"Well, we went down yonder on the Whanganui, never knew how much that muddy water would mean to us!" The Whanganui Journey is considered a Great Walk in New Zealand and traveling the river is the only way to see Whangnanui National Park. Heck yeah! We couldn’t miss out on this new type of adventure!
Most folks hire a Canadian Canoe and all the gear, but since we have our inflatable kayak we decided to save some dollars and kayak down the river. Only after a few hours, we realized the reason for the canoes and began looking longingly at all of the canoes that passed us. Our kayak has a wide, flat bottom causing tons of drag and making us take. for. ever. to get down the river. No rain in awhile meant the water was low and the current was slow. Other canoeists would just look at us curiously (we were the only “different” ones in an inflatable kayak), make small talk for the few moments it took them to effortlessly pass us, and would continue on. With constant paddling and no help from the river, we quickly realized the physical meaning of team work. We had no choice but to work together. To paddle separately was a waste of precious energy and wasn’t worth much as we had to paddle the 56 miles down the Whanganui.
Just to share the stats, the first day we kayaked from 10:30 am to 7:00 pm! After 8 hours of kayaking, morale was low and I was tired and cranky. Where was this stinking campsite?!? Then, BAM! Ah! Ah! Something was stinging me! I went flailing all over the kayak and screamed for Adam to get it off me. “Lindsey, stop it. It’s just a splinter.” Had I been rubbing up on trees for the last 8 hours? I don’t think so! We had been in the middle of a river for the last 8 hours! With no help from Adam, I flailed around some more with screaming and crying. I knew something had stung me and through some adreniline flexing magic, I had thrown the wasps body from inside the back of my shirt to the front of the kayak. What a stinkin' bugger! The so called "splinter" was a daggum stinger! Geez, Adam!
Well, with exhaustion and shock, my flood gates opened and I had a complete meltdown. I just cried and cried and cried and cried even more. “I just want to go home. And, we don’t even have a home to go to!” We were in the middle of nowhere, on a river, with no way out except to keep paddling down the freaking river! We had two more days to go and I was thinking, “What have I gotten myself into.” While I was crying and moaning, the ridiculously slow moving current of the Whanganui brought us in sight of our campground along the river. Those green and yellow DOC signs became our best friends on that river. A sign of hope, a sign of progress and a sign of home for the night!
Well daggum, doesn’t that always happen. You have your meltdown and moment of giving up just right before you arrive at your destination. That’s where the quote comes from, “Never give up on a hike,” because you are probably 5 minutes from the best part.
Well, day one ended with exhaustion and a messy dinner with knocked over tea (our dessert for the day). This day was the worst and it was done. From there, the journey only got better. Day two we went less miles and kayaked from 8:30 am to 4:30 pm. Better! Adam found us a beautiful slot canyon at our lunch stop only after escaping the grasps of a monster spider and prehistoric eel.
Our evening was spent in a traditional ceremony with local Maori where they welcomed us onto their land with an introduction to their culture, their origins, who they are and enriched the speech with songs. Each of the guests that had canoed past us on the river were also invited. The men were given a wooden spear to designate who was speaking and who he was introducing. To enrich Adam’s introduction of the Nuberns, we chose to sing, “Way down yonder on the Chattahoochee, never knew how much that muddy water meant to me” for everyone. Needless to say, we received a standing ovation. Bah! Not really! The ceremony was an incredible international experience with Canadians, French, Dutch, Germans, Kiwis, Maoris, and the Americans all singing to one another of songs of home. What a night! To get us even more out of our comfort zone, once the guests introduce themselves, the Maori’s welcome the guests onto their land. To confirm the welcoming, everyone lines up and the hosts and the guests all touch foreheads and noses and breath in each others' spirits. What an intimate tradition to really get comfortable with one another!
Day 3 came and I didn’t want to get off the river. The last day of a long journey gave me fresh eyes and I loved it on the water. Not to mention, our arms were looking pretty ripped! The river gave us an incredible last morning with every bend covered in mist and the white cliffs and bright green bush slowly coming into view as the mist lifted from the sun’s heat. It was gorgeous! Our biggest rapids on the river came the last day and with Adam’s expert steering skills, we made it through each rapid without capsizing. The canoeists couldn't boast the same:)
"The Whanganui, the Whanganui... the Whanganui, the Whanganui" became our chant along the river in the boat with just Adam, myself, the water, the birds and the sky out in the middle of nowhere.
Looking to mend a relationship? Get in a kayak and head down the Whanganui!