It started 2 years ago, after just landing in NZ I was instantly beckoned over to the East coast of the North Island, where Josh Neilson and Matt Danes had a "surprise" they wanted to share with me. What ensued would become one of NZ's most epic First Descents ... Waihi Stream (but that's another story LINK ) This is a story about what happened after that amazing day.
The Waihi trip lit a fire / a need to find more of this amazing East Coast whitewater. With help from Matt Danes, who is a Google Earth Guru, we searched the counrty side looking for steep creeks big enough to hold some water. The Maretu Stream had been on the radar for quite awhile, but it was either a lack of rain/water in the area or a lack of people to convice to make a gamble on the trip, and in doing so miss out on a day of creeking in the Kaimai's, that kept this creek un-run ... until this past April.
The Gisborne area had been getting smashed by a big cyclone system over a few days, filling all the creeks to the brim ... water - Check. A phone call to the ever-keen Brendan Bayly and a few others from the Okere Falls Massive and I had a solid crew lined up ... team - Check. However there was just one small obstacle left to overcome. The intense rain fall had caused several, rather large landslides to wash the one and only road from Hawkes Bay to Gisborne out. So there I am sitting at home with all the stars alined and I can't get there ... arrrrgh!
Eventually, tired of sitting around waiting we packed the car and took our chances with being able to get through the slides. And as if it was meant to be we timed our arrival perfect just getting through the washout before they closed the road for the night.
Setting the epic 3 hr shuttle in the morning we were finally on the water, after 2 years of planning and waiting.
The river started with consistant low angle slides over smooth papa, and knowing there was much more gradient to come ... we got excited.
However, after a kilometer or so the river changed character and became much more boulder choked. And before long became fairly sieved out. We started walking one rapid then paddling the next, and this repeated itself until we got to the entrance to a beautiful looking gorge. Unfortunately, half way through was an impassable rapid, which forced us to hike high up above the gorge. Ryan Lucas managed to drop his boat into this gorge after almost falling in himself, but luckily his boat pinned at the one point in the entire gorge we could get rope to. So with the help of the entire crew we were able to pull his, only slightly dented, boat from the river. Only a couple km's into the run we had already spent a couple hrs on the water ... we got a bit apprehensive.
To everyone's relief, below the gorge the river took back its smooth papa character and plunged its way down countless steep slides, a handful of stunning vertical drops, some large size hydraulics and off one monster of a 30m drop. It was nothing but good clean fun for the remaining 10 or so km's to the take out.
All in all, I would say this has been a highly successful first descent, definitely a classic in the making and I am already looking forward to getting back in there. And in the words of Brendan Bayly "Another foot would be nice".
Check out a sweet video put together by Brendan from a bit of GoPro footage from the day:
Cheers to a wicked crew for making it happen: Tyler Fox, Brendan Bayly, Willz Martin, Kendal Warmington, Drew Sullen, Ryan Lucas and Louise Jull.
Team Level Six Paddler