Day 61: Whanganui River Journey Day 4: The Flying Fox to Hipango Park
Tuesday, January 9, 2024 9:19 pm
Location: Hipango Park (1380.1 km)

Our fourth and penultimate day on the Whanganui River was much calmer than our first three days, making for an “easy”, but still tiring, day down the river.

CareFree and I took to the river at 9 am today, consistent with our other start times, to some clouds. We expected the clouds to blow out later in the morning, as they have the past few days, but at least it was a little cooler in the morning.

Getting our barrels down to the water was a bit of a hassle because The Flying Fox is so far above the river, but at least our barrels are getting lighter as we eat our food.

Whanganui River
Whanganui River

There were a few small rapids early in the day, but after those, it was all clear, easy paddling down the river. This made today actually somewhat boring for me; without the rapids, the rowing was a little like the monotony of road walk, but without unhappy feet. (Unhappy arms, instead.)

The paddling is the most exercise my arms have gotten in a long time, and after a few days of paddling for hours, my arms tire out much quicker than they were on the first day. And this means I had to switch which harm I was using the paddle more frequently, which also meant the CareFree had to change which side she was paddling on as well.

As we’ve gone downstream, the riverbanks have gradually tended to become less steep, with farms along the banks. Several times today, we saw cows, goats, and sheep feeding near the river. In one place, we saw cows that had access to the river, and were drinking from it.

Cows Drinking From The River
Cows Drinking From The River

With no rapids, I had to find my amusement elsewhere. Early in the day, just up from a beach, there was a purple couch positioned to have a great view over the river. Further on, a pine forest looked like a ridiculous carpet draped over a mountain, next to the native forest.

Pine Plantation
Pine PlantationA pine plantation blankets the hillside up to a property line.

We also saw two different buried cars. I suspected that they must’ve gotten washed away in a bad flood, and nobody cared to dig them up out of the sand afterwards.

Buried Car
Buried Car

Our destination today was Hipango Park. Originally the site of a pa (a Māori fortification) built in the 14th century and which burned down about 200 years ago, it was repurposed in 1913 as a public park. It was popular as a day picnic area, until regular riverboat service was discontinued in the 1950s.

The complication today, beside a long and steep climb up from the landing to the park, is that the Whanganui River is tidal here, and the water rises over a meter. A tired boat jetty had been constructed to help with this, but that meant we had to not only lift our stuff out of the boat, we had to lift the boat out of the water and carry it onto the jetty to ensure it wouldn’t become stuck under the jetty when the tide rose.

High tide tomorrow is at 10 am at Whanganui, and it takes about an hour for the tide to work its way upstream to Hipango Park, so we were told we should leave at 11 am. Susana and Peter wanted to leave at 10, though, to get to town sooner. We decided this would be a good idea; it might be a little more work paddling against the trailing end of the tide coming in, but we should still get the benefit of the tide going out for most of the rest of the trip to Whanganui.