Its been a long time between blog posts I know, but a mission into the unknown a few weeks ago has inspired the kick start of this blog again.
In the 2010/11 summer Tyler Fox got wind of a few low-res pics of a creek with some big waterfalls with next to no water in them. More intense research followed, and what he found was a very steep creek, with a decent enough catchment for kayaking after rain, which flowed into the Wharekopae river about 40min from Gisborne (if you’ve heard of the rere rockslide, that’s the Wharekopae).
All we needed was a crew, some spare time, and a storm on the east coast.
Along came the school holidays, the stars aligned, the East Cape and Hawkes Bay got smashed with heavy rain for a week. The only things holding us back now were road closures due to slips, but luckily for us, Road Workers up and down the east coast worked hard (actually), and cleared one lane for use between 5am and 8pm. Knowing the character of the Maretu’s cousin over the hill (Wharekopae) was quite exciting, and both Tyler and I hoped for more of the same.
We had acquired a larger than usual team on board for attempting a 1st descent, which consisted of Tyler, Ryan Lucas, Willz Martin, Louise Jull, Kendal, Drew and myself.
Things got off to a mellow start with fun low-angle papa slides and drops, we just couldn’t wait for the gradient to start dropping with this same character.
The riverbed then narrowed and made its way into its first mini gorge, where we met a log jammed across the gorge at its narrowest point, and would get a taste of portaging for the first time, and for that day, it was the first of many. The gradient soon steepened, gone were the papa slides and along came sieved out boulder chokes. Progress suddenly slowed as we found ourselves portaging as many as we could run. A sieved out gorge entrance signaled the start of a longer portage for the team. Portaging on the extremely steep wet grassy slopes proved a little sketchy at times, with Ryan Lucas taking a slide towards the river, boat and all. Fortunately he sacrificed his boat for the sake of his own safety just in time. His boat tumbled down into the river, washed down into the tight walled-in gorge and pinned itself between a couple of rocks luckily at the only spot in the gorge we could access. With the use of pretty much everyones’ throw bags we were able to abseil in, clip the boat and haul it out. Definitely stoked to have a crew of 7 for that one. Ryan was lucky to have his boat back, and even luckier to have it back with only a dent in the nose. It seemed like we were going to be in for a long day, maybe a bit of night too. We had probably traveled less than a kilometer in the last 2 hours. I think we were all wondering what we had got ourselves into, and how long would it last? Was it going to be like this the whole way???
But what lay ahead is the now the reason we will keep coming back to this amazing river time and time again.
We put back in at the end of said gorge and from here the bouldery mank had transformed into papa slides and waterfalls. Mixed feelings of relief and stoke ran through my body.
The slides were big and fun, often with very large hydraulics waiting at the bottom, but generally you would be traveling torpedo speed by that time and manage to plug on through. The waterfalls were fun too, sometimes so fun we’d run back up for round 2.
About half way through our day we arrived at a section we recognised from a bit of perving with Google earth. We knew we there was something big in there, but this thing was massive. An absolute monster of a rapid stood there, dropping around 30 metres. We scouted for quite a while, but in the end no one was keen on the hard-looking-reconnect-to-out-of-control-bounce/fall to the bottom, and we proceeded with the portage.
Portaging on river right we were able to see more of the monster, and more feasible lines we couldn’t see scouting river left. She’s burly but it goes, and I think the monster will be ridden on our next descent.
From here the goodness continued for much longer than we anticipated, and we finally made it to the cars around 5:30pm tired, worked, but stoked. We even had an hour or so daylight to spare. Can’t wait for next spring for another go!
(For future visits we’ll definitely save ourselves time and energy and start portaging as soon as we reach the mank, perhaps a 20minute walk.)
Here’s a quick edit of some of the goods of the Maretu. Until next time…