Postcard From The Waikato River


Caught up in the moment: Mandy Page finds yet another way to get stuck while paddling down the Waikato River.

Caught up in the moment: Mandy Page finds yet another way to get stuck while paddling down the Waikato River.

Travel agent Mandy Page (GC handle: PageNZ) – best known for her international geocaching expeditions – drops us a line after paddling New Zealand’s Waikato River.

“Nineteen caches all of level five terrain and a difficulty rating of 2.5? Bring it on!

The calm before the storm: Enjoying a moment of serenity.

The calm before the storm: Enjoying a moment of serenity.

By 9am Saturday morning, our kayaks were on the water for the Forgotten Highway series (GC43MH9 to GC43NYY) in the North Island of New Zealand. 

Seven of us – Team Welsh (my sister Tracey), Zorgon (Mr & Mrs), Boges (Senior and daughter) with cache owner Cats&Dragons and myself – took on the challenge of kayaking from Cambridge to Hamilton to nab these 19 caches.

With jade water, emerald banks and blue sky, peace just descended like a comfortable blanket. The Waikato River was running at five knots which meant even during rest periods the current carried us swiftly toward Hamilton.

This forward movement was grand until we overshot caches and had to paddle back to make a landing – a wee bit too much talking but with more than 20,000 caches between us all, there was a lot to discuss.

The boss: Cats&Dragons

The boss: Cats&Dragons

Expedition guide Steve (GC handle: Cats&Dragons) led from the rear ensuring all health and safety procedures were in place – although once he got the measure of my awkwardness on the water, he was a little preoccupied by my comic antics.

Chief navigator Zorgon did a superb job of getting us from cache to cache. (“How far to the next one? Two kilometres? You’re not joking?… Oh well, paddle on chaps.”) His wife was the auxiliary power in their double kayak.

Boges, our search and research expert, took a laidback approach, despite knowing the reputation of Aucklanders in extreme terrain and having had the pleasure of getting some of us off mountain sides. (See the logs for GCZ3AX A Night of Terror in the Hakarimatas from November 2011).


One down, 18 to go: Signing one of the Forgotten Highway series logbooks.

Team Welsh was first mate, while I provided the comic relief.

Who knew there was so many embarrassing ways to get out of and back into a kayak? Vanish in the mud to your knees; crawl down the kayak spine; trap yourself (and your vessel) in hidden weed/rock/branches/sand; and my all-time favourite, balance on the edge of the kayak until the craft rejects you with a vicious sideways rock.

Cat&Dragons had carefully hidden their bomb-proof Forgotten Highway caches above small beaches or landing areas beyond the river’s highest known level. All 19 were consistently well placed and even a vertically challenged person like myself could reach them easily.

My favourite hide was probably the last one, as it was the hardest to retrieve – having to be collected from under the noses of some teenage muggles. Upon landing, Zorgon engaged this group of boys by taking their photos as they jumped from the bank into the river. Whilst he kept them busy, I landed and moved left toward the cache; Team Welsh stayed on the rock ledge with Cats&Dragons to direct me to its hiding spot.

Team effort: Five of the seven intrepid explorers.

Team effort: Five of the seven intrepid explorers.

Suddenly, the teenagers decided they would like to hitch a ride down the river on our kayaks. Zorgon came into his own as he further tried to distract them with action photos.

I then needed to answer the call of nature at GZ – what can I say? The usual covers of environmental inspector, or geology professor weren’t going to be in these lads’ vocabulary. On to the cunning disguised cache; I honestly thought it was rubbish.

So, our rating for this series? 10/10. A great adventure down the river, beautiful New Zealand scenery, interesting history and all those smileys – although I understand it’s not about the numbers.”

XTD*If you’re interested in joining Tours Direct’s second geo-expedition to Singapore and Cambodia from July 20-29, visit the Auckland-based company’s website. The nine-day trip – being led by Page’s sister, Tracey Welsh (GC handle: Team Welsh) – costs NZ$3980 per person and includes visits to Angkor Wat and Angkor Thom, a boat ride on Tonle Sap Lake, geocaching events in three countries (Auckland, New Zealand, Singapore and Cambodia) as well as the opportunity to cache in Malaysia.

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