Start: Atene (1,263km)
Finish: Koitiata (1339km)
Distance for the day: 76km
Cumulative distance: 1,339km
A day of two distinct halves, in more ways than one. We spent last night at a basic campground right next to the river. It was pure coincidence the site was exactly at our target paddling distance for yesterday, a nice little omen, and it was a peaceful place with a nice feel to it. The early night was very welcome, and to get a full 8 hours sleep, pretty much unheard of on this trip so far, despite my best intentions.
|Mark and I planning the day ahead|
The first half of the day was about completing the Whanganui River paddle, and then I hoped to get back on two feet to rack up a respectable total distance for the day. Mark and I made an early start on the river, launching around 7am. We both felt a little creaky after the long paddle yesterday, and it wasn’t the greatest feeling to be back in the kayaks once again. Mine in particular had a rock hard plastic seat which was about as comfortable as a park bench.
|Back in the kayak for a second day|
We anticipated a distance of around 40 kilometers would be achievable from researching the tide times affecting the lower reaches of the river. The guide book recommends several get out points – we wanted to get down as low as we could – but we knew that getting right down into Whanganui City itself would be near impossible and probably counter productive. In the end we settled on a get out at Upokongro Landing, about 8km shy of Whanganui, and from there I could pick up the road running completely parallel. To be honest, it was a good effort to even get there because the wind was blowing erratically – often against us – and we were also pushing against the tide. The final 12km or so were a real grind. Mark and I both had our heads down, desperately trying to get the job done. It certainly took a lot of focus and determination from my point of view but we eventually made it to Upokongro Landing just before lunch.
|The river continues to offer scenery that humbles us|
Despite the tough paddling – the heavy plastic boats didn’t help – the lower sections of the Whanganui were a real treat. The views were constantly changing, from exposed cliff faces to beautiful meadows, native forest and plantations. We will definitely look back on our river journey with fond memories; epic paddling to add to the epic running. 110 kilometers in a day and a half is pretty good going in plastic boat……
The landscape becomes more picturesque as we approach Wanganui Town
James was ready and waiting for us when we got out – within 15 minutes of being off the river, we were sitting down eating a pasta lunch. I was a feast-and-a-half, but well needed after 5 hours paddling and at least the same of running ahead.
After a day and half of running, I was eager to get back to it, but unsurprisingly I was feeling a little rusty to start with. Unfortunately it was all road to my target destination. The section down through Whanganui was really enjoyable, just because there was lots going on, and the river was always there as a backdrop. It was certainly strange to be back into civilization after a long period out in the wilds. As an added bonus, I even got the chance for two pass throughs of the town. I managed to leave my iPhone on a park bench just as I was coming into town, and only realised 3km further on when I went to take a photo. Gutted. I decided to go back and see whether it was still there, and thankfully my faith was repayed when it was. But that meant a total extra distance of 6km, just at a time when I wanted to be making meaningful progress. I don’t think there’s anything worse than consciously going the wrong way on a route.
|Running along the boardwalk in Wanhanui|
From the south side of Whanganui it was another road diversion (whilst they complete a planned section of link trail) however it wasn’t a particularly nice one involving 20km down the shoulder of Highway 3. From the perfect serenity of Whanganui to the horror of running far too close to big cars and trucks – what a contrast. It was head down and get it done time again, and a relief to eventually turn off down the beach road to Koitiata.
So we are now right on the south west coast of the North Island which is a great feeling. Four days from now I should be in Wellington, right at bottom, ready to cross. Oh yes!
|The scenic beach in Koitiata!|
|Mark and James commented on the end of the world feeling on the beach|
|Didn't fancy a swim here|
The only other thing to report today is that the wind is picking up and gales are on the way. That won’t be a problem tomorrow, but the day after I am due to hit the Tararua Range where it may get interesting.