Some folks are just downright suicidal, and sometimes I am one of them! In 2009 I had conceived a plan to be the first person (I think) to canoe the mighty remote Seaforth River in Fiordland NZ. I had a brand-new Alpacka ‘Fjord Explorer’ packraft (https://alpackarafts.com/product/fjord-explorer/) courtesy of Kevin Rudd’s bushfire compensation scheme following the 2010 fires here which left us trapped at home for weeks with fires burning all around us.
That year I walked in from Lake Hauroko to Loch Marie (3 days) with my raft and gear in my trusty Gossamer gear G4 pack: http://gossamergear.com/g4-ultralight-backpack-all-bundle.html. On the fourth day I canoed across the lake, then walked down to just past the Bishop Burn and spent the rest of the day canoeing the Seaforth. I had carefully checked out the river from Google Earth which misses some big rapids -Trust Me! I had also walked around that lower section of the Seaforth quite a lot of times so I thought it was pretty safe. Well, I knew there were a couple of quite deadly rapids, but I was indecently confident I would hear them coming up and could safely portage them. (Every man has a plan which will not work!)
Most of the river is deep and wide and consists of pebble races or Grade 1-2 rapids at most. Unfortunately, there are 2-3 rapids which come up on you pretty quickly, which it would be death to attempt, and which are quite difficult to portage. The worst was in the general vicinity of the old Supper Cove Hut. Suddenly on a left-hand bend, there it was: with perpendicular river banks both sides, but no other option but to grasp a tree root on the right bank and hang on for dear life! I did manage to climb 5 metres up that vertical bank pulling myself up by the tree root, then haul up my pack and the raft (both of which I had tied to a line) after me. There was one other nasty rapid below this – which I had never seen even though I had walked that section near the mouth of the Henry Burn (Moose Creek) extensively.
Once I was in the flat water below I thought I was home safe. By then it was getting pretty cold and daylight was fading. I had realised that there were oodles of sharks in the Fiord but I thought to avoid them by paddling the shallows on the margins of Supper Cove. I had forgotten the 2-3 kilometres of tidal deep river above the Fiord, which teemed with them! They were mighty curious too, repeatedly cruising underneath the raft, gently lifting it as they rubbed underneath. It was a little unnerving!
Steve must not have been on their menu that day! I had this experience about twenty times before I made Supper Cove where you can be sure I hugged its margins like a drunken sailor! However, as you can see I made it – much to the astonishment of the (few) onlookers, including my daughter Irralee, who had been anxiously awaiting me there for three days! The Seaforth River is a beautiful and exhilarating trip. I somewhat regret I might not paddle it again though!
I have been back for other looks though, as recently as a month ago. For a more detailed description of the track read: http://www.theultralighthiker.com/from-dawn-to-dusky/ & ff.