Wednesday, October 22, 2008

A Double Take at the Waitaha River

The Waitaha was the river of choice for my first heli-kayaking experience here in New Zealand. That high-water day will forever be ingrained into my head as an un-forgettable day and one helluva eye-opening experience. Later in the season we returned to the river, at much lower flow and had quite a different style day...

Bruce Dando and Kevin England, two legends in their own respects sharing a moment of passion, joy and excitement.

Kev showed up at my house one day with this photo from the day printed out poster size. (Chur bro!) It now hangs on my wall and allows me to awake each morning in a helicopter, flying up one of the sikest days of whitewater in the world!

I guess for Bruce, the excitement of riding in a helicopter has died down over the years. When you fly with him, he's as cool as a mobster (in his own west-coast Kiwi mobster style.) But every time I am in, or even just watching the helicopter I get all giddy inside...anticipating the day's action, like a bird soaring up a river valley (everybody dreams of flying!)...or maybe it's just the fumes?

I quite like this picture of Kev, running one of the most infamous drops on the Coast...Nikki's Drop. Named after the world-renowned Kiwi phenom, Nikki Kelly, it is located not only on one of the sikest rivers in the world, but in quite a picturesque spwot!

Here I am on the same drop, wishing I had a paddle blade in the water, not on rock! (Photo by Kev)

The lower flow enabled us to enjoy our surroundings a bit more than the first time I was on the river. Here we have Kev following Eden and Barney into one of the most majestic gorges I've ever imagined. The combined effect of being walled-in, the sun shining through and off the many waterfalls pouring in from the gorge walls, and the breathtaking color of the water kind of makes you feel rather lucky to be alive, let alone witness such amazing places.

Here we have Hokitika homegrown, Eden Sinclair, cruising out of the first of the three "crux" back-to-back-to-back rapids. While, un-like my first run, there was time and more eddies between the rapids, the consequences and threats of missing your line or eddy were still as great as ever.

Kev England charges the second of the mighty three, with the entrance of the third rapid in-sight, just downstream. This drop, (run on the right this time, as opposed to the left line taken at higher water) involved quite a cool s-turn, edge-transition entrance move (seen directly in front of Kev's bow here) which set you up perfectly at the lip of quite a cool boof.

Barn-Dogg, in da' house, settin' her up for success...something he does best!

I stitched together these images Kev shot of me to give a different perspective on the drop. A lot of folks think that stitched shots where you can see the stitches (or edges of the original pics) are unprofessional, or look bad. I on the other hand quite like the original, un-tainted feel they bring...or maybe that's just me making up excuses for not being some Photoshop pro!

Barnabus Young, driving hard above the entrance hole in rapid #3 of the set, the Cave. Needless to say, this has to be one of the most intimidating rapids on the run. When yer where Barney is in this picture, you feel like you're about to be eaten by some mythical monster...but you know if you partake in one helluva strong charge-fest, you'll be spat out the other end. If not, I don't even want to think about what the beast's belly looks like!

Mr. Sinclair again, this time performing a spot-on seal launch in the last gorge above Morgan's Gorge. The moment freezed in time here is quite a nerve racking one for many paddlers, as not only do you need to clear the rocks at the base of the wall, but you must also avoid getting shot into that little pocket up against the wall just downstream of where you land!

Barney pulling up..."Mommy, Daddy, come and look at me now...I'm a big man in a great big town...Years ago who would believe it's true...Goes to show what a little faith can do...up up up up up up up UP!" (Photo by Kev)

Barney Young, the entertainer. There's nothing quite like going on a river trip with this man, if there's one thing that's're sure to laugh and smile! Eden knows knows what I'm talking about, and neither of these boys should be smiling as much as they are before the portage they're about to do!

The portage around Morgan's gorge has a track, but it is un-doubtably a NZ track...which means it's not really much of track, and is easily lost when attempting to follow. However, the rewards of your efforts are well worth the pain. This is facing upstream from the point where you first see the river again. Sieve Salad anyone?

If you look closely at the previous Sieve Salad photo you can see Kev, who scrambled down to river level to see what he could see. This shot by him, looks back up at Barney, Eden and I scouting the run-out rapid of the gorge. We were all experiencing one of those amazingly unique, mixed feelings, only felt in kayaking...a combination of exhaustion, apprehension, excitement and mystery.

The same moment in time, brought to you from my perspective. The decision was made to run the last rapid, a first for Eden, Barney and I. It was a most satisfying end to yet another incredible day of paddling on the Coast.

As I write that last sentence though, I wonder...Does paddling such quality whitewater, in such gorgeous settings, on such a regular basis take away from its meaning, significance or importance? Paddling has always been an obsession for me, but I wonder if paddling less adds more meaning to each time you get out and paddle...or if paddling regularly satisfies the soul on a more regular basis, therefore creating greater happiness?

I think we can all marinate on that for a bitty.