For his 30th birthday present, Andrew bought a trip through GrabOne to go canyoning down the waterfalls in the Kauaeranga Valley inland from Thames. The company he went with is called Canyonz, and this is one of two trips they run.
The canyon drops over 300 metres through 10 separate waterfalls, some big some small, in short succession. It was challenging, and scary in parts. But the views were amazing and he had a wonderful time.
The Canyonz van picked Andrew up from the Thames Information Centre, where he joined 5 others from Auckland and the two guides, a 33 year old guy and a 20 year old girl (who do this three or four times a week!) One of the girls was also celebrating her 30th with her husband and cousin. Another guy was from Spain, so Andrew practiced some Spanish with him.
After parking the van near the end of the road in the Kauaeranga Valley, the group geared up and hiked up the hill to the top of the waterfalls. Then they put on the wetsuits, checked that everyone knew how to abseil (rappel), and started down the first waterfall.
The waterfalls were one right after the other, from pool to waterfall to pool to waterfall. The views of Flat Top mountain were impressive, and the high waterfalls down volcanic cliffs were magnificent.
Abseiling down a waterfall turns out to be quite a bit more difficult than regular abseiling. The rope is wet, so it is heavier and bounces you more. The roope is also harder to feed through the carabiner. The rocks are slippery and are slanted in all different directions, including angles to where you don’t want to go, overhangs and slanted ledges. You had to look down to see where to plant your feet, but still most people slipped and had to reposition a number of times.
Two jumps into the pool at the base of two waterfalls were included – a 7 meter (23 foot) jump and a 10 meter (33 foot) jump. The two guides showed a 15 meter (49 foot) jump, and the girl guide did a (suicidal-psycho but amazing) jump from at least 18 meters (59 feet) high. There was a flying fox (zip-line) set up on the spot with two ropes over one waterfall to the opposite bank. At the last waterfall the guides set the rope up artificially short, so that we slid down the safety rope and into the pool.
The group moved fairly quickly, but even so, moving down so many waterfalls took about 6 hours, with lunch at the middle.
Many waterfalls had huge old kauri logs wedged into the rock that remained from the kauri logging days in the 1800s, where rugged loggers felled trees, levered them into the river below a makeshift dam, then let the dam loose, pushing all the massive logs over the waterfalls and downstream. It would have been an impressive sight. It’s little surprise that many logs didn’t survive the journey over the falls.
At the end of the waterfalls, the group walked down the stream to a short path that went back to the van. At the end of the trip, Andrew was exhausted but very happy. Muscles were sore, and he had two spots on his hand where the wet rope feeding through his hand had rubbed all the skin off. The rest of the group drove back to Auckland, and from the photos, we could see that they were very tired too!
We had dinner at a restaurant in Thames at the end of the day to celebrate Andrew’s birthday and a day well spent.