We all slept well following a full day on the Styx River the previous day. Feeling refreshed we made plans to paddle the Lower section of the Toaroha River. This was to be another helicopter trip. This section is only a 3-4 hour trip, which was welcomed after a big day yesterday.
When flying up the the put in, you’re taken up river to the furthest possible landing zone. However, there’s some nice rapids just upstream of this landing area. So what happens is, everyone is flown up with their kayaks to the landing area. Then all of the kayaks are attached to the underbelly of the helicopter and flown further upstream. The helicopter can’t land up here, but he simply drops the kayaks. Then you’ve got an easy walk upstream to find your kayaks again.
The above photo was taken looking upstream from the put in. Which is where our kayaks where dropped off after we’d walked up to collect them. Up and around that bend somewhere is a nice waterfall. The idea is to paddle upstream, getting our of your kayak a few times to get around some rocks. We’d planned to head up and run the drop, however it had been lightly raining that morning, and the rocks were all extremely slippery. The only member of our group who’d been up there before thought it would be too slippery to be able to make it, so we decided against it.
Once back in town, everyone who heard we’d been paddling the Toaroha all asked with excitement if we’d gone up to paddle the waterfall, then proceeded to rub it in when we explained we hadn’t. So my recommendation: if you ever paddle the Toaroha, at least try making it up to the drop, otherwise you’ll regret it!
The lower section of the Toaroha River is roughly 5km of good fun class III-IV whitewater. The rapids are all great fun and relatively clean by West Coast standards. This is also a very beautiful stretch of river. From the surrounding mountains, to the dense green rain forest’s, the crystal clear water and even many of the rock formations alongside the river.
I thought I’d give a quick explanation of the above photograph. The pressure of the water has pinned Tristan’s kayak sideways against a few small rocks. In this situation his head is above water and he’s in no real danger. He could pull his deck and escape quite easily. However, this would swamp the kayak with water. Full of air, the kayak is easy for somebody to help out and pull him off the rocks. If the kayak was swamped full of water, it would be impossible without setting up a pulley system with ropes. A far more time consuming exercise! All’s well that ends well though, and we were all heading safely down river in no time.
I really enjoyed the days outing on the Toaroha River. We only had a couple of planned days left of paddling in New Zealand. That evening the heavens opened up again, and by morning the West Coast was in flood stage once again. Unfortunately, this also meant the end of our paddling trip would come a few days early. We headed back to Christchurch and spent a few days sightseeing before heading back home to Australia.
Trip Date: 6 January 2010
For more detailed information on paddling this section of river, check out the lower Toaroha River guide on Whitewater NZ.