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In calmer waters down the Rangitikei

January 18, 2010

It had been a day hotter than originally forecasted and I was beginning to feel it. Mid-afternoon and the sun’s heat had long ago swept through the valley and hills, browning new growth in its wake. I stood  in the only shady part on the riverbank  busy concentrating on what should have been a simple task.  My mind was too preoccupied to notice that a  band of moisture sat across my forehead. It was hot and I was in a sweat. Like soldiers on attack, these beads had gathered in formation and were rapidly descending past my brows and, one by one, into to my eyes.

My fingers were  fumbling with a handful of black plastic buckles and clasps unable to wipe my eyes.  Patience had left me. Sucking in my breath and counting to ten, I tried to clasp the buckles together for the last time — and  failed. It was time to face  reality and show some form of intelligence —  I was never going to squeeze into a life jacket fitted for a ten-year old. I had to loosen the straps.

The decision to take a raft trip down the Rangitikei River was by a group of women — including my mother — who I had recently become acquainted with over an exercise cycle, a row machine and a series of other machines housed in a local fitness centre. It was a warm sunny morning, the first in over a week, when the idea for a short easy trip down the river came up.  Being the youngest in the group I was the last to agree – naturally.

Not to be outdone by my seventy plus mum — who, while busy striding on the treadmill, nonchalantly agreed to the raft ride — I knew I had to step up to the mark. Water was something I had successfully avoided since my last disastrous splash in Laos’s Vang Vieng  River several years earlier. But despite a few minor apprehensions I had to do it, making sure that this time it would be in calmer waters.

by Cate

Tricia, one of the owners and professional life jacket fitter, adjusted my jacket correctly before the group were given some easy to follow instructions about paddle use. Then  into the cool shallow water of the Rangitikei and onto the raft where I sat on its edge, gripping a paddle, happy about my return to the water; it had been a long time in between trips.

Like all water activities the chances of getting wet are pretty high and within minutes of setting off on the tranquil waters, I was soon initiated. It wasn’t a sweep-me-over-the-side wave but more like a dunk for old time’s sake. Big enough to douse the lower half of my body and slosh the insides my sneakers, and bring back memories of rafting the Shotover and Kawarau rivers in Queenstown.

The group quickly settled into a routine of chatter and paddle, listening for instructions from Laura our American guide, while soaking in the dramatic pale grey cliffs that dominate the river region. One hour on the river was enough to test out  my repressed adrenaline, relax with a group of new friends and cool down from the day’s heat.

This trip was unique if not special because the only people on the river were those in my raft and Tricia with her daughter Kelsey paddling along side. Rafting on New Zealand waters is a popular activity, but rafting on a river minus other commercial operators competing for business, enhanced the experience. There were no speeding jet boats or vanloads of tourists standing on the riverbanks awaiting their turn. There were no observation decks or bus loads of passengers clicking cameras. There was, however, something that can only be found in heartland New Zealand — locals being locals — camping, sitting around on camp chairs talking or reading, paddling their inflatable kayaks on the river for some fun, or maybe finding a quiet hole and fishing. But for most of the journey, there was no one around, only the sounds from the river, the occasional  sheep, and the chatter of the group sharing in the fun.

by Cate

And just when I wanted more, our  journey came to an end. Around the last bend in the river we headed to the finish line, under a bridge and onto the rocky riverbank.

by Cate

Feeling revitalised from the short burst of energy, I turned to the older and bolder bunch in the raft. I sensed they didn’t need me  to ask them about the trip, their faces said it all.

taken by Viv Eames

And I learnt something besides getting back in the raft — age doesn’t have to set  limits on how  much fun you give yourself  in a day, or in your life.

Trip Information

Mangaweka Adventure Company is located in the township of  Mangaweka, 21 kilometres  south of the  township Taihape. For more information on available trips, check out  their site here: Mangaweka Adventure Company

This trip was complimentary. My thanks to Paul and Tricia, at Mangaweka Adventure Company, Laura  for her stories while guiding me down the river, and to the group of ladies who taught me a few things about life as well as living.

Caffeinated Traveller

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6 Comments
  1. January 18, 2010 9:25 am

    I love this story and especially that final photograph. Sounds like a beautiful trip and what a great experience to share with your mother.

  2. January 18, 2010 2:24 pm

    Like Mara, I loved reading this story. Especially your last comment about age. Totally agree! Age is no excuse to pass up fun adventures like river rafting.

  3. Catherine permalink
    January 18, 2010 10:05 pm

    That last photo says it all – what a great shot – I have had my one and only white water rafting experience in NZ – it was exhilarating but strangely I have no desire to repeat it …ever!!

  4. January 19, 2010 1:46 pm

    looks amazing! I did white water rafting in Connecticut and Colorado and it was a lot of fun!

  5. January 20, 2010 5:00 pm

    Catherine – I can understand your thinking, although some raft trips are more like a gentle float downstream. Maybe someday you will be back on the raft 🙂

    Adrianna – would like to raft in both these places as well..lucky you.

    Erica and Mara – are you both toying with the idea of some action watersport?

  6. January 20, 2010 9:17 pm

    As usual, I love your pictures. My son has been making me watch the Appendices of The Lord of the Rings. There are hours and hours of them: how they made the movie and chose locations etc. And so my interest in New Zealand has intensified over the last few weeks. We were both thrilled to look at All of your pictures. Never stop taking photos. What a gift you have!

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