[Whanganui River] The Great Paddle/Float Journey

What I love most about river is:
You can't step into the same river twice
The water's always changing, always flowing.



Back from our first Great Walk - the Great Whanganui River Journey! (Or actually, more like the Great Paddle ... or the Great Float!)

Three days, we were immersed in the beautiful gorges within the King Country, paddling and floating and paddling and floating and singing and eating and camping and singing and floating and paddling down lots and lots and lots of water!!!

They say that as each stream, river and waterfall that flows into the Te Awa Tupua (The Sacred River), it gains even greater spiritual strength ... Maybe this empowers the hearts of the people making their way down the river too!

But for me ... maybe I was growing more with awe and wonder at the works of nature (And a lot more fatigue also!)



Half of the time, I was imagining a magical world of elves and fairies and giants. 

We passed under the green hairy feet of giants who have been standing guard faithfully on both shores for eternity, moss and bushes grown from their toes, the they do not quiver as the ebbs and flows lash gently upon them. 

The fairies and elves lived within the caved walls above, sometimes they'd have to climb up a tree vine to go back home, sometimes their homes were so deeply hidden, they would have to pull back the heavy curtains of bushes. They would travel up and down this river to visit each other, sometimes stopping to refresh themselves from one of the many dripping waterfalls. 

The goats and birds were also their guardians, passing on messages of the outside world, also alerting them of the humble travelers coming in their canoes and kayaks to pay respect to the Great River Spirit. 


[Not so accurate, but these images were in my mind]

But most of the other time, I pictured myself like this:



And this:



"Just around the riverbend, JUST around the riverbend! ... 
Should I marry Kocoum ...?" 

(rather irrelevant, but it's what I remember most from the song lol)


Ever since knowing that I'd be coming to New Zealand, I've really wanted to do the Nine Great Walks more than anything here. Never would I have expected that my first Great Walk would be this. 

This Great Walk is a five-day journey, starting from the little town of Tauramanui (which I still can't pronounce properly) and flows all the way down to Pipiriki (or some would even do the complete journey all the way to Wanganui, where the river ends). 

As for us, we did the three day journey, starting in the middle from Whakahora, and ending at Pipiriki. Honestly, I was a little reluctant about not doing the full journey, but in the end ... Three days really is enough for me.



We really weren't expecting to do this at all. If we had not stopped at Ohikuni Campsite during the Forgotten Highway, and met the people who were doing it, I had already ruled out "trying to stay alive on a river". 



We had NIL experience in counting on a floating vessel with just a couple of paddles as our only means of survival on flowing water. I didn't even have the simplest clue on how to hold a paddle. On the first day, the "instructor" said to us: "Okay now, you have to stop playing with the water but actually start to paddle." 


[Briefing before the journey]

Thankfully, the agency (Taumarunui Canoe Hire) we booked our trip with was extremely helpful, probably the most considerate tour agency I've ever ever ever met. They provided us with every kind of advice and equipment we could think of. 


[The MOST adorable kittens! There were FIVE!!!]

They even offered us coffee during the briefing (complete with videos and pictures, and even the most adorable kittens to cuddle with while we were pretending to pay attention), and they really bought me out with the muffins and juice at the end of the trip. There is nothing better than being soaked for three days and being greeted with yummy snacks and drinks once you're back on shore! 



The journey itself was quite spectacular. I can't say the water was "beautiful", because it really was quite murky brown, we couldn't see any where pass the water surface. Yet sometimes the reflections of the surrounding gorges and blue sky white clouds above, it gives me an illusion that we are just floating on wet land, this isn't actually water, but more like the beaches I've been so captivated by.



It is one thing for us ourselves to be experiencing the gorges, yet another to see other travelers emerging from a corner or disappearing around a river bend. We are so small in scale, a tiny red dot of the canoe within this massive river world carved into the land. (Unfortunately ... we didn't have the chance to take such pictures)

For the most part, we were both really concentrated on just paddling and advancing forwards, as well as the sounds of nature calling out to us from both shores. 「兩岸猿聲啼不住」,可能就是這種感覺,但其實是鳥叫聲吧. It was so melodic and echoes from all over. 



We ourselves came up with so many awesome songs! 
輕輕小舟,涓涓細流
浩蕩的河,怎麼划都沒有用.
 
小船漂呀漂,眼睛眨阿眨
小船划呀划,我們到底要去哪裡呀?
However, we didn't realize that most of the songs we were coming up with, sounded more like the labor working songs from Les Miserables, until we saw the other people gracefully paddling by ... they are the ones who are more suited to the poetry and Chinese water paintings that we were reminiscent of as we explored this world. Seeing them, I hear in my mind the songs of serenity, tranquility and elegance.


At the end of the day ... Thank God we didn't flip over! Although we did have a slight incident where we crashed into a tree and the canoe was dangerously filled with water ... my phone died thereafter. 

Still, I'm so glad (and proud) that we did it!


[Bridge to Nowhere]

[The team. Great to have you all on this journey!]


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