Mid Winter Heli-boating in the Kawekas - New Zealand Kayak ...


Mid Winter Heli-boating in the Kawekas - New Zealand Kayak ...

Mid Winter Heli-boating

in the Kawekas

By Laura Clayton

Heli-kayaking on the Ngaruroro River is a multiday trip

that every passionate kayaker should add to their bucket

list! Combine crystal clear waters, world class wilderness

kayaking, great fishing, hut access, consistent Grade Two -

Three rapids for over 30 km and the fact that you helicopter

in… makes it a trip of a lifetime!

Tihoi Venture School embarks on this journey twice a year with a

selected group of aspiring young kayakers. This June I was fortunate

enough to be asked to instruct on this fantastic programme and

experience the river first hand.

The journey began at the Tihoi campus on the Western side of

Lake Taupo, where we drove past the snow covered Mount Ruapehu,

then 1 and a half hours east of Taihape on the Gentle Annie Road. At

the Kuripapango Bridge we met the helicopter and began to shuttle

our group, kayaks, equipment and food for the next four days up the

river. Flying up the Ngaruroro valley with strong swirling winds and

Pictured: Top - Loading at Kuripapagno, the start of the adventure.

Above - Dean about to Take off

Left - Josh looking comfortable

Opposite top - James showing how it should be done!

Opposite bottom - Obligatory group shot on the water.

30 ISSUE SIXTY Six • Winter 2012 www.kayaknz.co.nz

would hold up. Everyone excelled and after five hours on the water we

reached our next haven ‘Rocks Ahead Hut’.

Day Two from Rocks Ahead Hut to Kiwi Mouth was the best day for

white water kayaking. The group were excited by the bigger rapids,

must make eddies and big holes that had to be boofed over! The rapids

were consistent with not many flat stretches in between so everyone

was feeling the pace at the end of the day.

Day Three led us to Cameron Hut, and all the boys thought the

kayaking was quite easy this day. I think they had just improved so

much that they didn’t realise that the rapids were just as hard, if not

harder than the first days kayaking. In the three days of kayaking we

had easily clocked up 15 hours sitting, so we started a well needed

run to stretch our legs… and to the boys surprise an impromptu swim

halfway through. The brave ones swam across the river to the other

side and back! A warm fire and food greeted us back at camp and

random strong updrafts kept Chris (Chopper pilot and

Tihoi director) on his game and left most of the crew

white knuckled and wide eyed! The scenery from

the chopper was breath-taking with huge mountains,

deep valleys and thick native bush surrounding us

in all directions. The rapids were consistently dotted

throughout the stunningly clear waters… everyone was

excited to get on the river!

After staying the night at Nga Awapurua Hut our

group of eleven boys and three instructors, embarked

on the first day of our wilderness kayaking expedition.

The flow was higher than usual which was ideal as not

too pushy but the majority of the rocks were covered

so clear lines could be identified and run by the boys.

The kayaking was tight and quite technical for Grade

Two and it was a good test to see how the boys

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ISSUE SIXTY Six • Winter 2012 31

3/08/2012 12:16:53 p.m.

everyone felt refreshed for doing so.

We awoke on the final morning to

a beautiful heavy frost, and the horror

on the boys faces when they saw

their wet suits frozen solid around

their washing line! It was character

building stuff… dunking the wetsuit

in the freezing river to defrost before

putting it on. A lot of people say that

boys arrive at Tihoi and men leave -

well, this was definitely one of those

times that helped prove that point!

Other than that one frost and a

couple of patches of snow showing

on hills around us, we were very

lucky with the weather as clear

skies dominated the entire journey.

Previous years have seen snow, heavy

rain and strong winds but we luckily just had a

bit of cool water.

By the end of the journey a number of the

boys had pulled off live rolls and were playing

in waves and holes happily! Considering the

majority had only been kayaking for one week

before the trip, they all improved dramatically

and were looking like solid kayakers!

If you have ever wanted to do a heliboating

trip but the West Coast seems a bit

daunting, then the Ngaruroro is a must!

Pictured: Left - The boys

watching each other’s lines

Below - Packing kayaks in the


Bottom - The view from

Cameron Hut.




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Top tips to make your journey as

successful as possible

• Organise food drops at each hut!

• Make sure at least one person knows the route as the huts

are not always visible from the river.

• Pack all your warm weather clothes, loads of thermals, a

thermos and have your fire lighting equipment on hand at

all times.

• You are a long way from civilisation, so be prepared with a

comprehensive first aid kit and working

communication devices.

• Never hang your kayaking equipment outside on a

clear night!

• Take pogies and a waterproof camera!

32 ISSUE SIXTY Six • Winter 2012 www.kayaknz.co.nz

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