Once upon a time this was a day trip, but now that we are older and slower it seemed that it would fit best into three days. We began by walking into Waitewaewae via Waitatapia stream and the old track on a warm drizzly day, camping on the terrace opposite Arapito Stream.
The next morning, we double bag everything in our packs, blow up inner tubes and put on wetsuits, and set off under an overcast sky. The first pools arrive soon enough and after a few tries and a chase after a lost tube we’ve worked out that John is going to lie on his tube and I’m going to sit in mine, and we’ve tied them to our packs with lengths of cord. We make good progress downstream trying to stay out of the water to stay warm. The banks are steep and the channel narrow but we know that we’re not yet in the section mapped as gorge.
When we see the river ahead drop away through a chasm, I get just a bit scared. We pick our way down rocks on the edge of the flow. One glance at the churn of whitewater in the pool at the bottom sends us back up again to a safe crossing spot and the other bank. The river just keeps on dropping in a series of cascades through boulders of all sizes up to and including ‘house’. For the next two hours we jump, climb, clamber, paddle, wade and grovel. Then the banks ease back and we disturb a family of goats at lunch. They’re curious; wary but not scared, possibly we’re the first people the kids have seen. There’s a campsite here but we push on past Aokaparangi Stream and into the next section of gorge. We’re getting tired now and we’re pleased to get past the last of the big boulders and cruise down to the camping terrace above Penn Creek.
The cloud clears during the night and the next day we wait for the sun before putting on our wet gear and hitting the water. The river is more open and less steep and we admire the scenery whilst drifting through pools and rollicking down rapids. We stop for a long lunch in the sun and then cruise on down to the Forks.
- Party members
- John Dement and Jenny Mason (scribe)