For me, this trip is going to take some doing to top. Other than patches of poor weather, it hit all the marks for a great packrafting trip. Great scenery for the walk in, fun drops in a small but floatable creek, sight fishing for browns and rainbows, beautiful clear water, campfires and plenty of rapids. All with a challenge and a little uncertainty as to its viability. And great companionship with like-minded, half-crazy but determined fellow rafters Craig Ball and Tom Charleson – thanks guys.
The shuttle was an effort but leaving a car at a safe location at the take-out (where the Napier-Taihape Rd crosses the Rangitikei) meant we didn’t have too hard of a deadline. Nevertheless, we gave ourselves 5 days but used only 4. DOC will tell you it’s a day to get the Rangitikei River along the Southern Access but anyone who has done it will tell you it’s two. The first day is to get 20kms across the tops and the second is to get 7km down the Otamateanui. With boats the Otamateanui was half a day, however we could have done with more water to make it less scratchy. The highest upriver gauge for the Rangitikei catchment is at Mangoweka (http://www.horizons.govt.nz/managing-environment/resource-management/water/river-heights-and-rainfall/Choose-river-rainfall-chart/) and it was reading 11 cumecs for our trip.
After starting our walk in from the Desert Rd in the rain, we dried out in sunshine and wind with views of Mt Ruapehu and across the Army’s land. We camped on a ridge above Otamateanui the first night then dropped to the river and put in straight away. There was only one drop we didn’t run – it had wood but regardless I think I would have avoided it. We got out and scouted all the decent drops and were smiling ear to ear after we ran them (world first?). Hunters we passed on the way in warned us that bush bashing over bluffs was required to get down the Otamateanui but the packrafts were the ticket.
The second night we camped at the confluence with the Rangitikei. We split the 42 km of floating from there back to the car into two and stayed the third night in the rain at a campsite on a bend in the river halfway down. The Rangitikei is Grade I – III with two Grade III/IV rapids – Pinnacle Chute in the top half and Boomer Rapids in the bottom half. The GPS went down so I can’t tell you where they are, but we walked them – I lie, Craig did Boomer, gracefully avoiding wood and doing the drop at the bottom twice he enjoyed it so much.
We had some nasty winds now and then for our troubles and were plenty tired by the time we got to the bridge at the take out. Choppers fly in dropping off hunters and fishermen throughout the season with some making the journey back by boat so flying in is an option too but then you’d miss half the fun!
5 minute video here:
10 minute video here: