Friday, 25 October 2013

Days 54-55: Raetihi to Pipiriki; By river to Downes Hut

Day 54. We spent a comfortable night at Catherine's Windmill Mountain Lodge, and the next day she invited the lads to help with feeding the calves and lambs...
The guys seemed to enjoy the experience! The St Bernard's were in a feisty mood this morning too.
But we have kilometers to do, so Catherine took us back to Raetihi township where she picked us up the night before.
BTW, anyone looking for a bus renovation project?
In no time we were on the road to Pipiriki.
There were slips in evidence everywhere, which had me thinking about the state of the river when we got there! Pity about the pub access, eh.
Six hours of walking and an hours-worth of rest breaks and we cruised in to Pipiriki, definitely footsore and looking for a place to sleep. 
Despite not having suitable hanging spots, we settled on a very reasonably-priced campsite with Whanganui River Adventures. We wanted to test and adjust our ground camping setup anyway! So the three of us constructed palatial sleeping abodes with our tarps, and then critiqued each other's handiwork.
Turns out Bila is carrying THREE tarps, one is blue PVC, one is rubberised nylon, and the third is canvas!!!! Why am I not surprised, Samwise/honeypot aka pack mule? I suggested he part with perhaps two of them at the nearest post office/flea market.
I made a simple leanto. 
Chatting with Josephine and Ken, it seems like we can easily get to Whanganui from here in two days! So we may well be there by Friday to get walking to Palmerston North. 

Day 55. Rained last night, my gear and inside of my tarp is bone-dry unlike the lad's tarps- I win! Excited about getting on the river, we met Simon from Canoe Safaris at 9 am. A relaxed briefing and we were in the water, aiming for Downes hut by the evening. After the first hour it became obvious we were going at a fast pace- about 8-10 kph (fast compared to walking).
Frodo and Sam on the river...
You can see the water damage from the flooding of the previous week everywhere! Including about half-a-dozen canoes/kayaks strewn on the banks. No sign of the occupants, but I assume everyone was safely accounted for.
The landings weren't easy to find (were there signposts to Jerusalem, for example? None now!), but we pulled up on a bank for a leisurely lunch stop.
Boys being boys, Chris and Bila decide to construct a sail. This is deployed soon after lunch, much to my amusement as they went side on to the flow and got a bit tippy. Happy they didn't capsize though as they have my pack onboard!
By 3 pm we were at Downes Hut, its red-painted walls visible even though it sits back a bit from the river on a high bank.
A DOC signpost shortly after alerted us to a landing.
We dragged our boats up a silty bank which also appeared contaminated by motor oil. Probably from the floods from last week! The hut was cozy, the only problem being an empty water tank. Water restrictions til Whanganui, lads!
Firewood battoned, a local stream investigated, and a nana nap for me. High tide tomorrow will be at 3 pm, so we have to time our run in for that... Sleep in and lolly gagging is now officially allowed, otherwise we will waste time and energy later. Won't get on to the river  until 11 am. I'm hoping the post office will be open on a Saturday!

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