Sunday, October 17, 2010

Motivation: New Zealand

This is your calling. Pull the trigger. Just Do It. No time like the present. Carpe diem. Rage-ing. And one of my favorites, "If you don't do it this year, you'll be one year older when you do." Last year, I was sitting in your shoes. I had searched kayak.com for months looking at flights. During a dreary eyed graveyard shift in the ICU, I bought one. I was on my way to Enzed. It was time for an escape from the frozen Colorado winter and into a summer kayaking wonderland. Here's Jordy, a local Hokitika huckster, waiting to get it started:
First, we need to discuss the rules of the road or in this case, airways. Rule #1: Always be early and waiting for the helicopter, not the other way around.

Rule #2: Never, ever, for any reason walk around the backside of the helicopter. As you cannot see below, the tail rotor is spinning so fast it is invisible to the human eye. It will remove any appendage more efficiently than a buzz saw. Always be able to see the pilot.
Rule #3: Enjoy legendary Bruce Dando airlines - it's the only way serious boaters fly!
Flying up the Arahura River:



Committed.
To help kayakers get to this point in their journey, may I make a recommendation of some important gear? Bring a serious paddle that won't break when you're in a deep gorges or thick wilderness. There is a reason all of the NZ boaters rock Werner Paddles. One of the most damaging things for a paddle is travel through the airport. Take a proper bag for protection. Finally, bring a serious lifejacket for unexpected out-of-boat adventuring!

Rule #4: Kayaking on the West Coast of New Zealand is no joke. It seems like a beautiful short journey up a river valley in a helicopter. In reality, when the bird takes off you are now miles up a true wilderness run in extremely dense bush. Getting out without a kayak would likely involve an overnight stay in the jungle. Pack emergency gear, first aid, food and breakdown paddles accordingly. The one bonus? You don't need to worry about water so much:
(Photo: Jordy Searle)
The rivers are still clean enough to drink straight from the crystal blue.

Time to get'er done! Here's me warming up with a boof on the Styx river:
(Photo: Jordy Searle)

The Styx and Arahura are a good introduction to West Coast kayaking. They both rate a solid IV+/V- with options to let the hair down on a couple solid V drops in the Arahura.

One of my favorite winter activities is backcountry hut skiing in the Colorado wilderness. One of my favorite summer activities is multi-day kayaking in the Sierras and Rockies. New Zealand has combined the two! On the West Coast, there are a handful of huts located perfectly for multi-day hut trip helicopter assisted kayaking! First order of business...have Barnabas Young negotiate a ride:
Airborne!
If you time it right, you can lay treats just as the Ratas are blooming. These bright red flowers bloom at the top of the trees at a certain altitude, similar to the changing aspens in Colorado. Unfortunately, they are endangered by the infestation of opossums from Australia. There are no natural predators in New Zealand, so the possums have taken over. The blooms vary in intensity from year to year, but I caught a great one.

(Photo: Barny Young)

It was pretty impressive putting in on the Perth above the Ratas and kayaking down through them. Absolutely stunning.
(Photo: Barny Young)

After a long day of hard-man kayaking, there's nothing better than rolling into a kiwi hut where the goon and grub had already been dropped via chopper.

(Scone hut on the Upper Perth River)
After the uber-classic two day Perth mission, we continued charging hard. Here's a couple shots of Jordy laying it down on the Kokatahi:

Apparently they lay browns off the stouts even in New Zealand:


One of the unbelievable scenes from the West Coast are the deep bedrock gorges that most rivers seem to cut through. They get super tight. Some contain extremely difficult class V+ and some contain easy class III, but they are all pure bliss. Here's Jordy assessing:

And me wilderness hucking:
(Photo: Jordy Searle)

I think it's important to notice the huge cave in the picture above. It's actually a bit hard to miss, I suppose. However, when kayaking in New Zealand, you have to remember that every single drop has a huge cave/sieve lurking. It is definitely some of the scariest kayaking I've done. Also some of the most beautiful and rewarding. After feeling good on the Kokatahi, the crew stepped it up to the Waitaha. I was boating with some serious locals, but here on Niki's Drop we all took the sneak - I took the far far right sneak, but here's New Orleans educated doctor turned ex-pat ER doc, Justin, hucking. Proof that ladies like Niki Kelly can slay whitewater with the very best of 'em.

(Photo: Niki's drop with the meat in the background by Kev England)

The Waitaha contains a sieve so big you can boat through it. The Cave Drop:

And I even managed to put on a smile in between the the grip:
(Photo: Kev England)

People say everything's bigger in Texas, but that's because they haven't been to the tiny island of New Zealand. Check out this epic scenery!

Here's a departing shot of Barny hucking a beauty:
(Photo: Jordy Searle)

So, if you're looking for a bit of adventure, some serious kayaking and the best fish'n chips on the planet then look up a little place called Hokitika. It's on the map, but you might have to look a little harder. If you need ideas or just want an arm chair fix, check out Jordy and Barny's blog: gradientandwater.blogspot.com. Did I mention you could get a beach vacation out of the deal too?










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