April saw Irralee and Steve back in Fiordland. Thanks to Mr Rudd’s generous bushfire money, Steve was able to purchase an Alpacka pack raft (which he had lusted after for years – such strange lusts – check it out on the web; it’s really cool) with which he became the first person to canoe the Seaforth River there. Look on Google Earth. First there was a boat trip, a three and a half day hike in from Lake Hauroko: up the Hauroko Burn, past Lake Roe (spectacular scenery), a LONG way DOWN to Loch Marie, paddling across Loch Marie unsuccessfully avoiding the many snags (scary), another couple of hours’ walk (VERY up and down) through a gigantic slip, hearing the river really roaring below (as it cascades out of the giant slip which created Loch Marie) and then launching at the Bishop Burn. Moose sign here and there for those who have been following this story for years. Back again next year? Hope so.
Steve had surveyed the canoeing route on Google Earth and had seen some of the river on previous (hunting/hiking) expeditions. Google Earth LIES. There ARE much worse rapids than its satellite sees. He had thought that he would always be able to SEE them coming and that it would be a relatively simple matter to walk around them. He had not counted on some killer rapids having vertical river banks upstream of them. And the strength of the river (even though) the river height was NOT high was MUCH greater than he anticipated. Once when walking in water a little over ankle deep he and his boat and pack were bowled over several times by the sheer force of the water. Therefore being able to get out upstream of deadly rapids was more questionable than it appeared from orbit. Fortunately it IS possible to climb 20 ft vertically up tree roots hanging into the river – otherwise he would not be telling this story. There WERE some immensely beautiful and pleasurable stretches however. And many beautiful wild red deer. And lots of trout for the anglers amongst you.
Even so the worst part was at the end. He had been thinking that he would not have to cross the deep waters of the Fiord to get to the Supper Cove hut. By the time he was in the bottom reaches of the river, shadows were lengthening. The river spills out into the shallow Supper Cove at the top of the Fiord and you can walk across it at low tide – have done many times. What he didn’t appreciate was that there were several kilometres of VERY deep tidal river BEFORE you get to Supper Cove and that sharks just LOVE these stretches. About twenty times sharks (longer than the boat) cruised under the boat lifting it a foot or so into the air. This was the very most frightening aspect of the journey. The boat is VERY thin and light (2 kilos – made of Kevlar). Kevlar and Jones were obviously not on the shark menu in 2009 so he (and the good ship Fiord Explorer) are still here to tell the tale.
We had to cut the trip short. We were going to stay a few days at Supper cove moose hunting (as it turned out only 1 ½) and then walk out to Manapouri. We flew out by helicopter. In some ways this was a disappointment but NOAA said bad weather was coming (they were right) and as it turned out we came out on the last heli flight and would have missed our plane if we had not. It was a spectacular (and wild) heli ride. The owner of the chopper was hunting in Breaksea Sound, two fiords up and wanted out to attend his son’s gymkana so we got a free trip around Fiordland: up the Hilda Burn where I saw a moose in 2000, down Herrick Creek where Eddie Herrick shot his great bull in 1928, across Wet Jacket Arm where Captain Cook got his coat wet in 1770, over Oki island and on to Breaksea, then up the Breaksea and over the passes to Manapouri and Te Anau. It would have coat $10K but it cost us $200 ea because we were picking up the bloke who owned the whirligig. Great luck. We spent the rest of the trip just tooling around the South Island.