After a mad dash into National Park, Jonathan and I woke up early to catch the sunrise and call our families one last time before Christmas. It was December 23rd and for the next 5 days, we'd been told that there'd be no service at all.
We were heading out for 5 days on the Whanganui (wh pronounced as an f) and had hired a Deluxe Canadian Canoe for two. It was scheduled to meet us the following day -- Christmas Eve -- in the small village of Whakahoro, which meant we had a long, long, long day of roadwalking ahead of us. Thirty miles and many hours of podcasts later, we dragged our aching feet into camp.
The next morning, we had a lovely Christmas Eve brunch at the Blue Duck Cafe with some hiker friends and met the canoes to get on the river.
One of the best parts of the river section for us hikers is that we don't have to worry about weight. That means we can eat (and, of course, drink) whatever we want! Almost, anyway. We left our resupply with the canoe company back in Tamarunui before the Tongariro Crossing and Round the Mountain tracks, so we couldn't have much in terms of fresh foods. However, we made the most of the boats by adding heavy refreshments like juice, almond milk, canned soup, and coconut cream to add to our curry.
Christmas Day was an extremely festive 55 degrees and raining. We sang several classic carols like "I'm dreaming of a wet Christmas," and "Paddling through a Winter Wonderland." In spite of the rain, however, spirits were high.
When the rain stopped, we had a... relaxing paddle down the river. Here's Molly hard at work in the front of the boat:
Christmas dinner consisted of canned Thai pumpkin soup, which we ate around a picnic table with two couples: two Brits and two German ladies, all of whom we'd just met the day before. We camped with a bunch of other hikers and stayed up drinking until all hours of the late evening (like... 9:30pm).
Luckily, the weather was much better for the final days of the trip and we loved getting to see the bush from a new perspective. We even found some unique New Zealand artifacts like pumice rocks so light that we'd find them floating down the river next to our canoe.
While there were rapids throughout the first days, I'd estimate that on day 4, we probably paddled about 40% of the time. There was a lot of extreme relaxation happening -- suitable for a Christmas holiday, I suppose, but we're not really much good at doing nothing. By the end of day 5, we were pretty ready to be done with the river. The Whanganui was a beautiful section of trail and it was great to rest our legs. But at the end of the day, I guess we just like to walk.