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Whanganui River - New Zealand's Great Walk

My first experience in a Canadian canoe began in Taumarunui on the Whanganui River in New Zealand. This was day one of the full five day, 145km journey to Pipiriki. It was an experience I will never forget but I had no idea what lay ahead.
We arrived the evening before we were due to depart with all our food for the five days ahead. That night we packed everything we needed into small watertight barrels that we would carry in our vessels for the whole route. Before departing the following morning, we were given a quick briefing by the guy who owned the canoe hire business. This included fast forwarding through a few shaky GoPro videos of the route and a very small hand drawn map indicating the camps. He definitely mentioned white water and rapids but they were certainly underplayed. Finally we were tested to ensure we could control our canoes. In turn, we paddled into the current, turned and paddled back. I had to go twice as he wasn't watching the first time.
The four of us set off in our two canoes down river. The weather was glorious and spirits were high. About one hour in we came to our first set of rapids. These were certainly exhilarating but our lack of experience showed when we got spun around and slammed into a large rock. We were a little shaken and concerned about the rest of the journey ahead but as they kept coming we quickly became more competent and confident in the canoe.
The Whanganui River Journey is one of New Zealand's "Great Walks", despite not actually being a walk. It's full length is a five day route but you can do a slightly shorter three day version. This meant until day three, we practically had the river to ourselves. The river is very remote and many parts are inaccessible by road, the route is largely untouched and incredibly beautiful. It sometimes feels like you could be the first people ever to venture here, it's an amazing adventure.
On our third night, we slept in the John Coull Hut, the first manned hut on the route. It was comfortable and warm. That evening the four of us lay by the river and swam while the other adventurers arrived. From here we navigated more rapids toward Tieke Kainga, stopping on the way for the eerie hike to the 'Bridge to Nowhere', a remnant of an abandoned attempt to bring farming to the area.
Tieke Kāinga is a real highlight of the trip, it's home to a small Māori community and there's a chance you will get to take part in a powhiri, a traditional ceremony. We left the following morning for the short last leg to Pipiriki. This part included some of the more challenging rapids but by this stage we were all very competent and navigated them with ease. Dreaded at the start, by the end they became great fun and were unfortunately missed! We were collected from the river bank by the canoe hire company who were happy to hear our tales of adventure from the previous five days paddling.
It's essential that you book in advance. More information including how to book the huts can be found here:

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The Whanganui River meanders through the North Island
The 'Bridge to Nowhere' is worth the 40 minute hike from the river
Accommodation at Tieke Kāinga