Ideas for an adventurous jungle paddling and camping mission

Hi there,

I'm new on this forum, so hi to everyone out there.

A mate and I are keen for a north island mission down a river, with a few overnights thrown in for good measure, and am after a few ideas for locations.

We'll have plastic sea-kayaks, so not too keen on hardcore rapids. Purhaps Grade 2 or 3 at the most? We're probably intermediate level paddlers, with some white water experience, but nothing hardcore.

Keen for something pretty remote, like the Whanganui, but we did that a few years back.

Anyone got any favourite jungle paddles? Thanks heaps.


keeweechris's picture

Attached is the old 1980 Forestry Service map of the Motu. Very retro and cool. Only seems to upload a resized version, but click here for the full size:

keeweechris's picture

Thanks Jojo.

Being new to this river thing, it's kinda hard working out whats in store on a particular river. I bought the Whitewater book, which is good. Motu looked like a sweet option, because according to the book, all big rapids are portageable. In hindsign though, our boats weighed far too much fully loaded, so would have been a mission to carry around. That damn Takaputahi desceded into a scary narrow gorge, with no easy return, so we just played it safe.

And if you can't trust the locals, who can you trust? Bad luck I guess.

Meh, it was a fun adventure anyway. Will be back next year with lighter boats, better skills, and after checking road access!

Upper Mohaka from Pohanui Stn looks fun-as! So does Upper Ngaruroro! Will have to get packrafts for that one, or helicopter in. Something to look forward to anyway :-)

jojo's picture

Might be worth finding out what multisporters take their boats down - eg grade 2 bits of the Mohaka + Rangitikei. Definitely worth doing your research about put ins, take outs, difficulty etc before heading in there. I wouldn't be super confident about a packraft on the Motu if you're not experienced - went in with a group of experienced paddlers + a raft a few years back - we had paddlers ahead of the raft to call lines and even then it got stuck a fair few times. Depends a bit on the level etc. Sportzhub might have info for multisport runs.

There's plenty of G2 on the Mohaka and Rangitikei - just make sure you're in the right places as both have G4 as well! It will always be hard for others (especially shuttle people etc who may not boat and almost definitely don't do whitewater in sea kayaks) to make an accurate call on what's going to work for you.

Have fun :o)

keeweechris's picture

Side note... got a wicked old map from the Opotiki Info Centre, which looks to be a NZ Fire Service map fo the Motu and Takputahi rivers, with gorges marked and rapids too. 1978, a bit of a gem. Attached if this forum lets me.

keeweechris's picture

Ended up picking the Motu, done over 3 days.

Unfortunately, it didn't go to plan, first and foremost because of a major slip on SH2 preventing us from getting to the start at Motu Falls. There was another access road (Old Motu Rd) but we were told this was closed due to a slip too. Got a shuttle up with some guys running a new biking/shuttling service, and dropped in the Takaputahi R ( instead, as they didn't think they could drive the Otipi Rd to the Motu. Turns out Otipi Rd is fine. We didn't do any research on this river, but were assured by the shuttle guys and their helicopter pilot mate than it would be fine. It wasn't. Grrr.

1st day went fine, awesome scenery. Stunning weather and river. Camped beside river, then entered the gorge on 2nd day. Started fine, but hit some pretty sizable rapids which narrowed to a 3m wide gorge with no escape but down. Kayaks were heavy, and we felt out of our depth. Tried portaging, but lowering my boat down a rapid flipped it, but luckily no gear lost. Wrong boats for the rapids, too much gear to portage easily, not enough experience to do it safely.

Made the tough decision to turn around and head upstream. Not easy, but paddled the eddies and walked most of the way. Hitched back to Opotiki and returned next day for the boats. Met just about all the residents of the properties up the valley in the process. Great experience!

Amazing scenery, friendly-as crazy locals with far too many guns, and a good lesson learnt: plan ahead and sort the shuttle out and access roads well in advance. I think we would have been fine on the Motu, but this river was too dangerous for us. Didn't really want to pull the PLB and get frontpage news ;-)

As it turned out, the Old Motu Rd isn't closed, they just make it seem like it is to prevent anyone taking it to bypass the slip on SH2. Its a shocker of a road, 40km of single lane gravel up a steep valley side, but opens out into beautiful native bush and farmland.

Thanks for the ideas. Motu and Mohaka next year, maybe with a packraft instead!

keeweechris's picture

Thanks guys.

I might be a bit nieve, but was kinda hoping my plastic sea kayak would be ok on GrII rivers as well? It could prob take a whack or two down some small rapids with the rudder up?

Might just do the Whanganui again, but will look up the Mohaka. Thanks.


icekayak's picture

And the Mohaka. But getting road access to the station at the top can be difficult.
Also the Waikato river delta

There is lots of islands around Auckland you can paddle out to in the sea too...

paddleman's picture

Not much stuff in the North Island for Sea kayaks. Possibly the Mokau from the usual river run takeout through to the coast. In the South Island try the Clarence River by Kaikoura.

I've done neither but look them up on Google Earth or ask again on this site.

Happy paddling

keeweechris's picture

No one?