Farewell NZ – for the time being – after wine in Hawke’s Bay & awesome canoeing down the Whanganui River

Well, after five glorious cycling and canoeing weeks, the last two with Kat and Mela, it’s time to leave New Zealand, with a last blast of images (fuller set here on Google+ as usual), and some concluding thoughts about what has to have been the best cycling tour ever (though could of course have been longer!) and this extraordinary country that is now Kat’s home.

The amazing Whanganui River - as we did it, nearly 100km of  almost untouched, virgin rainforest through the most stunning canyons and rapids.

We finished our journey canoeing with a lovely bunch of Kat and Mela’s New Plymouth friends till midday yesterday (this is being posted from the Auckland Museum on Tuesday before a midnight flight home – free WiFi! which isn’t the norm in NZ) down the amazing Whanganui River, nearly 100km of almost untouched, virgin rainforest through the most stunning canyons and rapids.

Yes, Sue and Claire, I (with Mela in the prow) did fall in – we had different ideas of which side of a pretty solidly large rock to steer our Canadian canoe, so managed to strike it full on in the rapids…

But the water was warm, the barrels holding our camping and photo gear (largely) watertight, it was all in the spirit of the three days and no harm was done.

Indeed, the stretch of river with the main rapids is known for its 50:50 chance of tipping occupants out of their craft – in a country which remains (largely, again) gloriously free of our European and American Health and Safety culture. Here, they let you take sensible risks, and there’s almost no nasty financial litigation.

The result?

Amongst other things, hiking and canoeing and bungy jumping and river-boating and biking and tramping (hiking, to you and me) and jetboating and the rest that makes NZ the adventure capital of the world. And huge fun for all ages, including as I can confirm the near-geriatric. Continue reading