New Zealand’s mighty ‘Rhine of the South’
To experience a traditional Maori welcome house, known as a marae, spend your second night at Tieke Kainga, 29kms downstream from John Coull Hut. This is one of the original Maori buildings on the river and is run by local Maori community members as a rest spot for passing canoeists. If you are lucky you might arrive on the day of a traditional Maori feast and be invited to participate in a powhiri (welcome ceremony) and share in a delicious home-cooked meal. Everyone is welcome at the marae, and someone will greet you on arrival and explain the protocol of visiting a marae and participating in a ceremony.
Day three showcases the river at its most magnificent, and features the deepest point of the gorge. Just past the Ngaporo campsite, 12.5kms from Tieke Kainga, look behind you for the famous “drop scene” – a corner of the river that is so beautiful it was thought to resemble a painted backdrop. The biggest rapids are also saved for day three, and you will be lucky to make it to the end without a dip. Thankfully your transport will be waiting for you at Pipiriki Landing and a warm shower is not far away.
This trip is one of New Zealand’s Great Walks, but is known as the Whanganui Journey because of its watery status. Huts, campsites and Tieke Kainga must be pre-booked through the Department of Conservation.