Because we camped a few yards from the office of the tour company, we had a nice leisurely morning in Pipiriki. It rained on us during the night, but the wind blew the storms away by morning, and our tent was dry by the time we got up. We packed up camp and got our gear together, finally told Jessa what we were going to do (yes, we kept it a secret until an hour before checking in :), and then headed off on our adventure. We were jetboated 13 kilometres up the Whanganui, which was surprisingly fun, and kind of the ultimate New Zealand adventure- the jetboat is a Kiwi invention! Our guide/driver stopped to show us some various historical sites on the way up, then dropped us off with a number of other people where we got into our canoes and headed downriver. Because there were three of us, we got a canoe and a kayak. Jessa took the kayak for the first hour or so, then switched with Matt and came in the canoe with me. The waterproof camera case came in handy once again. Here's some of our photos:
(Click on photos to enlarge)
The view from our campsite in the morning.
An old eel (lamprey) weir
Matt's hair after jetboating.
Fossilized shells in the cave we stopped at
Jessa as the "frontmonkey"
Being the only experienced canoeist of our group (I grew up canoeing, and absolutely love it-Matt and I have plans to buy a canoe when we get back to Oregon), I was in the stern and responsible for steering us. The trip back down the river to Pipiriki included about 5 sets of Class 2 rapids, and one section that I thought might be Class 3- we were warned that the chances of making it through without flipping were about 50/50. At any rate, it was the demise of Team Oregon, or me and Jessa at least! I pride myself on being an excellent sternswoman, and although we were successful in shooting all the other rapids (fun!! so fun!!), this particular set was quite heavy, and we took a standing wave side-on and flipped over! We were prepared for it though, with all of our belongings secured in a dry-barrel, and our sandals and water bottles strapped to the gunwales. The river water was ridiculously warm (and we were wearing life jackets), so it felt great to take a dunking, and we both came up laughing hysterically with our hats and sunglasses still on, and immediately grabbed our paddles before they could float away. Matt had gone down before us (successfully) in the kayak and was positioned below to take a picture of us on the rapids, but was a bit alarmed at us flipping over and so didn't get a photo of it- alas. But here is what we looked like afterwards:
There was a convenient river bar right below the rapids, and with the help of Matt and a guy who was ashore after capsizing ahead of us, we beached and then bailed, while Matt went back upstream to shoot the rapids a second time!
Despite paddling into the wind most of the day, we had fantastic weather and the scenery was incredible. That part of New Zealand is only accessible by boat, so we felt pretty privileged to see it. We made it back down to Pipiriki around 4 PM, exhausted but happy with our river adventure. After changing into dry clothes, we drove almost without stopping until we reached the Wavehaven. We came home through a fantastic summer sunset with gorgeous light on the sea and a close, clear view of Mt. Taranaki as we neared home. We arrived completely knackered and went to bed straightaway after a shower, sleeping a solid 11 hours before waking yesterday morning!
We were planning to relax yesterday, but then we got a call from Merv & Michele inviting us to come help Merv catch a wild goat! Yes, really. They want a goat to help mow down their driveway, as is common in this country: chain a goat to a moveable peg or goathouse and have it keep your weeds under control! One of Merv's friends has a herd of wild goats on his property, and so we went with Merv, another friend, and several awesome children to see if we could secure a mowing animal. It turned out that we drove all the way to an enormous (multi-hundred acre) cattle station outside of Inglewood, then went by quads ("mules") for about 15 minutes to get to a section of bush on the far side of the gigantic farm. Then we hiked for another 15 minutes over some amazingly steep but beautiful paddocks. We weren't successful in the goat hunt though, we scared them out of the bush while we were on top of a very steep ridge, and watched in vain as they rain away across the fields several hundred feet below. Nonetheless, it was a great experience and we had fantastic weather, and views of Mt. Taranaki and all the way to Mts. Tongariro, Ngaurahoe, and Ruapehu!
We spent the evening at a fun barbecue at Merv & Michele's, with lots of friends and family that we had met at Christmas and other gatherings. Jessa got to go out in the paddocks with the calves and even pet one, and we all enjoyed good company and good food, and said goodbye to Merv & Michele, which was very bittersweet.
Photo credit to Jessa
Today we are just sitting around home, writing letters and doing laundry, cleaning the place (which was clearly not done in our absence :), and generally catching up. We'll go down to the beach for awhile tonight, and then into town for the Festival of Lights in Pukekura Park later in the evening. As a little bonus, Matt was up very early this morning and got these photos of the sunrise:
We are so enjoying having Jessa here, and although she doesn't think so, she already has tan lines! I think she's enjoying herself, too: