What's an H between friends?

Wanganui Travel Blog

 › entry 10 of 31 › view all entries
At the start. Not even wet yet
"Wh" in Maori pronunciation comes out as "F".  This makes for some good old fashioned belly laughs about a lot of New Zealand towns with Maori names, like Whakatane, that one especially because Tane means Man.

However, over on the West Coast of the North Island lies Wanganui and there has been debate going on for some time about the correctness of the name of the city, which was originally called Whanganui by local Maori.  The confusion here is because the local dialect has a very light, or non-existent "F" sound for Wh (almost like English as used in the word "where"), so the Europeans spelled it's name Wanganui.

Oddly enough, the river that flows through the town has the correct local Maori spelling and when I was part of a group of adventurers setting off down the river in Kayaks several years ago, I have to admit the two different spellings had me confused.
Emptying kayaks after white water

It seems now that the NZ Government is finally looking to correct the misnomer and return the H to it's rightful place.  Unfortunately this generation of residents are polarized by the idea and there is currently much Hoo-Haa Happening.  HaHaHa (okay, that's enough of the H thing).  April 2009

Anyway, I'm here to talk about the Whanganui River trip I was part of back in 1994.  It was a work thing where we used to take kids who were on the verge of going bad if they hung out with the wrong friends over the long Christmas/Summer holidays. 
  It wasn't always kayaking but always something to challenge the boys, move them from their comfort zone and help them realise a bit more of their potential.  Often their families couldn't afford to pack them off on such adventures so it was all part of the organisation that no financial contribution was expected.
Farmers abandoned the land they had cleared and the bridge never used

  My role was as a supervisor and as I'd recently returned from 12 months in the UK I was ready for another adventure myself!

We spent four days on the river paddling, tackling white water rapids (of a relaxed nature), staying in Dept of Conservation huts, and cooking for each other as we stopped for meals.

One of the interesting points we saw was "The Bridge to Nowhere".  The Government built the bridge when land owners were trying to clear the bush for farming.  Life and the task were too tough and in the end they abandoned the site leaving the bridge sitting in the middle of dense bush as a reminder of the power of Mother Nature.

Another thing that surprised me was a place we stopped for lunch one day that was littered with sea shells.
Joined by a family in their Canadian
  It seemed too far from the sea to me but I guess at some point in the history of this land salt water may have flowed that far up.

It was a great week and I was impressed with the changes in attitude I saw in the boys who began as staunch, show-offs but progressed to being part of the team and grew socially with every passing day.  That's what I call success!

The Whanganui River features in the recent film, "The River Queen" starring Keiffer Sutherland.  It shows a little of the importance, to local Maori, this water way was.

Join TravBuddy to leave comments, meet new friends and share travel tips!
At the start. Not even wet yet
At the start. Not even wet yet
Emptying kayaks after white water
Emptying kayaks after white water
Farmers abandoned the land they ha…
Farmers abandoned the land they h…
Joined by a family in their Canadi…
Joined by a family in their Canad…
Bridge to nowhere.
Built when b…
"Bridge to nowhere". Built when …
Stopping for a swim
Stopping for a swim
photo by: pinkpeardrops