The countdown was on for our second try at the famed Dragon’s Teeth route in Kahurangi National Park, as the COVID-19 outbreak was starting to sweep the country.

The forecast was looking good for three days, but it was going to rain 40mm on Saturday afternoon. We had hoped to be past the high route by the time. After toiling with it for a couple of days, we decided to go for a Plan B.

Marta suggested a Kaimanawa Kaweka traverse packrafting down the Mohaka. Within 24 hours, we had transport and our permit sorted. Thanks to the generosity of AJ, I was able to borrow a raft for the trip. The plan was to start at Kiko Road and tramp to Cascade Hut, then across to Oamaru Hut via the Kaipro Saddle and Stream. From Oamaru, we could access the top of the Mohaka and raft down to McVicar Road.

We set off on a beautiful and hot afternoon, fully loaded with our packrafting gear. I hadn’t carried a load like that since a five day family tramp in Nelson Lakes. The raft was fine, but the paddle, helmet and life jacket all added up. We plodded along the ridge and down to Cascade Hut. It was lovely to be out in the hills. There was a good group of people at the hut, mainly hunters who were very friendly. It was a perfect night and I slept out under the stars protected by the canopy of the beech forest.

The next day we explored Kaipo Saddle and Stream. This route was apparently being discontinued and sections were pretty rough. Further down the river, it started to open out and we saw a few camping spots used by hunters and fishermen. After getting to Oamaru early, we decided to push on and get started on the river. Unfortunately we had a leaking valve on Marta and Paul’s raft that required some of Paul’s engineering skills. We stashed the rafts and headed back to the hut.

Second time lucky, we set off in our rafts down the beautiful Mohaka. The river was so much fun. The rapids were lively enough to pump the adrenaline, but not too scary. There were so many sets of rapids it was like being at the water park with a fast pass to the best ride. In between the rapids we saw heaps of blue ducks and enjoyed the hot pools. We arrived at Te Puia Lodge early and we got to enjoy an afternoon nap before a short trip up to Makino Hut, one of the most beautiful bits of forest I had ever seen.

On the last day we cruised down the river, enjoying more rapids and a relaxing pace of river travel. We dried ourselves and the gear in the sun before Kevin arrived with the car.

What a great journey! Cheers to Marta, Paul and Kevin for helping with transport.

To learn more about the packrafting section of Andy’s trip, click here.


FMC thanks Andy Carruthers for his permission to reproduce this article, first published on his ‘Great Walk Adventures’ blog.