Whitewater rafting is a silly thing to be doing isn’t it? Well really, think about it. Six gullible fools sitting in nothing much more than an inflatable rubber dingy, going up against God and his almighty million gallons per second Zambezi style mega rivers, with nothing much than a paddle that wouldn’t look out of place in your back-yard paddling pool.
Well, in this week’s walk down memory lane I’m stepping back to the days when Dan and I lived on the wet and wild side!
Rafting the Shotover River, Queenstown, NZ
The Shotover River is situated just outside of Queenstown in the south of New Zealand. Apparently, it is one of the world’s most commercially rafted rivers – although you wouldn’t realize it because once on the water you won’t see another soul.
We left our Queenstown base at roughly midday and boarded a minibus which was to take us to the slaughter. We got kitted up in our ridiculous looking wet-suits and underwent x number of training drills which they (and we) hoped would save us in event of a capsize.
So we slowly set off on our little adventure. The first significant rapid was the shark’s fin. The guide hyped it up a little but all of us in the boat were admittedly shitting it! If we were to go the wrong side of the fin the raft would tip!! As it turned out we did go the wrong side of the fin – but got stuck! We were then instructed to bounce, bounce, bounce, – and unfortunately I was on the receiving end of the bounce of a 20 stone native Kiwi! Hilarious (not!).
The next few rapids weren’t really too much and to tell you the truth I was expecting more adrenalin. The last rapid though. That was good. We proceeded through a 200ft long tunnel and upon our emergence we plunged down a 6m drop into a the calmer waters below. Did we flip? Thankfully, no. Our first rafting trip was over and we had survived unscathed.
I’m on the right wearing the grey helmet, with red stripe, and Dan is sat behind me:
Fancy giving it a go? Visit Shotover River Rafting
Rafting the Kaituna, Rotorua, NZ
Rafting the Kaituna, near Rotorua, New Zealand, felt a lot more reckless than the Shotover for some reason. In Queenstown all the activities are almost over-hyped, so much so that they almost feel surreal and the prices are definitely in the sky! So, if you are travelling through New Zealand on a tight budget, don’t worry about missing out on the thrills and spills, just venture away from the ‘hotspots’.
The Kaituna raft took forty-five minutes, over fourteen drops, including a seven-metre waterfall (the world’s highest commercially rafted waterfall!). The river winds through a magnificent bush-lined gorge steeped in Maori history.
Before the raft started we were given the mandatory safety drill, which was good but they couldn’t allay my fears of rafting down the waterfall.
The raft commenced with a number of small drops, to get the adrenalin flowing and the nerves tingling, before pausing to tackle the ‘big one’. Before taking the raft over the waterfall the guide reminded us of what to do should the raft capsize and then with a loud cheer and a war cry we paddled for our lives over the top! Yeah!
Want to do it? Visit Wet ‘n’ Wild Rafting Adventures
Black Water Rafting: Waitomo Caves, NZ
Clothed in rubber with a beacon shining from our helmets, and booties on our feet, we embarked on a breathtaking journey. Never have I felt such calm and comfort in darkness. When I resisted the temptation to turn on my head lamp I noticed the star studded ceiling of the caves. However, these were not stars but glow worms who instantly became a welcome sight to help guide us through the caves.
Floating through the caves, with our rubber clad bottom’s firmly placed in a rubber ring, on an underground river is certainly a unique way to see the magnificent Waitomo Caves!
Our guide was superb and managed to put even the most nervous of characters at ease (though asking us to say hello to ‘Fred the eel’ was a bit much in the dark depths of cave land!). However, we did learn something from Fred – the ‘eel formation floating technique’. This involved hooking our legs around the rubber clad person in front of us and lying back with our head between the booties of the person behind. We then proceeded to float gently down the river taking in the beauty of the glow worm ceiling. This was all well and good until we embarked on a waterfall! We stopped in plenty of time to untangle our limbs from the eel formation and then bravely jumped down the waterfall into the cavern below! The guide rewarded us for our gallant efforts with a chocolate fish (after we’d honked like a bunch of seals!) and we floated on out to daylight.
A visit to the Waitomo Caves was a magical experience, never to be forgotten, and no you don’t need to have a rubber fetish to raft the caves!
Want to do it? Visit The Legendary Black Water Rafting Co.
Sunwapta River, Jasper, Canada
On honeymoon, in British Columbia, back in 1999, we rafted 10km down the Sunwapta River. It was a dark, rainy day and we woke up wondering what to do. Then we figured, well, whatever we do we are going to get wet, so we might as well really go for it and take the to river on a raft.
It took us a scenic hour’s drive to reach the start point and the weather was atrocious. Thankfully, by the time we reached the water’s edge the weather God’s gave us a break and the sun broke through the clouds. It wasn’t a full on rafting experience, grade II to III, but it had to be the most scenically beautiful. Snow peaked mountains towered above us from every angle. The river bubbled downstream under the watchful eyes of hawks soaring above us. Rich, green forest, densely filled the river banks. It was an incredible experience to be amongst such scenery, listening to the water running in our ears as we paddled the rapids.
More information? Visit Whitewater Rafting Jasper National Park
The Kicking Horse River, British Columbia, Canada
This was wild! We rafted 35km down the Upper, Middle and Lower Canyon of The Kicking Horse River. When we arrived the raft guide placed two, beefy, German chaps at the front – but as soon as we got on the water it was apparent they weren’t able to follow instructions and the instructor was desperately getting them to paddle at the crucial moments to get over the rapids without us capsizing!
Before we knew it Dan and I were asked to swap places and take the positions at the front. This canyon was such a buzz to raft down. The scenery was spectacular and the rapids wild. We thought we were going to capsize a couple of times – with the raft folding over in the middle so that at one point I was nearly in the water and couldn’t even see Dan on the other side! Fortunately, we remained in the raft and finished up the experience feeling thoroughly exhausted and very satisfied. Cold and wet we retreated to the comfort of our motel in Banff for a jacuzzi to ease our chilled bones.
More information? Visit Alpine Rafting Company