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February 3, 2007

take 2... Taipo

Here we go......... part two of the 'staff heli' trip and finally we get to fly.

After an evening of intense darts and Bbq (the barbe wasn't intense) a new plan was formulated to fly into a river called the Taipo (as we have done the previous two trips). With the weather clearing and the rivers dropping it was looking as though all stars were aligned and things were going to run smoothly... But... you guessed it, this was not to be an exception to our recent history.

"is that meant to be bent?"

With additional friends 'joining' the trip it was decided by the powers that be that this was not to be the scheduled trip. No one found out until we had loaded the first heli group which is a problem because this is when you hand over your $100 which none of us had bothered to bring.... "Where's your $$$", "Hhh?, I thought @#$ were paying", "no, this isn't staff anymore..........

To cut a longish story slightly shorter, pretty much everyone was pissed off before we even got in the helicopter.


The Taipo River flows from high up in the Southern Alp's northwards (ish) to its confluence with the Tauramakua River and on down to the Tasman Sea. If you've driven across Arthur's Pass then you've driven over the Taipo.

Matt Shearer lining up a nice one

The distance from where the snow melts to where you put on and paddle the snow melt isn't far. This makes for a 'cold trip' on top of what is already a long day. Dressing warm is always a good call. Even though the river was flowing at a high level we would still be looking at 4-5 hours paddling.

We had 12 people flying into Julia Hut (23km upstream) so decided to split into 3 groups of 4. This allowed us to move down river as the quick and efficient units we wanted to be. I jumped out front and was followed by Matt Shearer, Mick (the boss) and Leeann Leadbetter.

Mick - trying not to use his new helmet

With recent rainfall on top of the snow melt the river was nice and 'juicy' adding to the excitement and beauty of the run. We made good time down stream only stopping on a handful of drops to check that all was well. There is a must run drop in the second gorge which is often a source of fear but proved relatively straight forward.

The big drop of the trip is known as 'Showcase' and rates a grade higher than anything else on the run. All the young guys and slightly older guns elected to walk. Mick (the oldest gun) gave it a nudge and managed to get through o.k. even if it was upside down.

spot the english man - Mick gettin amounst it

From here down to Mid-Taipo hut is great technical class 3/4 paddling with sooo many great moves and drops making for super enjoyable paddling. We were a team of 8 by this point and made short work of things. Leeann had slight hiccup and logged an 'outofboatexperience' but got things sorted and back on the job quickly.

From the hut its only about 14km of very cold paddling to the take out... This is where you kind of stick your head down a just paddle. Its known as 'getting out' and that's exactly what we did.

rush hour at the Taipo

We all meet back at the car park for the mandatory beer before going our separate ways. Despite the rough start to the day we all had a great day on the river (yet another, I know) and headed of to our various destinations with smiles on faces...

As usual I have been rushing around the south island (parts of) on my days off. The past three have been particularly busy...

True to current form this summer I have had my eye on a couple of new rivers that have yet to be paddled. Zak and I took to opportunity of a few days off to go and explore river xxxxx. With the weather packing in in we headed bush to see what we could see. After crashing, slipping and sliding through the bush we had enough beta (info) to warrant a further look. We'll keep you posted.....

Lake Mahinapua - quite good

Every year at the Kayak School we have a scheduled 'staff heli' trip. These are famous for being overly complicated, drawn out and stressful events. This years trip was no different.

The brutal front washed over the westcoast of the south island leaving all the rivers heaving meaning that we weren't going to fly. Much to Mick's (our Boss) delight the Blackball had enough water in it and so the call was made. After a logistical nightmare (true to form) we finally all made it to the river and managed to get on.

Eddy Murphy gets wood

The Blackball requires A LOT of rain for it to become runnable and comes up very fast and drops even faster making it very hard to catch. It flows out of the back of the Paparoas (near Greymouth) and into the Grey River. It flows through a very tight and step sided gorge making for very 'involving' paddling. Because of the small nature of the river it catches a lot of 'wood' so each trip is like a first descent even if you already know the lines.

Grahame Charles enjoying not sea kayaking

We had a big crew on the river which made things even more exciting. There weren't any major drama's on the river meaning all had a great time. Moves were made, lines were hit and smiles a plenty. As with any Blackball trip there were battle scars and plenty of plastic lost on the paddle out.

The Team 'taking it easy'