Intrepid pair have fingers crossed

MATT RILKOFF
Last updated 05:00 31/01/2011
TDN river
AMY VAN DYK

Reporter Matt Rilkoff and photographer Cameron Burnell on a training run in their canoe on the Waitara river ahead of their journey up the River Road.

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The River Road

A river road tale The heart of hospitality Going, going, they're gone Canoeists speed down river Reserve a haven for tasty fare Dream ride restores one's faith A helping hand for baby eels Helping hand saves the paddlers Boys on river trip warned about didymo Paddles down, time to portage

Well here we go. Hopefully.

The plan was for photographer Cameron Burnell and I to be paddling up the Patea River by 7.30am today.

This required a 5am start, which is not something we really wanted, but for this first day of our river trip from Patea to Waitara by river, we are at the mercy of the moon.

Of course that is our own fault.

Owing to our decision to paddle our fully laden Canadian canoe upstream and owing to our complete lack of conditioning for such a task we have to use the incoming tide to give us much needed assistance.

Without it we would surely go backwards into the Tasman Sea which would be no good at all, especially when Marg Newlove of Otauto Rd has promised to have coffee and maybe even scones waiting for us a few hours upriver.

It should be understood that "few" is Mrs Newlove's assessment. I fear it could be much longer.

By our own estimate we think we may be able to paddle a distance of about 2km to 3km per hour which is about the same speed a tortoise travels. If it is dead.

Should we maintain this speed (and that is a dangerous assumption) we could theoretically cover the 40km between here and the Patea dam by Wednesday evening.

Theoretically.

But there is something we know we can depend upon as fact. During the 60 hours that separate Monday morning from Wednesday evening we will have both developed a keen understanding of the effort contained in the word "portage".

Until recently I did not know what it meant but in the weeks leading up to this trip anyone who had ever seen a canoe or understood the concept of river travel took great delight in asking us if we were looking forward to "portaging".

Their delight only grew when they saw the expression on my face which I had hoped had communicated my desire they crawl away and die but evidently just came across as confusion.

You see portage, or portaging, is a fancy word that refers to the practice of carrying watercraft over land to avoid river obstacles.

And because a Canadian canoe being paddled upstream sees even small rapids as major obstacles, we expect to be doing a lot of portaging.

Except I think we'll call it "carrying the boat". It's just simpler that way.

Tomorrow: Towards the Ball Rd bridge.

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