(Sunday 1 December, 2002)
The Lower Hokitika is recommended as a good first time West Coast helicopter trip.
After our NZRCA meeting was finished we tried desperately to get hold of the chopper pilot, Bruce Dando. Finally we did and it was all hands to the boats and gear as we piled everything into and onto the two 4WD vehicles for the rough track into the helipad. Continued after images...
Album: Lower Hokitika (Kakariki Canyon)
A great run down the Lower Hokitika.(20 images)
As we headed in, the chopper flew overhead and we knew we were a bit late. No worries, Bruce landed and waited for us, complete with helmet and the apparently famous gumboots. We made sure Bruce knew we wanted the Lower Hoki put-in and not the Viagra section (good idea to make sure!). Paddling were Mike S, Mike B, Polly, Lynne, Duncan, Lisa, Tony, Glenn, Muzz, Alan, Stefan, Robin and Jonathan.
The fly-in was short but spectacular superb with great views of the Hokitika and Whitcombe Rivers as well as the surrounding bush and landscape. We lounged around on the rocks and soaked up the sun and scenery (the sun seemed to keep the sandflies at bay) while we waited for everyone to be shuttled in. Each trip brought two paddlers and their kayaks.
Thirteen paddlers were split into two groups. In my group were Lynne, Robin, Polly, Stefan, Tony and Jonathan. We set off just below Kawau Gorge amongst easy but strong flowing water with some rocks where we warmed up catching eddies and playing on the occasional wave. After about a kilometre we came to Kakariki Canyon. The entrance rapid was an exciting dogleg with a swirly hole on the right if you were off line. Then we were in the gorge - a truly magnificent place; crystal-blue deep water surrounded by sheer cliffs of schist. It was superb and there was much ooooohing and aaaaahing.
A steep rocky rapid followed and this was when Lynne had a bit of trouble after rolling twice. It was a convenient place to stop anyway as we decided to scout the next couple of drops. These are the crux rapids as the surrounding slips are unstable and the riverbed can change in floods. Today the lines were obvious, more-or-less middle and paddle hard. Robin made it look easy, followed by Jonathan. Then Tony showed how not to run it with a roll just after the hole. Alan smashed through, then Lynne and Polly both rolled but eddied out sweet.
Several good drops followed with plenty of holes to push through. There was plenty to keep us busy and our team was enjoying the run. The drops eased back a bit then we had a kilometre or so of great rock gardens where we eddy-hopped our way down. The gradient dropped off but the flow increased as the Hokitika met the Whitcombe. The Whitcombe certainly has a lot more water than the Hokitika. Another few kilometres of bouncy class II water and we were at the take-out.
It was a magic run. Jonathan thought the level was around 35-40 cumecs. On Graham's scale this equals about a class III+. Sounds about right to me. It took us around two hours to paddle. And I did take my camera! Afterwards we headed back to Hoki for coffee and dinner at the Filling Station. Thanks to Kokatahi Helicopters for the shuttle.
For more information see page 201 of 125 Great Kayaking Runs by Graham Charles.