Canoeists speed down river

19:10, Feb 09 2011
TDn river
Helping hand: Tarata farmer Bryan Hocken was happy to let reporter Matt Rilkoff assist with repairs to a water pump.

An oversized colour photo map of Bryan Hocken's Tarata sheep and beef farm is an unmissable feature in the smoko room of his shearing shed.

Luckily it's laminated because it was here that, over a cup of coffee, we were able to figure out just how he had missed photographer Cameron Burnell and me yesterday as we paddled the 8-kilometre river border of his farm.

"You see I went here where I could look down the river and I dropped Helen off to keep an eye out," said the whiteboard marker wielding Bryan.

"Then I came back here and ripped around there."

"Why did you do that? What were you thinking?" asked Sarah, his daughter.

Not that she got a real answer but the map got another couple of stick figures and arrows before the discussion came to an end without any conclusion a man could hold on to.


"Well, you're here now and where are you going to stay," said Bryan before reeling off three different options in as many seconds.

One of those included his famous shearing shed which comes equipped with a shower, toilet, kitchen and, most importantly, a pool table.

"We'll sleep here then," I said after he mentioned they could bring some mattresses down.

"Good. How many people can say they have slept in a shearing shed?" asked Bryan before quickly supplying an answer.

Apparently it's not many.

The same cannot be said for the action-packed stretch of the Waitara river between the Tarata bridge and the end of his farm. Frequented by kaykers, TOPEC groups and occasionally two men in a canoe, it sees far more people than its lonely upper reaches.

Though the rapids are not large or particularly fearsome when looking back or from the comfort of the bank, they are monsters when seen from the seat of a heavily laden Canadian canoe.

Each rock becomes a boulder, each boulder a towering island and the normally placid water spits and snarls like a rabid local government politician.

Somehow we got through them without injury but I'm a little anxious about what the rapids will be like today as we paddle towards the Bertrand Rd bridge.

Apparently they are a little bit bigger. So much so that Peter van Lith, the good man at Canoe and Kayak who rented us the canoe, is bringing some mates to meet us and guide us through the worst.

If all goes well, I'll write more about it tomorrow. If all does not . . . it doesn't bear thinking about.

Today: Meeting Peter van Lith and friends to take on the worst Waitara River can throw at us.

Taranaki Daily News