NZ Day 22: I Can’t Believe We Made It. Canoe?

Ahh, another fine morning on the Whanganui!

After spending a while mopping up the unexpected puddle in the kitchen, Francis made a huge stack of gluten free pancakes. We all gathered around the kitchen table and ate heartily. We weren’t well-rested, but at least we were well-fed!

I had a little time to wander and snap photos, then we hauled gear down the steps to the riverbank. We were the last group out of the campsite again – perhaps because most of the campers ate a cold breakfast, or none.

We had lots of flat rowing, and then an incredibly windy area on top of the flat where we were blown upstream if we didn’t row. We had to row hard, then take breaks in the lee of the rocks on the riverbank, or just drift into the shallow water and plant an oar in the muck. Good thing we had plenty of practice!

We were grateful for every rest break!

And, of course, we enjoyed the lush environment, even in our zombified state. Here’s a video of the walk down from the break area back to the boats:

And another video much farther down the river, when it widened out considerably:

We also hit some awesome rapids – three long ones – and rowed like hell through all of them.

Just after the last one, we saw the boat ramp ahead of us, with the transport van already parked on the connecting road. Houses were scattered across the hillside, complete with power lines and driveways. We were back in the real world. Boo! We drifted over to the ramp and stumbled out, grinning and stretching and yawning, and talked excitedly about the experience.

“Super awesome,” I said. “I only wish it was longer, so we could use our skills now that we’ve developed them. I think it took an entire day for me to learn how to steer the boat without slowing it down.”

“Yeah,” Kerry said, “and the rapids were really stressful at first. It got a lot better when we learned how to communicate.”

I nodded vigorously. “For sure. There were some pretty tense moments. And we couldn’t really pull the canoe over and talk. Most of the time there was no place to pull over!”

Kerry turned to Francis, who was trying ropes down over the trailer. “Do a lot of couples get into arguments in the canoes?”

“Yeah, uh…” He looked across at his manager, standing by the door to the van. “We sometimes call them ‘divorce boats’.”

We laughed pretty hard at that.

The shuttle driver plowed along the steep gravelly roads with obvious impatience, forcing us to grip our seatbelts to avoid smacking into each other, but we still managed to pass around phones and cameras and show off pictures gathered from the trip. Sebastian and I exchanged contact information so we could trade photos later. We also devoured the few remaining snacks from the dry barrels, though I ate lightly to keep my stomach from rebelling. Looking back, Kerry and I agreed that this was the highlight of the trip so far, eclipsing even Hobbiton and the Waiotapu thermal park. New Zealand just keeps impressing us!

Back in National Park, we collected our bicycles from the garage and found that some critters has been investigating them:

Cat prints all over the recumbent seat after storing it in the Adrift NZ garage during the canoe trip!

Then we changed our hotel reservation to a different room, since the smaller one was tiny and had shared bathrooms. Dragged our gear inside and exploded it all over the floors and couches, then did a bunch of laundry, showered, and rode over to the restaurant where we stuffed ourselves.

Good thing we have a day off tomorrow! We would totally fail the Tongariro Crossing in our current state…

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