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Winter Trip 2010 Report

The Time We Met Keith the Baby and Other Tales From Winter Trip 2010. 

After the long slog of exams, Pete, Captain Isaac, Laila, and I (Ally) decided to head away for some much deserved paddling. The plan was to leave Auckland early Wednesday morning, get a few runs of Kaituna in then head south to Rangitikei for a couple of days before rendezvousing with the rest of AUCC in Taranaki for Winter Trip. 


The trip started off well. We left Auckland at midday and got to Tuna just in time for a quick run of the slalom section. Laila went for a quick swim while Pete raced down river after the carnage paddle. I jumped out before the gorge and headed to below the falls where I would meet the boys, who because of a bit of confusion were both soloing the G4 section. 


As I dragged the Chico through the dark bush I started to feel like I had misheard Isaac and was sure I was heading further and further into the thick of the bush. Luckily Pete came around the corner and I regained confidence in my sense of direction. He had tracked down the paddle and after retrieving it from the bush he would meet Isaac and me down by the river. The clearing was only 20m or so away. 


Eventually we all got to the G3 get-in complete with gear. It was 5:30 and the light was fading. I made the call to bond a little more with my boat as I dragged, pushed, and carried my boat back to the parking lot. That's when Laila's silhouette appeared. 


It took us a while to figure out how Isaac's van- Sue- works. After a close call stalled on the wrong side of the main road with our lights off in pitch black, we eventually arrived at the get-out. With the boot open. 


Waking up next to Lake Taupo


The next day we headed off early. Sue was coasting along beautifully. Then somewhere along Desert Rd she started to cry. We continued on to Taihape with our ears alert for any change and found a lovely mechanics. While the boys pulled apart the van with Pete's pro tool kit and some helping advice from the mechanics, Laila and I explored Taihape's cafe scene and searched unsuccessfully for some stubbies for Pete. We returned to discover the problem all came down to a screw that had got loose. 



After a trip to the Bliss-Stick Factory, we arrived at River Valley Lodge just in time to set up tents before dark. The Kiwi E girls and boys were in town including Keith the baaaby from Yorkshire (real name Tom). Keith was pretty skint so was prioritizing by spending his money on getting smashed (read: had 3 jugs). Originally we thought Keith was a wanker because he wore white framed sunglasses inside at night. But we warmed to him as he tried to hit on the bar tender telling tall tales in a range of awful accents.


Keith the Baby


One particular anecdote stands out. Way back when Keith the baaaby worked at a grocer, his boss caught him riding a banana cart into a wall. You might be wondering what a banana cart is, so were we. 

"Trust meh" said Keith, "thut's the best way I cun explain iit."

We pushed further and eventually he elaborated.

"Ya know those cardboard boxes banaanas come in yeh? Well I stacked 'bout six of 'em- prolly 'bout eight 'undred banaanas- on a trolleh 'n rode iit."


That night we cut Pete's dreads off. Keith and some of his friends helped and now Pete's dreads are set to go on a world tour. 



Friday saw some actual paddling. Tikei was flowing at a beautiful 34 cumecs. Pete and Isaac accompanied the River Valley rafts down the top. Isaac- despite being super nervous the night before- styled the challenging grade 4 run while Pete had a roll in an attempt to quash his hangover I'm sure. And in the afternoon the four of us did the lower section.


The night before, one of the raft guides had managed to scare the bejeezus out of me by saying that with all the rain, Overhang (one of two harder rapids on the lower section) would be a 4 plus rapid. Nevertheless Laila and I manned up and Overhang wasn't that big of a deal. A grade 2 move with a grade 4 consequence that we avoided by taking the scrapey line. The only other rapid of note is The Chute that we scouted and decided the boys would run and the girls portage. Apparently there was a beach somewhere under the water, which would make the portage easy. Perhaps if you were over 6ft. I quickly found myself up to my middle in freezing cold water. 



Pete leads Laila through Overhang & Isaac takes the interesting line on the Chute.


The run continued rather uneventfully with a few flips for Laila including a river roll. The lower gorge is beautiful with huge waterfalls springing from nowhere around every corner. A great float trip, it's worth doing in warmer weather, as by the end of the run I couldn't feel anything below my butt.



Lower Tikei = Gorgeous


Saturday saw Winter Trip Proper begin with the Normanby Loop. While a 7m weir drop was terrifying enough for some, others had to spice things up a little. Isaac and James couldn't agree on whether they wanted to K2 or C2 so a compromise was reached with guest appearance by Simon playing the roll of central figurehead. 


Taking divorce boating to a new level.


While trying to snap awesome photos of the weir extravaganza I gradually drifted down stream. Thanks to the person who advised me that "Ally, you're running out of time!" as I went backwards through the first rapid. Unfortunately your wise words were too late and as I missed eddy after eddy and ferry glided into a massive tree which I then needed to roll under to avoid being taken out, noone was more the wiser of the mess unfolding just ten metres downstream. I eventually got to the side, got out of my boat and slowly made my way back upstream. Then you all took off. 



Pic 1: People lining up about to go over weir creating an awesome photo. Note the absense of clump of flora on the left. Pic 2: Awesome photo op missed. Note James swimming in the duo, Isaac trying to hold on, and flora on left.


I managed to catch up with the last group. Lucky too, seeing as none of them had done the river before. I would have to lead them to the get-out safely navigating the ferocious grade 2 ripples and ninja cows that inhabit the region. However this was before I knew that our combined knowledge of the run largely consisted of when I had done the run last year with shiny beginner eyes and a myth that was circling that the get-out was at the bridge. 


After much confusion and several attempts at getting out, the last two groups emerged from over the hills to much applause from the earlier groups. In an attempt to salvage our poor navigational abilities, we went to the pub.

I'm sure many things happened that night. I'm not sure of the details because I went to bed to enjoy the comforts of the teachers' cabin. I can only report that at 10.30pm people were playing a giant game of Circle of Death and Pete had revealed his new hair-do. At 3am people were quietly drinking and watching football. Sometime in the middle, aided by liquid confidence, the ropes course was explored.


On Sunday grade 2 turned hardcore with extreme races and team ball races at Meeting of the Waters- a manmade slalom course next to Topec. There were some massive upsets in the girls races as both Rebecca and Lene came from behind to win races as more experienced kayakers Katie, Jenny, and Laila all missed the second marker. The boys' races were dirtier with Speedy forfeiting any chance of winning choosing to concentrate on destroying Ladja's hopes of taking out the win. 



Ball races were next. The highlight of these were the pairing of Colm against Jeremy (aka Yakka.) Colm was making life hard for Jeremy all down the course putting the ball in every eddy and at one stage knocking it up onto the bank. Jeremy put in a valiant effort dragging himself (still in his mini mystic) up onto a perch on the bank where he retrieved the ball knocking it downstream. In the end it looked like Colm's team had won however James deemed that taking the ball downstream into town as a defense was against the sporting nature of the contest and they were disqualified because James said so. 


As the ball races continued, carnage unfolded as beginners started swimming, balls got stuck upstream, paddles became weapons of mass destruction, and Lene's face decided to kiss a rock. The rock wasn't so gentle back and Lene's nose became twice as big as it had been. Captain Isaac barrel rolled her but the danger wasn't over yet. The weir decided to hold Lene for a while and as she bravely held on she calmly asked Isaac "if she could get out yet." For God's sake yes. What a star! 

And so the adventure ended. By the way, if you are traveling along SH3 by Mount Messenger keep your eyes peeled for a red Jackson All Star. Ben learnt the importance of a good tie-down. 


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