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
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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
• You are a long way from civilisation, so be prepared with a
comprehensive first aid kit and working
• Never hang your kayaking equipment outside on a
• Take pogies and a waterproof camera!
32 ISSUE SIXTY Six • Winter 2012 www.kayaknz.co.nz