Ruakituri-Mohaka Trip

This report about a weekend on the Ruakituri and Mohaka rivers by Clinton O'Leary originally appeared in the Hutt Valley Canoe Club "River Rag" newsletter, December 2001. Alan Bell has also written about the Ruakituri.

Kupe Paddlers: Steve, Dave, Ali & Clint. Hutt Paddlers: Alan, Perry, Brent, Lisa & (Kei on Mohaka)

A new river that none of us had ever paddled before. This was the highlight of the trip. Alan had been told about the Ruakituri by friends in Hawkes Bay. Ali and I planned to join the Hutt club on this trip. Steve was organising a Taupo trip the same weekend. The only punters for that trip on the Wednesday, were himself and Dave, so we convinced them to come along. Friday night we were very efficient and got away by 6pm. Picked Perry up from Upper Hutt and were over the Rimutaka's on our way to Wairoa. A stop in Woodville for dinner and another in Hastings for a coffee at my parents place and we finally made it to Wairoa at 1:30am. Alan had said he wanted to be on the river by 9am on Saturday so we were quickly to bed. Up about 7:30am and feeling pretty knackered. We got away from Wairoa at about 9am, running a little late. Continued after images...

HVCC enjoy the Ruakituri and Mohaka rivers

Album: HVCC enjoy the Ruakituri and Mohaka rivers

(14 images)

On the way to the river we came to Te Reinga Falls. From the top they didn't look too bad. "Looks pretty runnable" was Ali's comment. As we were walking to the lookout someone mentioned that the falls were supposed to be 30m high. When we got to the lookout it didn't look quite so runnable. After cascading for about 10 vertical metres the whole river dropped about another 15-20m straight down.

We all tried to find the line we would take if we were going to paddle it. There were not too many that looked like they would turn out successful. Glad to see this was well down stream of the section we were doing we continued on. We finally got on the river at 12pm, a little later than first planned. Lisa was driving the shuttle and would paddle the lower section when we arrived. Alan said it would probably take us two-and-a-half to three hrs to paddle the top section. Were we in for a shock.

After a few hundred metres on flat water we were confronted by a wall of rocks. The first two rapids were relatively straight forward. Then there was an even bigger wall of rocks with the gradient increasing considerably. We all jumped out and scouted this rapid and all decided that most of it was sweet but the water at the end piled into a rock with most of the water going right which was okay, but some of the water flowed left to a nasty looking undercut rock, so we all decided to portage this rapid. We all thought this was a pretty impressive rapid and it was a shame we couldn't paddle it. Little were we to know that the whole of this section was exactly the same. The next 500m down the river took us about one-and-a-half hours to paddle. We had to scout most of the rapids from the rocks and had to walk more than one or two. The third big rapid in was a definite portage with all of the river flowing into an ugly undercut rock.

After so many tight and technical drops we were kind of glad when we arrived at the waterfall we had heard about. That was until we had a look at it. There were actually two falls, about 50m apart. The first about 4-5m high would be ugly if you ran hard right. Fortunately it was easy enough to stay hard left and the low volume of the river meant the chances of getting trashed at the bottom were low. Alan took a slightly different line from everyone else and managed to go over sideways, to the right and land on a rock. Looked interesting but he came out of it okay. The next drop was a little lower but the left had a real horseshoe shape so we all ran it hard right, no problems.

By the time we completed these drops we had been on the river two-and-a-half hrs and had only travelled about 1-2km. The drops got a little easier from here on except for the one bigger drop which had yet another undercut rock at the bottom of the rapid. Ali, Dave, Steve and Perry all ran the rapid sweet. I had watched them do it but decided I would portage this one. Then while paddling across the top of the rapid I turned and ran it. It wasn't until I was committed to the rapid that I remembered I was supposed to be walking it. Turned out to be quite straight forward.

We finally made it to the get out expecting to meet Lisa at 4pm, after four hours on the river. This is where the real dramas started. Lisa thought we had had an epic since we were not out and had decided to drive pack to the get-in to try and find us. She had only just left as we saw her driving over the hill away from us. This left us with no car as this was at the bottom get out. Dave, Ali and I decided we would walk back to the get-in and try to find Lisa. By the time we found her the others had finished the bottom section and were all changed. So Lisa didn't go without a paddle, Alan jumped back in and paddle the next section down with Lisa.

We hit the road for Hastings and finally got back there at about 9pm, very pleased to see a cold beer and a comfy bed. The plan for Sunday was the Willowflat section of the Mohaka.

Back up the Napier-Wairoa Road on Sunday morning we got to the get-in of the Mohaka run at midday. On the river shortly after this as we had another car (thanks to Kei, who had come up on Saturday night) which was left at the get-out. The river was at quite a high level, compared to the other times I have paddled it. We entered Long rapid then jumped out to have a look at the weir and the rapid just above it. The weir looked really ugly at this flow. We all paddled the rapid just above it but everyone except Ali & Perry decided to walk the weir. Ali & Perry both made the weir look very easy, but if you had got on the wrong line you would have been in there for a while.

Next memorable rapid was about 15mins down stream from Long rapid. I'm not sure if it has a name, but it is a long tongue on river right, with a bit of a pillow at the bottom. It looks relatively harmless and I remember the last time we paddled this section we were trying to surf on it, but could not stay on it. I think I may have been a bit casual as I paddled down it. Hit the bottom and got turned sideways and pushed into the tight recirculating eddy that fed straight back into the pillow. Upside down I tried to work out where I was; I rolled and found myself still in the middle of it. I caught a glimpse of Steve about to paddle into it and thought "Great, he will knock me out of the rapid". But no, he missed me. He later said he thought I wanted to be there so was trying to avoid me. At this point I saw Ali only a few metres away with a smile on his face. I am sure there wasn't one on mine. Tailstood and upside down again, I began thinking that I may be swimming out of this which didn't really appeal give the proximity of the next rapid. I finally managed to roll and found myself back in the eddy. With a brief chance to work out where I was I paddled back onto the tongue and surfed across and out, a little out of breath but very relieved.

The river further downstream was very pushy with the boils making sitting in some eddies harder than being in the main current. Corner Rapid and Guides Launch provided some more excitement for everyone. Dave must have been getting warm as he decided to take a swim by sliding down the rocks on the side of the river beside Guides Launch. The rest of the paddle almost went without incident, except for Steve who was a little casual paddling through a hole within sight of the get out. It promptly pulled him back in and gave him a bit of a spanking before he managed to work his way clear. At least I wasn't the only one for the day.

An awesome weekend's paddling, especially the Ruakituri which is a very memorable run. The only problem was the distance. We got off the Mohaka at 5pm and an hour and a half shuttle meant it was about 2am by the time we got back to Wellington.

Cheers to Alan for organising the trip and Steve for supplying transport.