299 Days on the Road
Taupo is one of those places where there are as much things to do off the land as there is to do on it! Yesterday we sailed on New Zealand’s largest lake and today we are hitting the Waikato to kayak down New Zealand’s longest river!
Journeying down the Waikato River with Canoe & kayak
After some grocery shopping and general work things in the sheltered courtyard of Taupo Urban Retreat, our late afternoon tour comes around pretty quickly! We rock up to Canoe & Kayak and walk into a retail store awash with kayaks, stand-up paddle boards, and everything else from a waterluster’s dream.
We are greeted by a great shaggy friendly labrador in the store, then by our guide for the next couple of hours, Rob, who is finishing packing the kayaks and equipment onto a trailer outside the back of the shop. Once the rest of kayaking customers arrive, we are signing a quick waiver form then hopping into a van where our adventure begins.
Paddling lesson then hitting the river!
It’s a super quick drive to our launch point, a little after where the Waikato River starts it long journey to the sea. Here, we unload the kayaks and grab a paddle each. Rob gives us a quick lesson in paddling, as well as going through a necessary safety briefing, then we are ready to hit the water!
Floating down the Mighty Waikato
Once everyone is on the water, us in a double kayak, we follow Rob into the current of the Waitako River.
“This is where you can stop paddling. The river does the work for you!” Rob says, as we drift with easy down the high-volume river. Our guide also gives us a great insight into just how mighty the “Mighty Waikato River” is, by explaining the power generation of the river. Right now, we are in a section of the river between two dams where the water level is controlled. Yet, we can’t get a perspective of just how deep this river really is due to the fact that the water is so clear that we can see the riverbed!
Posh houses to bungy jumpers
After passing a wealthy residential area on the riverbanks called Huka Heights, we arrive at a river gorge with towering white cliffs. Rob leads us into an eddy here where not only can Rob take a few scenic photos of us which we emails to the customers at the end of the tour, but where we can watch some crazy people bungy jumping towards the river! We stop here long enough to hear the screams of one couple doing a tandem bungy, then move on with our more natural-feeling kayaking tour.
Things get a bit splashy on the Waikato River
Native forest and islands
We now drift down a stunning section of the river surrounded by native bush. Literally, a fantail flies right past us like this is nature’s playground. As we approach an island up ahead, Rob gives us the choice to go the calm way or the fun way. Let’s go with fun!
A pit-stop at some natural hot pools
What has been a calm-looking river on the surface suddenly get disturbed at an island where we follow some light rapids down one side of the island. We make it out and head to our pit-stop for today, Otumuheke Stream. This is a natural hot spring which meets the Waikato River, meaning there are plenty of cosy spots to bathe for free! Because of this, and the fact that it is a public holiday, the place is raging right now! We have never seen this many people in one place in New Zealand! Nevertheless, there is a slightly more “secret spot” further up the stream that Rob takes us to. It’s slightly quieter and is backed by a small waterfall of hot water.
Back on the water for the final leg
We quickly strip down to our togs (Kiwi speak for swimwear) and hop into the pools a little too quickly. Sh*t, that is hot!! It takes a minute for our bodies to get used to the heat, but then we learn to love it. We get plenty of time to sit back and relax before heading back to the kayaks.
An awesome little section of the Waikato
From here, it’s only about 100m until we reach the end of our tour. We land at a place called Reids Farm, a scenic little freedom camping spot. We help Rob load the kayaks back onto the trailer, which has mystically arrived at our ending point. It’s back to the Canoe & Kayak base where Rob takes our email addresses to send us the photos. It has been an awesome little section to kayak down the Waikato River, without it being too long of a tour to get uncomfortable. Relaxing in a natural hot stream is just an added bonus!
Checking in at Base
With that, we are checking into a new accommodation for us this evening, Base Backpackers, another ideally-located hostel in Taupo with the Element Bar right next door and the lakefront just around the corner! It’s a great base for the next activities coming up, including a special activity planned for tomorrow: Day 300… Join us tomorrow to find out what it is!
Not a bad way to rest from Kayaking!
Have you read yesterday’s post? How about these articles?
- Taupo – Guide for Backpackers
- 11 Free or Cheap Activities in Taupo
- 7 Free Natural Hot Springs in New Zealand
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See you tomorrow!