Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Ending the Trip, But Still Flying High

Meff’s handed over the reigns on this one, so it’s the almost-back-at-school Philly writing…
Well, after running the Arahura two days in a row by ourselves as we waited for the weather to line up, we finally had the chance to get on Kokatahi (in Hoki they call it the cock-ah-tai), which would turn out to be the boys’ last run in NZ—in other words, we ended the trip with a serious bang.
The Kokatahi is a big run, and, accordingly, we were able to bring the big boys off the couch for the day, rounding our crew out at six: the “M&F show” (aka frowsk and Philly), Mikey Abbott (paddling legend), Dave Kwant (same), and James (the fourth ginger) and Matt (both friends of both Dave and Mikey).
Paddling with Dave is a joy, as he knows these rivers like the back of his hand. Dave’s info about what’s-around-the-corner keeps the trip safe and smooth. Dave just finished running the Wet West Film Festival here in Hoki (in which his “Seven Weeks in Tibet” won the people’s choice award), and he was stoaked for the chance to get off his weary prize-winning bum and on the Kokatahi.

Dando (right), Dave (middle), and Mikey (left), getting the chopper ready for the flight

photo by mw

This being our third heli trip in three days, it now seems almost usual to drive up to the take out and not worry about shuttle, as Bruce Dando’s on his way in the helicopter. Flying is an awesome experience, as Dando not only keeps things inexpensive for us paddling folk, but he’s also an awesome pilot who knows heaps about each and every river in the area, which helps to ease pre-kayaking anxiety, pointing out exactly where the big rapids are (a great help in new zealand’s world of deep dark gorge kayaking). He also happens to be one of the nicer, more normal people on this planet

Here’s Dando in action, giving Mikey and Dave a ride up the river. I swear you can see the smiles on their faces through the glass

photos by mw

Another benefit to the heli flight up is that it is downright gorgeous. Though the views can often be slightly nerve-racking—as you see what you’re about to paddle before you’re even wet—it is hard not to be staggered by the beauty of clear blue water rushing between steep mountains.

Here’s the aerial view of one of the steepest sections, a series of three rapids with the middle one being a three meter (plus) waterfall into a small pool that flows directly in the third rapid, which you don’t want to run (unless you like bouncing on rocks…)

photo by mw

Since Dando can only fit two people (and their gear) on the heli at a time, he has to run your team up to the put-in in pairs.
It’s quite snug in the cockpit:

photo by mw

The present author, holding down the fort while Dando does his thing:

photo by mw

Once you’re on the river, things lighten up a little bit once you get the chance to run some of the steep, beautiful rapids that spill into and out of narrow bedrock gorges.

Philly starting out part one of the ‘ski jump’ drop that exits one of the steeper gorges, with Mikey looking on. If you look closely, you can see that the water is coming back on itself, as if the bedrock were almost a half pipe…

photo by mw

Me again on the rapid that exits “carnage gorge,” stoaked to be out of the frying pan and hoping to stay clear of the fire

photo by mw

Me one more time, firing through part two of the ski jump rapid. They call the drop ‘ski jump,’ since part one resembles a bedrock half pipe, and part two is a big, long, sloping ramp into a hole (it doesn’t look this big when you’re racing towards it at 100 k/mh… but that doesn’t make the hole any smaller).

photo by mw

Mikey on part two of the ski jump rapid trying not to look like a character in a Teva video game

photo by mw

I can’t say enough about how much fun paddling with Dave and Mikey can be. They style every move with absolute precision, and are super nice guys to boot

The Legendary Dave Kwant, going for the meat—part two of the ski jump rapid

photo by mw

Well, this about does it for my tenure in NZ, so a last final hoorah for all the people that have gone paddling with us and kept us entertained while we’ve been in Hoki. Here’s to Edan, Mikey, Dave, Marty, and Johno—Thanks guys. Also, a special shoutout goes to Dave for letting us spend the last few nights in his sleep out (I swear that it’s nicer than any hotel room), use his inter-web, and make him dinner.
I’ll definitely admit that I’m going to miss this place and the people I’ve met here a bit more than I’ll miss the spectacular kayaking that I’ve gotten to do… and I know that means something since the rivers couldn’t have been better even if I had dreamt them up…

Oh, and while I have the mic, I can’t forget to let everyone know that traveling and paddling with my brother in New Zealand has been, hands down, the most fun I’ve ever had… much love and thanks to the Frowsk

Signing out,

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

You just make a momma proud!