Features rafting and bike

Published on June 13th, 2017 | by adventuremag


NZ’s first pack rafting and bike packing adventure wins best New Zealand made film at the 2017 New Zealand Mountain Film Festival.

Group of mate’s document unsupported six day adventure through earthquake ravaged region

5 May 2017


A group of mates that documented New Zealand’s first multi-day journey combining pack-rafting and bike-packing through an earthquake ravaged region in the upper South Island have been awarded the Hiddleston MacQueen award for best New Zealand made film at the 2017 New Zealand Mountain Film Festival.

The short film ‘Waiau-toa Odyssey’ documents a six day, unsupported adventure that Christchurch film director Simon Waterhouse and four others made in February this year. By bike-packing and pack-rafting from St Arnaud in the Nelson Lakes, through to Kekerengu on the East Coast, they connected backcountry wilderness tracks and white water rivers through remote parts of the Marlborough wilderness.

The original idea for the film came about when new pack-rafting technology entered the market – inflatable, white-water capable, one person rafts which can be packed down and carried. Seeing what other adventurers had done overseas, expedition team leaders Damian Stones and Deane Parker set about securing sponsorship and planning the journey which combined pack-rafting and bike-packing, something which hadn’t been done in New Zealand before. The expedition was also joined by photographer Grant Stirling and ‘mountain-man’ Samuel Jones.

For Stones it was all about taking his bike to places which would otherwise be hard to access. “The new pack-rafting and bike-packing gear gave us all the tools we needed to get to places and explore terrain that haven’t been ridden before,” he said.

For Parker it was a trip down memory lane, taking him “right back to the days of expedition paddling, which I haven’t done for so long”. Formerly a professional raft guide, it was his first trip down the Clarence River since the massive earthquake which rocked the region.

The original trip plans were literally turned upside down when the Kaikoura earthquake hit in November last year, meaning the planned route was destroyed and the Clarence River was permanently altered by landslides. With very little information they decided to proceed with the trip but to travel further down the river and exit through Bluff Station.

For Waterhouse, participating as an athlete and a film-maker pushed him to the limit. “I knew the trip would be hard at times, but I didn’t realise how far out of my comfort zone I would be,” he said. With little white-water experience he found the river travel intimidating. Minimising weight was critical, as the loaded bikes already weighed thirty kilograms. Carrying only the most minimal camera kit and a tiny drone, Waterhouse still managed to capture the whole journey.

“Having enough camera battery power to last the journey was critical, which came at a cost of weight,” he said. “Once you add an inflatable boat, collapsible paddle and life jacket, my total equipment weight ballooned.” Fortunately for Simon other members of the expedition were more than happy to contribute to bearing the load of film-making equipment, the result an award winning film that documents their amazing effort and the region’s spectacular terrain.

Most of the trip went according to plan, except for one incident which was dubbed ‘the yard sale,’ during which three of the five expedition members flipped their boats on the same rapid. “We managed to have more carnage on one rapid than the whole trip,” Parkers recalls. “We let our guard down; you’ve got to keep your game face on at all times.”

The film was edited by Waterhouse’s production company Resonate in Christchurch. The resulting film is an entertaining action filled 13 minute story about a home grown, boys own adventure. It’s set to premiere at the New Zealand Mountain Film Festival as the highlight of the ‘Pure NZ’ session on Saturday 1st July in Wanaka.

Film Synopsis;

Three adventurers, a film-maker and a photographer set off on a six day, 300km unsupported journey. By combining new bike-packing and pack-rafting technology, they link together white-water rivers and backcountry tracks through some of NZ’s underappreciated wilderness areas. To add to the drama, only months before a massive earthquake changes their plans and reveals opportunities to explore new landscapes.

The Waiau-toa Odyssey was awarded the Hiddleston/MacQueen Award for the Best NZ Made Film for the 2017 New Zealand Mountain Film Festival!

NZ Mountain Film Festival Premiere: 1st July, Main Auditorium, Lake Wanaka Centre 4:00pm

Team: Damian Stones – Project Management / logistics / Media, Deane Parker – Packrafting logistics / raft guide, Sam Jones – Raft guide, Simon Waterhouse – Film Director and Cinematographer and Grant Stirling – Photography / writer


Film Trailer: https://vimeo.com/213605134/056f2a9913

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