New Zealand Part 2: South Island

by daniel-brasuell
Monday, July 31, 2017
Monday, July 31, 2017
After a week on the North Island, Daniel Brasuell heads to the South Island just as unstable weather hit the region, shutting down the heli runs. They spent the next several days filling their time on shuttle and hike runs.
Daniel Brasuell
by Daniel Brasuell

A true explorer, Daniel has kayaked over 350 different sections of rivers, spanning 17 united states and 10 countries.

After waking up New Years morning at the ferry terminal, I boarded for my 6 am ride to the South Island on a crazy windy day. At one point I went to the rest room and I swear every other person in there was sea sick. I was very happy that I was not suffering the same way!

Cooks Crossing ferry to New Zealand South Island
Cooks Crossing ferry to New Zealand South Island

First up was a quick stop in Murchison to see our friends and fellow Kokatat ambassadors Daan Jimmink and Jess Matheson, and to paddle a quick section of the Mitiri in town before having dinner with them. That night I drove towards Christchurch where I would pick up my wife Diane at the airport the next morning.

Matt and Daan ain the Mitiri
Matt and Daan on the Mitiri

By the time Diane arrived and we drove back to the West Coast, the afternoon was setting in leaving few options for paddling. We opted to do a quick run on the Toaroha. The hike was supposed to take 50 minutes and the run would be approximately 1.75 miles long. I thought this would be a great run to put some effort into, thus delaying the inevitable sleep deprivation coma that Diane would be running into that afternoon. But what we experienced was a wrong left turn on the hike, due to vague directions in our guidebook, which resulted in a 2 1/2 hour hike with some major bushwhacking. After arriving at the put-in, another group arrived and reported that the gate was unlocked sometime after we had hiked through, meaning their hike only took them 20 minutes. Argh!!!! But they also told us of another group behind them that were looking to do some Helicopter runs later in the week. So after we boated the section, we hung around and waited for that group. It ended up being serendipitous as we spent the next week with them, paddling and hanging out!

Daniel Brasuell - hike in to Toaroha
Hike in to Toaroha

The next day the rain was coming down hard, so we headed over to the Totara which is a classic high water run. The canyon is non-stop class III and IV rapids and swims are not ideal, as one paddler in our group found out which resulted in many bruises and a long chase of his gear. With few other river options able to take this high of water levels, we decided to run laps before heading back to camp.

Driving through the lush vegetation on the South Island New Zealand
Driving through the lush vegetation on the South Island New Zealand

The next morning we got an early start with plans of doing the Lower Kakapotahi and the Styx. We had hoped to do the Upper but we were unable to find beta on the must run rapids on the Kakas, so we resigned ourselves to the Lower which is much mellower.

Diane and Jo on the Kakapotahi
Diane and Jo on the Kakapotahi

That afternoon we took on the longest hike of our trip, the roughly 4 mile hike up the Lower Styx. But the run was worth it! Our first taste of classic West Coast whitewater, steep boulder gardens with emerald blue water. Who could want more!

4 mile hike into the Styx
4 mile hike up the lower Styx
Lower Styx
The hike pays off with steep boulder gardens and emerald blue water on the Lower Styx

The next day, rather than doing another hike-in run while the weather stabilized, Diane and I chose to go back North to Murchison for a day trip. The trip was mainly for Diane to see Daan and Jess, but also to run Maruia Falls. The falls is something that I remember seeing years ago and have been intrigued by ever since, even if it is a novelty and a 2 1/2 hour drive for a park and huck. To help make the drive more appealing we left early in the morning to enable getting on two other Murchison local runs, the Glenroy and the Matakitaki.

Diane running Maria Falls
Diane running Maruia Falls

That night, we drove back to Hokitika and prepared for the next day’s adventure on the Arahura.

"Our first taste of classic West Coast whitewater, steep boulder gardens with emerald blue water, who could want more!"

Kakapotahi / Styx / Matikitaki