Mystic river: Canoeing a living entity in New Zealand

The Whanganui is so important in Maori culture it has the legal rights of a person. A canoe trip along its forested valley proves a great way of getting to know it

If my canoe makes a noise when I smash sideways into the rock, I don’t hear it. The rapids drown everything. For a moment the canoe is stationary, then it fills with water and tips me out. I try to swim to the bank but make no headway against the current. I remember that the Maoris say their ancestors dwell in the river and I wonder if I am about to become intimately acquainted with them.

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