Canoeing the Gorge
From the days of Tamatea - the 14th Century explorer of Maori history and legend - to the heyday of the Victorian paddle-steamers and riverboats, the Whanganui River was the main route into the central North Island. It is still NZ's longest navigable river but these days it is kayakers and canoeists who paddle their way from Taumaranui to Whanganui, or distances in-between.
The wildest and remotest stretch of the river runs 90kms through the gorges of Whanganui National Park where there is no electricity, cellphone or Internet coverage, or road access. Canoeists take their own provisions, and chance their luck at huts and camping grounds en route.
Spectrum's Briar Whitehead spends three days in the Whanganui Gorge helping keep the canoe upright in a swollen and fast-flowing river; contends with mud, bad pillows and snoring neighbours, talks to other kayakers and canoeists and hears a few stories about the river and the history along its banks.