December 20th
Whakahoro Campsite(756.7)-John Coull Campsite(783.1)
Mileage: 26.4mi/42.5km*
Campsite Elevation: 326ft/99m 
*Mileage done on a canoe

It was a relaxed morning because the canoe company wasn’t arriving until 9:30am. It was nice to sleep in and get the blog posted leisurely using the wifi at the cafe. I swear, after this last week or so of such a leisurely schedule, I’m going to have a rough time of going back to full days of actual hiking. I may never go back. With other hikes I’ve done, there’s usually a weather window and reason for keeping a faster pace, but the window on this one is so long that there isn’t that need to push. It’s enjoyable and relaxing, but it also feels less motivating. Just a very different feeling from any other hike I’ve done, and it will be interesting to see if this more relaxed approach continues after this canoe section. Again, it feels more like a vacation or weekend trip with how relaxed it is. 

Some hikers doing a morning yoga session with the local cafe’s dog.

Speaking of relaxed, the canoe company showed up about an hour late at 10:30am. Apparently, there was traffic on the remote road we hiked yesterday in the form of sheep, haha. Two more tourists that were at the hostel the other day joined in so our group became 16 with 8 pairs in canoes. There are options for kayaks, which look like fun, but they carry a lot less. Every canoe pair got four big waterproof barrels to put gear and food in and one small barrel for things that you’d want reachable while paddling like snacks, clothing, and camera. 

We got a very brief instruction and were on our way. It’s still so funny to me how complete novices are sent down a river for 5-7 days. In the canoe, the person in the back is the one that needs to pay attention and controls the direction of the canoe. I took the back for today and we figured we’d switch each day.

I was surprised that it was as comfortable as it was. There were divots in the seat for our butts and the oars were new smooth wood. I will probably feel it more tomorrow, but overall, I didn’t get the expected pain from the new motion of paddling after months of hiking. Hikers have very little upper body strength, so it will be interesting to see how sore I get. There are times of small rapids that are fun and exciting. Three times, I got the steering wrong and we turned in a circle slowly. Nothing is moving very fast, but we could definitely flip, and it apparently is common. That is why everything is in dry barrels and strapped into the boat. At lunch, we saw a pair flip in a rapid. It is a very slow moving process that slowly tips and then you just work your way to the side to flip it back over and we all have a scoop to bail out the water. 

Tom & Vittoria

It was beautiful and surreal to be out on the water and surrounded by green jungle and trees. It was very peaceful. Today was a hot and sunny day that was perfect for being on the water. Everyone wore their flip flops or sandals as water does splash up from time to time. My pants and butt were wet all day. Thankfully, it looks like we will have pretty good weather for this leg and no days of full on rain are forecasted.

Calvin & Ned

I didn’t get too many photos because of the fear of getting the camera wet. Plus, being in the back, it really does seem to require constant little adjustments to keep the canoe going straight. The camera also has been through a lot as I’ve managed to not break or lose this one since getting it on the Hayduke in April of 2015. I’ve noticed that it gets white washed in strong sunlight, so lighting is a bit off, but it does the job. 

We all stopped for lunch at an open rocky area that also had a little swimming hole that many jumped into. Tom dove in at the end of lunch to realize that he still had his camera (with all the photos from the hike!) in his pocket. It fell out and is a waterproof camera. Many from the group kindly took the time to scour the bottom of the cloudy rocky swimming hole, but sadly it wasn’t found. Such a bummer! He had uploaded many of the best photos along the way and can get photos from others that had been around him, but it’s still quite the bummer. Dang!

The canoe company gave us a brief guide with time estimates of how long it should take to get from location to location. We weren’t sure how we’d do in comparison. It guesstimates 5km/hr, which is apparently the flow of the river maybe without wind. We had a bit of a headwind and paddled relaxingly, so we found that we were about 30% faster than the estimated time. The pairs that have one or two guys in the canoe move a lot faster than us. We are quite envious of the ease and speed at which they can glide down with the added muscle. We spent much of the day around Tom and Vittoria and Matt and Laurel. There was a small cave we got out and climbed up to that had a cool view from the inside. 

We got to John Coull, the DOC (Dept of Conservation) campsite we prebooked around 7pm. It was fully booked with a hut and tentsites. We paid $20NZ/$15US to tent and it was a bit of a squeeze. I had envisioned individual tent sites, but instead it was a three tiered area with tents like sardines. I chose the top with hopes of being further away from possible snoring. 

I am wiped out and have a strong headache. I think this week of being in a group atmosphere is wearing on my introverted self. I need that solo time to reset and haven’t been getting it. Everyone ate dinner together and I retreated early and plugged in my white noise app (personalized combo of white noise, waves, crackling fire, and rain drops) to not hear voices. It’s a lot for me to take in to hear voices all day, and is draining for me much more than any physical activity. Everyone is awesome, I just need downtime to be able to reset and am totally wiped out. Tomorrow is another relaxed day with a later leave time, so it will be nice to sleep in again. 

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