An American hiker who had a brush with death in a flooded Tasman river
last month has abandoned his South Island hiking plans, and is now
biking and rafting instead.
US hiker Chris Muse, centre, with LandSAR volunteers Dwayne Lohmann,
left, and Kris Monopoli, right, who rescued him after he was swept down a
flooded tributary near the Motueka River.
Chris Muse, centre, with LandSar volunteers Dwayne Lohmann, left, and Kris Monopoli. Photo: Supplied
Chris Muse, an outdoor guide from Alaska, was swept about 70 metres
downstream after attempting to cross a tributary of the Motueka River,
in early December.
The 30-year-old had been hiking the South Island section of the Te
Araroa Trail, from Ship Cove in the Marlborough Sounds to Bluff.
He said from Murchison this morning that continued poor weather had forced a change in plan.
"And I decided to stop hiking for a little bit and I went to
Christchurch and bought a bike and I've been touring around on that for
the last month."
Muse said he was now biking to rivers in the Nelson Lakes area, on which
he is rafting with an inflatable kayak called a packraft.
"I've been going around and floating down rivers. I figured it was better than trying to cross them."
Muse's close call came on a day during heavy rain when he had already
made several successful river crossings but misjudged the last one
"The flow was so ... so high that a boulder was set loose in front of me
and pushed me back. I lost my footing and luckily I landed on my front
so I was able to execute a few solid swim strokes, and at the flow rate
it swept me probably 50 to 70 metres downriver to the opposite side of
the stream I was on.
"I was able to cling to a boulder just before going into the Motueka (River), which would have ended in certain death."
He managed to clamber to safety but then found himself stuck between two impassable rivers.
Muse activated his personal locator beacon, which sent a message to his
local rescue service in Texas, which then informed the New Zealand
Rescue Coordination Centre.
The weather was too poor to send out a rescue helicopter, but police and
LandSAR volunteers reached him that evening, but were unable to cross
the river until the next day.
A search and rescue volunteer preparing to cross the Motueka River to reach an American hiker in November 2019.
A search and rescue volunteer prepares to cross the Motueka River to reach Chris Muse last November. Photo: NZ Police
Muse said New Zealand was described as a mecca for packrafting which was also "big" in Alaska.
He said his near-death experience was not so much a "knock" to his confidence as a prompt to change his plans.
"I didn't necessarily come here to do the trail (Te Araroa). I was just looking for a bit of a change."
Muse aimed to head south to Queenstown, and was currently on his way to
Westport, by bike. He would be leaving the country mid-March to return
to the United States.
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