Going, going, they're gone

Were dignity vital to life, it is certain I would now be dead. And so would photographer Cameron Burnell.

Our lesson in humility was handed to us yesterday by a particularly stroppy stretch of the Waitara River, just minutes after we left the safe haven of Bryan Hocken's Tarata farm.

Joined at the McKee bridge by kayakers Peter van Lith of Canoe and Kayak and his friends Leith Beaurepaire and Serena Gradel, we tootled down the river regaling them with tales of our single tip out in 10 days of paddling.

In hindsight I can see this was the behaviour of a naive young man because, within seconds, I was shouting "Mummy, help me" and flying, back over front, into the foaming depths of a rather gutsy rapid.

My paddle was lost, my feet were flailing and the canoe was threatening to imitate the Titanic.

"You had a good line until that last rock," said Peter as he pulled us to shore.

"I don't know what happened," I said even though I knew I had done everything right and it was all Cameron's fault.

This wee scene was then repeated at least eight more painful times.

Leith tried to make us feel better by only counting four bail-outs.

Good on you, mate, but the egg- shaped bumps on my shins are proof that the fourth dip was passed on the fifth rapid.

You would think we would've improved as the day wore on - and to a degree we did.

We were quite clueless how to do it before, but we can now empty a canoe of water almost as quickly as we can fill it.

That is something to be proud of.

It was probably only dumb luck then that saved us from further humiliation as we approached the Bertrand Rd suspension bridge.

Somehow, a bus-load of travellers had fluked our arrival time and fanned out along the bridge in much the same way that some people attend executions.

Or at least so we thought. The closer we got, the more we could see this was a crowd of some encouragement.

"Good on you, boys," one yelled.

"Give it heaps," shouted someone else.

"You're not stopping here are you?" another asked with a tone I mistook for anticipation.

"Of course we are," I hollered, as I ran up the stairs and along the bridge to greet them.

I had never had a thronging crowd before. Neither had Cameron. We didn't really know what to expect.

"Oh," said one of them to their friend as we got close enough so our stupid grins were horribly apparent. "They're all wet."

Today: To the finish line at the Waitara river mouth boat ramp. By 11am if all goes well.

Taranaki Daily News