Tauherenikau Valley & Gorge - Family Trip
6-7 February 1999
by Peter Smith
The weather was warming up as we arrived at Kiwi Ranch at 10.30am. There were five families, the rest were coming later. Car-park fees paid, we headed off just after 11am up the track to the pine tree clump. The youngest in the group was Hilary (just 4 years old) who, because of the packs both parents had, had no choice but to walk the whole way.
At the top of the Puffer the temperature was rising and some children wanted an early lunch, but after a quick snack they were persuaded to head down to the stream. So lunch was had under the 'umbrella tree', a fern so named because the tree had provided shelter from rain and sun on their many times up the valley.
We continued on, waiting at the slip to ensure all the party found their way around the badly marked diversion. Past Smiths Creek and another slight detour before arriving at the Asado site just after 3.30pm. Good going for Hilary. Peter Radcliffe was found half submerged cooling off in a nearby pool.
A few other families started arriving and others from Stuart Brown's trip, while the first arrivals had pitched tents and gone to the river for a swim. Peter Radcliffe and Stuart Brown got the fire going and with many helpers collecting wood, potatoes, corn and sausages were soon cooking away. Anita and Edward found that if you take the protective leaves off the corn, the cob tends to burn, but you can always give it to your parents to eat. Dave Melville played on his tin and clay flute while children sang. It was great to see the mixing of both the family and other groups. Trips like this need to be done more often.
Early next morning car and lorry tubes were being pumped up and by 9.30am breakfast had been eaten and six adults and 10 children were prepared for their trip down the gorge. Andy Foster and his team of four others were coming later as Andy had to run to Kaitoke to pick up a missing tube for his team.
Safety rules explained and a Buddy system in place and we were off. Heading down to Smiths Creek children and adults practised their tubing skills, sitting on the tubes or lying on them, packs on backs or packs on laps. Ten minutes after leaving Smiths Creek, Tony Hay with Simon and Martin floated up. They had walked in from Kaitoke that morning. The Hay's usual gum boot attire had been left behind in favour of boots. Tony though the water might come over his knee high gum boots.
The children were soon getting the hang of this mode of bush travel, with less body weight and lighter packs they skimmed over the rapids, where those of us with heavier build and heavier packs often would bottom and come to a halt. We regrouped in the sun, often by deep pools and Claire and Brenda would be back in the water swimming around making good use of their time. A couple of the children got a little cold but with polyprop tops, bottoms and balaclavas they soon warmed up.
Down one stretch a crack like a rifle fire hit the air, Christopher's tube had burst and his puncture repair kit couldn't cope with the large rip in it. Alison kindly gave her son hers and tried floating on her pack which had a tendency to roll. If only she had her bodyboard. Chris's new tube then seem to develop a slow puncture and required a re-pump with the car pump at each stop.
With the temperature approaching the 30s, floating down the river was very relaxing. Looking up at the beautiful bush one understands why the word 'nikau' is in Tauherenikau. Many wood pigeons sang and flew around the bush. It was nearing 5pm as we climbed out of the water at journey end to meet those who had driven round after their trip out from Kaitoke. Andy and his team were emerging from the water soon after us.
We were asked by several of the children when we could do this again. Evidently it had been a great success. No doubt tubing trips have firmly established themselves in the family group calendar.