The Bridge To Nowhere in the Whanganui National Park is indeed an anomoly of crazy land development planning. It does indeed go nowhere. Such a beautiful bridge. To nowhere.
I camped last night on the bridge.
Birdsong in the morning was awesome. Just awesome. Sounds that I have never heard before in the South Island of New Zealand.
An increasingly concerning issue for me during this wee detour into the Whanganui National Park, was my food supply. I was already a day later than I had expected, and I knew that I would not be able to strech my food for more than another two days. I just hoped that it would only take two days at the absolute most to float down the river.
From The Bridge To Nowhere, it was a short ride along nice smooth tracks to the Mangapurua Landing. People who canoe the Whanganui Journey along the Whanganui River will stop at the Landing and visit the Bridge, or tourists will get a jet boat ride up the river from Pipiriki to visit the Bridge (see www.bridgetonowhere.co.nz for details). This means that the track to and from the Bridge to the River is well worn. In stark contrast to the rest of the track.
When I got to the landing, I started work on the raft. First thing, pumping up the tubes. Using a foot pump given to me by Bruce from a few days ago each tube took 15 minutes to inflate. I had to repair a few small punctures (due to falls on the bike during the last few days on the track).
Punctures fixed, tubes tied, and I was ready to depart.
I was feeling pretty cool on my raft and felt pretty smug as mere mortal tourists cruised by in canoes and oooohed and ahhhed at my ingenuity and hardcoreness.
After four hours on the river however, I was not feeling quite as cool. Those canoeists had already arrived at their campsites, and I was still trying to paddle with a growingly painful headache. My legs were surprisingly warm, despite hanging in the water for the entire time. It wasn’t until I pulled to the bank for a break after four hours that I realised that they were just numb. I could hardly walk for 5 minutes as I regained feeling.
The river is not always as tranquil as in the photos above. There are regular rapids (1 to 1.5 grade) that require some paddling skills. Certainly fast enough to get my pulse pumping.
At one stage, I spent 30 minutes floating around and around in circles, caught in a massive eddy. If not for the help from Joe from the Ramanui Lodge (Bridge To Nowhere Lodge), who was upstream in his jet-powered barge checking on his horses, I may have still been circling a week later. He came to the rescue and gave me a tow out using his jet boat.
After the ‘rescue’ the headwind started. It was an agonsing two hours to cover the remaining few kilometers to the Lodge. At this rate, I was definitely going to run out of food before getting to Pipiriki; the next road that I planned to cycle out of the park on.
Due to the ‘rescue’ my fame went ahead of me to the lodge. Across the river from the lodge is the DOC campsite, but I didn’t realise this, and ended up on the Bridge To Nowhere Lodge side of the river. THe river was swift at this point, and there was not much chance of me getting across to the DOC site for some free camping. I sucked it up and made the trek up to the lodge, ready to try to talk my way into being able to camp on their property for free.
Joe and Mandy, the owners of the Lodge were having nothing of it. “You’re a madman!” Joe spouted as he shook my hand with a vice-like grip. “But good on you!”
They took pity on me, and I was shown to the bathrooms for a warm shower, they fed me, and I was mercifully spared from having to camp in the back yard with ‘the zoo’ (ponies, llamas, peacocks, chickens, dogs), and I was able to set my tent up on the front lawn with an amazing view of the river below.
The Bridge To Nowhere Lodge is amazing luxury accommodation in the middle of Whanganui National Park, accessable only by jet boat or canoe. Just incredible.