren’t tricky with next to no white water, the higher water flow did seem to create a lot of eddies and whirlpools which were our main challenges to avoid. They could suddenly spin us around if we got into one inadvertently. And the wake from the jet boats were our other challenge. They gave us bigger waves than the rapids. There still seemed to be a fair few boats whizzing up and down with tourists and doc workers. Again it would be very challenging in peak tourism times.


Tonight’s camp was Tiake Kainga which was adjacent to the marae. We were again camping as the hut was full. If we had of known the bridge to nowhere lodge was at this spot (but across the river) we would have stayed there. It was tempting to go there for a meal and drink but would have been quite tricky and a real mission to get across and back so we didn’t bother.

Proof we were camping and not at lodge behind trees across the river

Doc warden Timbo gave us a very informative hut talk about the history of the marae and its people.

Timbo ended his hut talk with the invitation for anyone to hunt and kill any possums they could find - even offering some chunky sticks as weapons and an axe for finishing them off. Several teenaged boys from the big group enthusiastically took up that offer. We went off to bed with their spotlights flashing on our tent and listening to the running commentary

“Bingo - there’s one. Quick shake that tree. Has he dropped. Has he dropped. He’s jumped to that the tree on your left. Shake the tree. Shake. Shake. He’s coming down. He’s just above your head. Quick get him. Oh no he’s gone back up. Shake. Shake. He’s dropped!! Quick get him. Get him. Whack whack whack. Got him. This is great fun. We should do this all night.” Great I thought - we’ll get no sleep. But we did. And the body count by the time I fell asleep was 4 from the 5 they’d spotted.



Day 118 ~ Canoed: 31 km ~ Start: Tiake Kainga ~ End: Pipiriki , Whanganui river (km 1,287)

We were on the river by 8 this morning and it was beautiful with the morning mist still clearing away. It was so peaceful and still. I’ve absolutely loved paddling each day amongst this scenery. It hasn’t felt like hard work at all and seems like we’re just cruising. Neither of us have had sore muscles. Only one small blister on my hand to show for our exertions.



The main feature today was the 50/50 rapid called that as 50% of people capsize on it. It was the trickiest of all the approximately 100 rapids we’ve covered on this trip, although our odds were better on account of the higher water levels.

We got through it fine and it was actually quite fun but we took on so much water we just about capsized after we came out of it. There were 10 others from our group coming behind us so we parked up and I walked back up through some shallows so I could video them coming through it. They all got through except one boat that capsized well after due to the water on board similar to what we were close to doing.


Our river trip ended at Pipiriki which now completes our North Island sections. We do still have 4 days of the Tararuas to do, but weather and logistics has meant this is being postponed yet again. We will definitely complete it at some stage even if it has to be next year. For now we have returned to New Plymouth to catch a flight to Christchurch tomorrow and we’ll pick up where we left off just before Christmas.




Day 116 ~ Canoed: 35 km ~ Start: Whakahoro ~ End: John Coult campsite, Whanganui river

Day 117 ~ Canoed: 22 km ~ Start: John Coult ~ End: Tiake Kainga campsite, Whanganui river (km 1,266)

Day 118 ~ Canoed: 31 km ~ Start: Tiake Kainga ~ End: Pipiriki , Whanganui river (km 1,287)


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