Before we set off from Kayak school in Murchinson, we asked Mick and Shannon what we should see on the west coast as we headed down to Queenstown. Without hesitation, they advised us to go do a hike "to the gorge," which would lead to a class 5 rapid (that they regularly run) flowing with water the colour of Bombay Gin. Not like the crowded hikes that the Department of Conservation sends tourists on, Mick stated, brushing these DOC walks off as "boardwalks." Hike time? "I've done it in 2 hours carrying my kayak" said Sophie, aka
boat slave operation's manager, of New Zealand kayak school.
So, we jotted down instructions from Mick and Shannon on how to get there. Although they seemed somewhat vague at the time, we had confidence it would all become clear once on the trail. They were somewhat as follows:
"Go to Hakitika. Turn left at a roundabout, towards Kanerie. Follow signs to Lake Kanerie. Turn left on gravel road. When you drive over a bridge that crosses the Arahura river, drive 200 m. On your left there will be a fence made from a railroad tie. (at this point Mick sized us up, and stated "It will take both of your strength to lift it").
This is really where the instructions fell apart:
"Park your car- or continue driving, until your car gets stuck. Continue on this path. Cross the suspension bridge. Go up up up. Once the trail begins coming down, take a left down the second dry creekbed you cross. If you come back to the river, you have gone too far on the trail."
Well, we found the trail head, and continued on what was a road through a farmer's field with cows for about half an hour. There was really no one else around. After a few wrong turns we found the suspension bridge, and continued on the trail. We crossed two massive creek beds (which were not completely dry by the way) hopping across rocks in the midst of this flowing water and scrambling up boulders. As for the trail: well, as Mick promised, this was no boardwalk. We passed two hikers, and felt a little silly, as they were decked out in full gear, including gators. There were sections of the hike that were completely mud - and sometimes it was like we were hiking up a stream that flowed on the path. At one point, while trying to leap across a mud patch, I slid and ended up with quite muddy jeans! Alison claims it was her walking stick that saved her. At every creekbed Ali and I were like "does this count as a dry creek bed?" , "have we gone 'up up up'?".
We did ask one of the hikers that we passed, who advised that they actually fly kayaks in to this river, and it would take another 3 hours to hike to "the gorge". We had already been hiking for ~2 hours, and so a bit dismayed, we continued on.
All along the way we were seeing these numbered wooden boxes, about the size of milk crates, which read "Blue Duck Predator Control, Do not touch". Alison and I speculated about what exactly they were trapping and what the bait was for a while, passing another trap every 100 meters or so.
Just when we were about to turn back (after yet another creek bed) we came across another pair of hikers- one who worked for whoever was monitoring these traps! ("A duck man!" Alison exclaimed. She had really wanted to meet one.) We explained that our Kayak friends had sent us on this hike to see a rapid and we had no idea if we were on the right track. He thought for a while, then stated we should continue on to trap #18. At this point we would head down the creek immediately following it. "Its a bit steep" he warned. Then we found out that they are trapping stouts (non-native weasels, predators of endangered blue ducks) (or trying to) and using chicken eggs as bait.
Happy as clams with shiny new (and clear!) directions we continued on. At that point we were at trap #13. At #18, we swung a left down this steep creek bed. There we were, sliding down rocks, holding onto trees as we descended towards the river.
At last we got there. As promised, a beautiful rapid with beautiful water. There was a gorge, with either water smoothed walls or covered in green. The area was sort of a pool with various waterfalls falling into it. We clambered on the giant smooth rocks surrounding the area. My only complaint was the sand flies.
Hiking back up the steep creek bed from the rapid (up by the smaller rocks).
Alison with her prized hiking stick.
Part of the rapid (as always, it is really hard to capture the magnitude of any water feature on film. Take our word, it was awesome). More waterfalls behind Ali.
The suspension bridge with Bombay Gin water.
Alison with her hiking stick on bridge.
Besides our hike, we pretty much drove down the coast, stopping at waterfalls and other little viewpoints along the way. Of course there is never enough time- and there is so much more we could have and would have like to have seen! Next time though ;)
These were the Pancake rocks on the west coast. Here is Alison, eating pancakes.
Caryn to Alison: "be the pancacke"