Sunday, December 11, 2011

NZKS Staff Trip on the Mokihinui

Each summer the staff of the New Zealand Kayak School get on a team mission and undertake some kind of adventure together – this year we had plans in motion for a two day caving trip at Harwood’s Hole in Abel Tasman. In typical New Zealand fashion, the weather changed and we could see (courtesy of a huge weather system with a lot of precipitation, slowly approaching the country. We soon abandoned the caving trip as the team wasn’t really into the prospect of cave diving.

Sure enough it rained. And rained. And rained some more. Someone came up with the idea of getting into the Mokihinui for a two-day trip, which was likely to be fantastic on the back of all this rain. We put the plan together and headed off a day early to paddle something on the way to Seddonville. Having left Murchison, we were turned back at Inangahua as all the main roads were closed because of flooding and slips. All was not lost as we got stellar high water trips on both the Mangles and the Matiri that afternoon.

In a second attempt, the team left early on Tuesday morning for Seddonville: Mick Hopkinson, Soph Mulder, Shannon Mast, Matt Coles, Jared Mulligan, Daan Jimmink and Jess Matheson. The rain had stopped and the roads had reopened. We left a vehicle at the Seddonville pub and drove further north towards the Little Wanganui and start of the Wangapeka track. This made our heli shuttle a lot shorter.

Shannon and Soph waiting for the chopper 

We flew into Johnson Hut in Johnson Creek, which is a tributary of the North Fork of the Mokihinui. Four hours or so on the North Fork saw us at the confluence with the South Fork, which then becomes the Mokihinui proper. We took our overnight gear to stay at the Mokihinui Forks hut.

Stuck in the wilderness, ready for an adventure

Mick leading the way: Johnson Creek was just a trickle at the put-in

From our put in we had a kilometre or two of fun boulder gardens on Johnson Creek down the to the North Fork. Johnson Creek was a little low (it clears up first after rain) which cost the team a bit of skin in places. 

Once in the North Fork, we had a fantastic flow. The weather had cleared up too so not only was the water good but the weather as well. The character of the North Fork is bigger volume boulder gardens with some cool rapids and some sticky holes. The paddling is super fun with a bunch of great boofs and fun moves. The scenery is beautiful. 

Daan on the portage

Jess getting a great line on one of the many clean boofs

Matt getting ready for the boof to meltdown

Jess finding a great line, the bleeding has stopped on the knuckles

Jess keeping it together during a giant surf

Bit of a rest after some entertainment

Five hours later, some good entertainment and a stack of rapids and we were at the Earthquake “Lake”. The 1929 Inangahua Earthquake sent an enormous slip into the river just below the confluence, which blocked the whole river off and created a huge lake as the river back up behind the earthquake slip. The slip has worn down over time and so the river runs through it these days. Above the slip there are huge tree trunks towering out of the middle of rapids, and clusters of tree stumps to navigate through. The river is slowly claiming it’s way back through the debris.

The Forks Hut sits on a second-tier terrace above the river looking out over the confluence. We made ourselves at home and settled in for pots of tea, a yummy dinner (thanks Jared) and a few games of Hearts (Black Bitch, Mariah). The hut toilet sits on the next terrace below and had been victim of recent flood. The river had gotten at least half way up the toilet structure and had left a thick mat of silty goodness over everything. Mick, well educated through his years of international kayak travel and exploration, told us how to get around the silty-problem Asia-style.

 Mick still charging at 63

Bit of a boat scout

Nearing the end of the North Fork of the Mokihinui

We were on the river about 8am and made quick work of the Mokihinui down to Seddonville. The Mokihinui valley is absolutely stunning and even more so as it was shrouded in mist. It was forecast to rain on day two and true it did. As we came out of the last gorge part, the weather really started to pack it in just in time for us to battle it out on the open flats in pissing rain and strong winds.

After an awesome feed at the Seddonville pub, Soph and Shan took off to the do the shuttle while the weather got worse and worse. We sat in front of the fire playing cards until their return. By that stage the river had risen to full flood stage and we were happy to be finished.

The Mokihinui is currently under threat from a hydro scheme that would see an 80m high dam built just upstream of Seddonville that would back up the Mokihinui River to the Forks. This wouldn’t dramatically affect the North Fork but would mean that the section would finish in a lake at the Forks and a long flat paddle out to the dam. The Mokihinui from the Forks down would be completely flooded and lost forever. The area is super rich in flora and fauna including the endangered Whio (Blue Duck) and long-finned eel. It would be a tragedy to see such a special place be drowned. If you get the opportunity to get into the Mokihinui then do, because who knows how long it will last for. 

Jess Matheson

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