Down the Gorgler
10 Jan 2018
Some 45 years ago I was one of two part-time trampers in a group of four women and two men (the other four were complete novice trampers) who went down the lower Tauherenikau Gorge in search of adventure. Wet suits and flotation aids were not thought necessary. There was one unconfident swimmer in the party and this led to the only hitch when I suggested he and I climb out and proceed on foot. (Looking at the map now, I think it may have been at a terraced area on the true left well below ‘Frith Stream’). After some energy-sapping struggles through kiekie we gladly returned to the river and eventually made it out safely if well behind the four women.
Since then various club trips along the true right from both ends of the gorge have engendered in me a greater respect for the area and when Bill put the gorge trip on the fixture card for January 2018 I knew I had to go. Good news too that gorge travel experts (upper Tauherenikau, Ruamahanga, upper Waiohine …) Franz and Paul would be on the trip.
Car shuttling ate in to the morning and we finally arrived at the river near Smith Creek at about 11.15am. The sky was overcast and there had earlier been widespread low mist and, it seems, also rain further up the valley. Flow as measured by the WRC gauge ‘Tauherenikau Gorge’ roughly doubled, from about 3.5 to 7.5m3/s while we were in the river - see graph at right. We had late morning tea, donned wet suits (except for Bill) and Peggy inflated her girly-pink flotation aid. The river although definitely not discoloured looked disturbingly spritely in its flow.
We set off and were soon swimming. The river was often narrow and there must have been perhaps nine or ten swims before we got to so-called ‘Frith Stream’ which enters on the true right via a wide waterfall set back from the river. Although the rocks were warm to the touch and there were a few moments of direct sunshine, after a while I found myself shivering uncontrollably despite the wet suit and regrettably began avoiding swims where possible.
There were still plenty more swims below ‘Frith Stream’ but, true to Merv and Tararua Footprints, the vistas were grander with unexpectedly high cliffs on both sides.
The rain became more persistent and after some seven hours in the river I was very relieved to reach the early climb out point and drag my frozen limbs slowly back to the road end*.
Tararua Footprints grades the trip FG, ‘suitable for adequately prepared family groups’, and on a sunny cloudless day with low flow it probably is, but even so perhaps granddad should confine himself to transport duties.
- Bill adds “we were all glad to get out ... after starting at 10am and not arriving home until 10.45”.
Paul made a video which can be seen at https://vimeo.com/250593041(approve sites)
- Party members
- Colin Cook (scribe), Franz Hubmann, Paul McCredie, Peggy Munn, Bill Wheeler (leader), Lynne White