2008-01-30. Mangawenka. Day Fourteen.

Mangaweka was the next stop on my list with my travels with Pacific Challenge group 4. I have been grateful for the leftover food for dinner and for the extra spot on the tour van that would eventually take me to Wellington where I would make my crossing into the South Island.
The road to Mangaweka was feature to vistas of mountain ranges and thousands of hectares of active pastureland. Both sheep and cattle definitely outnumbered the local population of humans as the smell of the air inside the van was rife with manure. We arrived into camp late. Too late to even shower as the campground owners locked the showers at 10pm. We cooked dinner and oogled at the mid summer night’s sky. From our view on the banks of the Rangiteki River we could clearly see the Milky Way, the Southern Cross, the Clouds of Magellan, and the old familiar hunter Orion.
The plan for tomorrow was to rise at a decent time, float the river by raft of sit on top kayak, get hot lunch at the cafe in town, and then to make way for Wellington so that I could catch the evening ferry across the Cook Straight into Picton of the South Island where I had a rental car waiting for me.
I awoke at 6am amped to be sleeping on a river that I knew had fish in it. During my journalling the night before I had attracted many mayflies and caddis flies to my by the light of my MacBook. I was excited.
Upon leaving my tent I was greeted by the sun peeking over the river’s high clay banks, the color of a welcoming gray, and the sound of a rushing river.
I did not hesitate to go straight for my rods and reels. I rigged up my six-weight Winston LT and Ross Cimarron 2 and prepped my Clear Creek water pack, with enough flies to win the war in Iraq, and some water and was off to the river banks.
To my disappointment the river’s rocky shallows had a rusty colored wooly algae growing on the rocks. Could this be Didymo? I meant to not fish in a Didymo infected river on this trip. Didymo is an exotic algae that grows the consistency of wool in the shallows of cold water rivers and streams in New Zealand. It is a nuisance because it affects the ability of Salmonids to spawn because it grows in the areas that this species of fish is most likely to attempt to reproduce in. Inhibiting to the local game fish indeed.
To me fishing is not just catching fish. My Dad began teaching me to be an ever learning student of Mother Nature at a very young age. When I was four or five years old my father was attending university at Winona State University attempting to achieve his bachelors degree in the Environmental Biology option. Dad was commuting from Austin to Winona. His intentions were to get his degree in four years.
My mother was working nights at Younker’s to help keep our family of five from starving. As a family with three children including my sister Tiffany and brother Shawn we suffered through night’s without Dad through tornado’s ripping through our neighborhood and to nights without Mom in blizzards that knocked out our power and subject to the blessing that Mother Nature afforded us.
When Dad was home he would take us fishing as often as he could. Sometimes first to the park in downtown Austin to either sein or catch by hook and line chubs and redhorse to use as bait to fish Northern Pike at Ramsey Dam or to the Cedar River south of Austin and near the Iowa border to catch Smallmouth Bass and Carp or to “Mark’s” pond to fish Largemouth Bass and Bluegills. This was not the whole of it.
Dad would often take me with him when he would go and collect data for class. Often times we would pile into the 1979 Oldsmobile Cutlass Cruiser wagon, with imitation wood paneling, and head out to Austin’s Hormel Nature Center to tromp through the woods in search of bees and maple trees and to experience the wonders that Mother Nature afforded us. In short, instead of watching television, Dad would take us outdoors to appreciate the shining sun and the joys of life that it provides.
I am not a catch fisherman however prefer the label to be a non-catch fisherman. In other words a fisherman that participates in the activity for relaxation, to be outdoors, to get away from the regular routine as well as for a temporary escape, achievement, exploration, and experiencing the joys of Mother Nature.
Either way you look at it I am a specialist in the art of appreciate Trout angling. Either by fly or by nightcrawler or by spinner I “get them trouts.”
As an alternative to catching the fish of a lifetime I choose to appreciate and introduce myself to my new surroundings that I would only have a brief amount of time to spend with.
I first walked downriver to a bend in the river that was topped by a series of riffles and bottomed with a plunge pool. In the eddy of that plunge pool I saw, floating on the water, waht appeared to be large mammilian innerds. The guts and heart of what appeared to be a cow. This grossed me out so I decided to not cross the riffles and to head up-stream.
I found more riffles, algae on the rocks, another plunge pool, and a swinging bridge upstream before calling it a morning on the water at 8.30am. I saw no bugs, no signs of fish, and no blooming flowers. Three of my main concerns of fishing.
I headed back to camp intending to enjoy a rice and Mexican salsa bean with canned chicken chili breakfast accompanied by the finest instant coffee available on the North Island.
I got nominated to drive one of the cans to the take out point of Pacific Challange Group 4’s float. This was my first opportunity to drive in New Zealand and my first time behind the wheels of a Mercedes. Mind you it was a passenger van and was nothing special. In fact, I felt like the driver’s seat was what I had imagined an Army issue Hummer to be like as I was sitting nearly sideways. I had to shift the five speed with my left hand and the roads were windy and hilly. The van pushed along as best it could all the way to the end of the road just over the suspended wooden swinging bridge 100 meters over the Rangitiki River. I parked the van next to a Redwood looking tree and called driving on the North Island good.
After the group packed we stopped in town for some grilled cheese and meat sandwhiches and headed south to Wellington attempting to catch the last Interislander Ferry that had tickets left on it for the evening.
To shorten the story I will tell you that we never made it to the ferry in time. We were on Dave time.
Dave time is a special thing. Dave time is when you are stressed out about a time or appointment or deadline and he is not. Dave Wright is a legendary leader as if the likes of a comic book superhero had climbed out of its pages and rescued the youth of America through experiential outdoor education through Laissez Faire. Even though you’ll never here Dave say it, he is the essence of No Worries. Of any of the men I have met in my life, he is the capitualization of the adage that everything will work out. I found extra space in the groups dorm rooms in the Wellington Youth Hostel. I even found the time to enjoy a bit of Wellington’s night life.
Wellington is a large Rochester in my book. Its got that swanky feel of life however isn’t big and stinky enough to make it feel like a big city. The downtown reminds me of what I imagined Albert Lea’s downtown to be in its hay day. Vivrant and full of life swinging in the good ole days. I enjoyed my one evening there.
I was set to catch the shuttle to the Interislander dock at 7am and told Erika, my traveling mate, to wake me at 6am. I told my bunk mates what my plan was and they set their alarms to help get me up in the morning.
Please click on the image below to see the Mangawenka image thumb nail gallery or slide show.