Packrafting down the Waiau proved to be the best thing we have done in New Zealand. We got to wild camp every night, enjoyed our long days on the water, and best of all, with our boats on our bikes and then our bikes on our boats we got to enjoy the self sufficiency and solitude we have so been craving. Somehow, the fine line between uncomfortable (wet and slightly cold due to our not so waterproof rain gear) and comfort (always having a dry warm sleeping bag at night) seems to be where we have the most fun.
We put in at the beginning of the Waiau at Lake Te Anau with five days of food and our camping gear in the boats with our bikes strapped to the front. And our bananas, can’t go anywhere without those bananas.
We paddled in the sun –
– and in the pouring rain.
We carried our boats across a dam…
… and walked them like a dog on a leash when the water was too shallow.
We scouted rapids,
and then we went down them.
We even made a few flying friends along the way!
We camped – sometimes in the rain and sometimes with beautiful sunsets on the horizon as we ate dinner – in places accessible only by boat.
Then, we would wake up and paddle again!
Then, after five days and 120km we made it to the ocean!
We packed up our boats, put our wheels back on our bikes, and cycled to the nearest town to replenish our food supply and head to our next put in.
We were really impressed with the Denali Llama Alpacka rafts that we got to use as we could paddle and even go through (small) rapids with the bikes on the nose of the packrafts as the rafts sit so high in the water. We were also impressed with how much gear we could fit in the internal compartments (two long dry bags which then clip inside the boat that you inflate around the stuff); we had five days worth of heavy food – unfortunately we aren’t biking with a dehydrator – and even with all of our camping gear and clothes, we could have easily fit at least twice as much stuff. We put our panniers on the boats (under our bikes) and had a day bag out with food and clothes to last us until we were ready to deflate our boats in camp.
Though it took us about an hour to set up our rafts, pack our gear, and figure out a way to strap on the bikes the first time we did it, we easily got it to under half an hour every other morning. We took off our wheels and then had a nice neat little package we could pick up and carry.
What We Learned
We learned that we need waterproof rain gear (and preferably some sort of wet or dry suit for the shoulder or off seasons when we plan to be doing more of our future trips), and small waterproof day bags for our food and clothes that we want access to during the day. Besides that, it was actually a whole lot like cycle touring – picnicing in pretty places, camping and cooking watching the sunset, sleeping like young puppy dogs out cold all night long – just instead of being on bikes during the day we were in our rafts. We also learned that we love packrafting and can’t wait to plan our next adventure!
If anyone is interested in packrafting in New Zealand make sure to check out Packrafting New Zealand for rentals, guided tours, or to purchase your own!