254 Days on the Road
As a group of about 20 rafters gather around a long wooden table in front of the River Valley Lodge’s bar, a French Canadian guide starts yelling orders as quickly as a TV advertisement going through disclaimers. He’s just getting straight into the tone of the white water rafting trip: someone will shout orders at you, you will follow, and oh yeah, your guide will be a little bit quirky.
“Your first layer will be this,” he holds up a sexy striped thermal layer then throws it on top of one of the rafter’s head until he has gone through all the gear will be wearing: thermal, fleece, thick wetsuit, booties and helmet (and some poor customer is underneath a pile of clothing).
With that, we are walking through the outside changing area with various guides eyeing our sizes and loading us up with the appropriate gear. Suited and booted, we are ready to hit the rapids of the Rangitikei River!
Let the River Valley adventure begin!
We have been super stoked to do this white water rafting trip ever since we started this 365 Days: 365 Activities. Hidden on the the edge of the Ruahine Forest Park, River Valley is an adventure lodge with white water rafting being just one of the ways to “chill out” here.
Now, on Day 254, we’re finally sat on a bus trailering a stack of rafts. The drive takes us even more off the beaten track, down bumpy gravel roads, past a school where the kids and the guides throw finger gestures at each other (not of the rude kind, that would be kind of inappropriate), then one of the guides starts acting like Chewbacca at the front of the bus… Like we said, some of these guides are a little bit quirky! Looks like we’re in for a pretty hilarious trip.
Our white water rafting team assembles!
After a drive of stunning views and River Valley staff hilarity, we arrive at our launching point into the Rangitikei River. All 20 or so rafters get on one raft for a group photo, then one of the guides goes through a safety briefing: what to do if you fall out of the raft, etc. etc. From there, we are splitting into groups of four or five to make a white water rafting dream team. Our team consists of Robin, Laura, CJ, Lisa, Craig and our guide, Kirk from the U S of A!
First things first, we have a river to get into but we are high on a river bank right now…
“Move your raft forward,” Kirk yells while the nose of the raft hang off the edge of the grassy bank. “Now, get in!” First adrenaline activity of the day: sliding down a bank in a raft! Now, we carry the raft into the water, get in, and Kirk starts going through the paddle commands. This is where we need to work together as a team and do exactly as Kirk commands. One wrong stroke of the paddle or unnecessary lean and we’re swimming!
See you on the flip side!
One command is “Jump left!” or “Jump right!” – something we totally nail after the first set of small rapids, only… there is absolutely no need for it and we flip on the spot! Noooooo! We have lost our white water rafting-flipping virginity! At least it’s not in the middle of a grade 5 rapid. There’s plenty of opportunity for that later…
As if the Rangitikei River was actually designed for white water rafting, the rapids we hit go up in grades gradually, grade 3 being the start of starting to sh*t your pants a little bit when you see the amount of rocks to negotiate.
“Forward, team! Left! Stop! Right! Stop! Lean left!” The quicker the commands come through, the more panicked yet determined we become to not f*ck the rafting up. In white water rafting, you are not a passenger but an active participant in this adventure. If you slack off, chances are that you and your team will become a slave to the river!
Squeezing through “The Narrows” – just another stunning spot on the Rangitikei River
Tasting the Rangitikei River… Literally!
But don’t worry, there are plenty of opportunities to make the river your b*tch too. Kirk commands us to paddle into a rapid we just came down(?!). As we are at the front of the raft, we get the full force of the water pushing the front of the raft down. Ahhhh! Kirk manoeuvres the boat so everyone gets a taste of that clean and clear Rangitikei water.
Majestic river gorge
There are plenty of opportunities to see actually how clear that water is on long calm stretches of the river. When we are not riding rapids between huge rocks, we get the time to appreciate how majestic this river canyon is! For almost the entire time, our rafts are made to look so small between towering gorge sides decorated in vibrant green moss, determined trees growing out of cracks, and trickling waterfalls.
Going for a swim
People start jumping out of the rafts ahead of us. Robin turns to Kirk, “Can I jump out?!” Before Kirk as barely had time to answer, Robin has leapt from the raft and is floating beside us. It doesn’t take long for the rest of us to follow.
Now for the big and badass rapids
After a beautiful section of the river aptly named “The Narrows”, we need to get back into the swing of things for the grade 3-5 rapids. These are the big ones: sections of tight squeezes while the magnificent force of the water pounding in between.
As practiced pretty excessively by now, the commands start coming in fast, often followed by: “Get down”. This is the part when we go down a drop not knowing if we’re going to make it! Making it to the calm pool afterwards gives leaves us exasperating with relief. Then we get the equally fun part of watching the rest of the rafts come through either smoothly, not so smoothly, or actually getting so wedged on a rock that everyone has to get out of the raft while the guides release the raft. Hilarious!
A photographer stationed further down the river (who we nearly raft into a few times) snaps up the mad moments like flying down a rapid called the “Long Drop”, “Slip”, “Max’s Drop” and “Pin Ball Canyon”.
Fun flips and rapids to the face
Once we have made it over the last set of huge rapids, it’s our final time to play! We rafts into the bottom of a rapid, all lean forward and get our faces splashed to sh*t! Next, we all sit at the back of the raft, paddle directly towards a wall, and flip over backwards.
Unbelievable river scenery, adrenaline-pumping rapids and drops, heaps of time to mess around in and out of the raft, hilarious guides… River Valley white water rafting has sure got the “fun” factor going here. We arrive right back at the River Valley Lodge beaming from such an insane and well-balanced trip. Amazing!
We spend the rest of the day (and night) at the River Valley Lodge’s riverside accommodation, soaking up the sun, sandflies and awesome valley views.
Tomorrow, join us on dry land with a River Valley horse trek!
The facial expression says everything
Have you read yesterday’s post about climbing to Cape Palliser Lighthouse? How about these articles:
- 13 Most Unique Backpacker Hostels in New Zealand
- 7 Places to go White Water Rafting in New Zealand
- Manawatu-Wanganui – Guide for Backpackers
See you tomorrow!