Day 145 on the Road
Packrafting in New Zealand
Today we are trying out packrafting in the stunning Fiordland National Park. If you liked this video and want to see more, consider joining our backpacker squad over on YouTube!
today we are packrafting which means rafting, putting our packs on our back with our rafts in and then hiking.
Let’s get right to it, the first thing you need in packrafting is a packraft and they all have a nickname.
Betsy. It’s a fat girls name. Might as well give me Gertrude. I got Lisa for me today. I’ve traded Laura and I think honestly it’s an improvement.
So you’re probably wondering what the hell we’re doing today we are doing packrafting which is one of the best ways in the world to embrace the elements. You are carrying everything you need on your backpack for your entire journey. You carry your own raft you carry your food you carry your water you carry all your survival gear and for us, heaps of cameras.
We are joining today the team from Expedition X which are running packrafting tour in the beautiful Fiordland National Park and our guide today is Arno. He’s gonnahve to take us through the entire packrafting process because it’s for Laura and I the first time ever we are doing packrafting.
It only take a few minute for Arno to get right to it and explain us how to bow up our own packraft.
Open and blow air in….
And after that beautiful demonstration we are getting straight to it blowing up our packraft, who can blow it up the fastest.
And now we are hopping into our packrafts making sure that indeed they do float. We’ve attached our backpacks on there and we get to feel for the first time what these packrafts are like. They handle so much differently to normal kayaks or canoes they are so maneuverable. One slight touch of the water with your paddle you are spinning around and we get a few moments to actually get used to this before making our way down the Waiau River.
Arno is going through super extensive explanation on how to handle the packraft and what to do if you happen to flip. it’s really good to have someone as experienced as Arno to be able to guide us through this journey and tell us about packrafting because it’s really something that you don’t want to do for the first time just by yourself.
Our tour today is one of the longest day tour that we’re going to be doing in this entire year. We’ve been picked up by the team at Expedition X at the Kiwi Holiday Park around 7 o’clock in the morning and our total time for the tour is going to be over 8 hours. Now that we’re on the water we’re going to be going all the way down the Waiau River all the way to Lake Manapouri. It’s a 22km float down the river. From there, we’re gonna join the Kepler Track which is one of the New Zealand Great Walks and we’re going to be hiking 7km back to our transportation then it’s a short drive back to the Te Anau Holiday park.
Along the way Arno is teaching us some essential river skills to do when you are packrafting. For instance we are learning how to maneuver in and out of an eddy.
We’re actually surprised about how mellow this river is. Robin and I were a little bit worried that this would be a total rapid river but the rapids only get to about grade 2 which is just enough to have good amount of splashy fun but not too dangerous either, especially for newbies like us.
It is quite incredible the amount of bounce that this little raft has. Because it is basically 99% air, every time there is the smallest of the waves I feel like I’m jumping about 20 cm above the water. it’s heaps of fun.
There is a really cool vibe amongst the group everybody is slowly floating on the river we are relaxing chatting about life and sharing travel stories it’s really awesome and Arno even has packed a few candies for everybody.
While Laura clearly needs to work on her packrafting skills, Arno is telling us more about the wildlife surrounding the area there actually thousands of bird species living in the forest alongside the Waiau River.
So right now we are in the middle of the Fiordland National Park you can hear thousands of different bird noise it’s incredible. I don’t know if you guys can hear that but I don’t think there is a single similar bird song I can hear. They’re all different.
One of the bird species that Arno tells us about are the takahe which is a very rare prehistoric looking bird it’s massive and blue and we actually saw one of those yesterday at the Te Anau Bird Sanctuary so make sure to check that video out from yesterday too.
The Waiau River is actually also a Lord of the Rings filming location which is really cool it’s actually used in the aerial shots in the Fellowship of the Ring we depict the Anduin River and that’s the very same river that the Fellowship went down when they were canoeing just like us. We feel like Frodo and Sam right now.
I was a little bit afraid that this rafting tour would be a bit too extreme but the really good thing about this very specific tour, this day trip, is that it is perfect for beginners and it’s super cruisy we’re just having an awesome time just drifting around and really embracing the wilderness around us. And it’s just a mellow float to our lunch break where Arno has picked up some sandwiches from Te Anau town and packed it in his pack for us and we’re having some delicious beef and chicken sandwiches cookies muesli and a healthy apple.
So the lunch break is cut really short and we are back paddling onto the river. We got a lot of distance to cover we are only halfway through the river which is 22km down to Lake Manapouri the area is absolutely amazing and the sceneries is getting even grander as we get closer to the lake. in fact, we are getting more in-depth into the Fiordland National Park which is a stunning area. In fact, it’s not only protected on a national level it’s protected on a international level as part of the world UNESCO heritage site.
The rafting part of our tour is going to be finishing in Lake Manapouri which is an absolute gem on the South Island. This is the second deepest lake of the country it has 33 different islands and the backdrop is the beautiful Kepler Mountains it’s a beautiful place to visit and it’s super remote one of the only ways to access it is by the Kepler track which is one of the 10 New Zealand Great Walks and one of the walks which we’re gonna be doing today.
Once we are on the shores of Lake Manapouri we get a few moments to take some pictures of the beautiful scenery around us and then it’s onto packing part of our packrafting trip getting there rafts into our backpacks and then we hit the Kepler Track. the Kepler Track is a multi day track covering about 60km and usually taking about 2 to 4 days to complete but we’re just covering about 7-8km of the track today.
This part of the Kepler Track takes us through the stunning Fiordland forest this forest looks virtually untouched for millions of years the trees are super towering and we eventually come to an opening in the forest where we can look across this magnificent swamp.
This section of the hike is actually a breeze. It’s super flat there is not really any challenge aside from the length of it and the heavy weight of our backpacks. But it’s actually quite impressive that we got to actually pack everything we need to survive in the wild into those small backpack. i’m so impressed on the quality of the gears that we’ve been given.
As we start to approach the end of our day today we are taking a couple of extra sights of the beautiful Waiau River in fact we have literally paddled under that bridge only a few hours ago it’s awesome.
We made it. We’ve finished this 8 hours packrafting trip. That was pretty epic.
The only thing that Laura and I need right now is some food, a shower and a good night of rest.
Tomorrow, we are actually going to be leaving Te Anau nooooo but going to Milford Sound yeeeaaayyyy. So yeah, tomorrow we’re going to be taking the famous road trip that is The Milford Sound Road so join us tomorrow you don’t want to miss it.