Haidee and I were on a planned four day packraft trip down the Rekifune River. On the second day, we found out the Hokkaido Wilderness Canoe Club were at the Kamui Kotan Campground, for their annual September gathering. I knew a few of the members, to wandered over to say hi.
“We’re hitting the Nubinai tomorrow,” said my friend Ryo. “Why don’t you come along?”
I hastily accepted the invitation, and after a quick vetting by the trip’s leader, we were officially taken into the fold as a guest.
“Since you’ll be a guest, it’s best that you stay at the tail end of the group on the river, but otherwise just enjoy,” said the leader.
So the next day, we drove in convoy with the 40 other paddlers to the put in. Efficiency would be an understatement when it comes to how well organized the club was. Haidee and I were some of the first to arrive at the put in, but the last to leave to drive our car back to the take-out. Everyone was clearly in a hurry to get on the water.
We hurried back to the campground, and there was a car waiting to take us back to the put in.
“This is our largest event in the history of the club,” the event’s leader told us. “43 people in total is a huge number to have on the river at the same time. It should be an interesting day!”
At the put in, it was polite pandemonium.
A really nice, welcoming bunch of people.
After a quick pre-trip briefing on safety and organization on the river, as well as the obligatory group photo, the group peeled off one by one onto the river. We were immediately taken aback at the clarity of the water, despite the relatively high water level.
“I’ve never seen such perfect conditions on the Nubinai before,” Takahashi-san from HokkaiCamp.com mused.
More or less straight from the start, we were busy with swifts and rapids. In the packraft, they were easy and fun. If we had been in our 16ft open-deck canoe, my heart would have been racing a bit more!
With over 35 boats on the water, it was a pretty relaxed pace to say the least. In total, it would take the group over five hours to cover the 11km or so from the put in to the campground. After each set of rapids, everyone would pull up on the side of the river and wait for everyone to safely pass through before the whole group would then carry on again.
The crux of the route came about half way through the day, with a solid Class 3 drop, preceded by a long Class 2+ approach. I sent the drone up to get some footage of the carnage.
“This is the Capsize Festival time,” quipped a number of the paddlers, all leaning over my shoulder to see their mates flounder in the whitewater.
Soon enough, it was time for Haidee and I to send it over the small waterfall. Not a problem at all in the packraft. Would have been quite the different story in our open-deck canoe.
Along the way, there were at least three spots where we had to portage around river-wide strainers. They were easy to spot, but nonetheless dangerous.
Overall it was a thoroughly enjoyable day out with Hokkaido’s longest-running whitewater canoe club – an absolute privilege to be welcomed into the fold for a day. Thank you very much to the Hokkaido Wilderness Canoe Club!