The Highest Raftable WATERFALL in the WORLD!

Trip Start Mar 01, 2009
Trip End Dec 21, 2009

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Flag of New Zealand  , North Island,
Saturday, March 21, 2009

I'm really not joking. It smelt like the whole town had got a batch of rotten eggs, consumed them all and had been sitting on the toilet ever since. 
As we got closer and closer to the town the smell in the bus got stronger and stronger and by the time we reached the middle I had decided to stay on the bus and return to Auckland. I was however persuaded to get off and put up with the smell for a few days! And even came round to the idea of returning. Of my own free will.

Despite the smell of "sulphur" Rotorua is a pleasant little town. Very sleepy and not a whole lot to do but as an area there was more to do than was possible for time and financial reasons! Whitewater rafting, caving, sky diving, zorbing, bungy jumps - you name it, you could do it around Rotorua! Not to mention the abundance of culture and Geo thermal activity. There are more spas and "sulphur" emitting hot spots that anywhere I've ever been in the world and that aspect of the area was truly fascinating.

The highlight of Rotorua was without doubt the white water rafting we tackled on our second day there. After my first rafting experience in Peru I was talking to a guy who'd lived out here in New Zealand and recommended that I try this grade 5 rafting where there's this huge waterfall. So I got all excited about that. However in my lazy state at the moment where guide books are concerned I had no idea where this rafting was and somewhat hoped it would fall into my lap. And it did just that! On the bus I decided to kill a few minutes and flick through the guidebook and found this amazing rafting was right here where I was headed. So before we'd found our accommodation or anything we headed straight to the iSight center and booked our rafting for the next day. Grade 5 and with the highest commercially raftable waterfall in the world we were on track for some more adrenalin pumping action.
And it was just that. The following day we arrived at the center where the company keeps all the gear and rafts and had a rather brief brief as such! The safety talk was far less complicated and extensive than the one we had in Peru - surprisingly! But we were, well, I was to find out a little later on that they used a far more practical method of demonstrating rescue operations. Anyway, we had out little talk, met our guide, brought our raft to the river and hopped in ready for action. We weren't in the water 5 minutes and we were already down one 3 meter waterfall and one quite tricky 1 meter waterfall. Exciting stuff! It was quite different rafting to the sort I did in Peru in that there were far fewer rapids but simply all nice flowing, narrow river with loads of waterfalls and short but huge rapids. Opposed to a long stretch of tricky but flat rapids.

Sometime after the first lot of waterfalls out guide asked for a volunteer and at the same time as I said OK, Gisele also volunteered me so there was so way out. Our guide told me to put down my oar, stand up - both of which I obeyed and then jump off the raft. There was a moments pause as I calculated his sincerity and how much I didn't want to pop up to the surface to see 3 entire rafts full of hysterical people, laughing at my gullibility but from the look on his face he meant it and so I jumped. I was pleasantly surprised when I did hit the water both at the warmth and the depth. It was a deep green colour and really quite pleasant to swim in - luckily! It turned out he just wanted to demonstrate how to save someone and so hauled me back into the boat and only narrowly avoided being head butted in the crotch due to my still complete unawareness of what was actually going on! I figured it by the time I hit the bottom of the boat.

So safety demonstration completed and we were ready to tackle the big one. We watched the two rafts ahead of us paddle to the edge, there was then a split seconds pause as it started going over the edge and then it just disappeared and finally even the shrieks were muffled by the waterfall. The second raft was given the go ahead and plummeted off the edge in the same fashion. It was then our turn. Oars clenched, feet unloosened and ready to jump off the edge of the boat and securely wedge our selves onto the floor, our guide let go of the rope attached to the cliff and yelled "forward." There was quite a high possibility our raft would flip at the bottom or curl up in front and we would all suddenly find our selves catapulted through the air or under a boat and waterfall. There was also quite a strong possibility we would forget to take a breath as we went over the edge as we were being fully submerged at the bottom would suddenly find our selves with no air. But we couragousely paddled onwards and a few seconds away from the edge when all we can hear is the roar of the water and our final chance of chickening out and leaving the raft was clearly gone (not that I would have considered it!) our guide yells "get in" and we all scramble onto the floor, find our ropes, secure our oars and suddenly we just plummet. Before we know it were under water and it's impossible to tell if your under the boat or on top. The weight of the waterfall is on top of you and the front of the boat is curled up in front and suddenly I realise I'm not holding my oar anymore. Oops. However after a few seconds we pop back up to the surface again and discover we are all still in the raft and the raft is still the right was up and were at the bottom of a 7 meter waterfall. Well minus my oar! So we recover, float away from the waterfall and yet again I have to jump in to retrieve my oar from the guy in the safety kayak who had some how rescued it! And that was that. We'd survived and even stayed in the boat! Looking back up you appreciate the fact that you don't get the chance to see the waterfall from this point before deciding to go over the edge in a boat. You'd wonder why!

The rest of the time on the water we spent swimming, in Gisele's case going down rapids straddling the back of the kayak, standing up in the raft going down rapids, trying to raft up rapids and so almost sinking the raft with water and sitting on the front of the raft while going down rapids and holding on for dear life! Great fun!

It was all over and finished far too fast and we were back in smelly old Rotorua before we knew it. So off to the Polynesian spa for a few hours before meeting up with Mark and Isabel - the WWOOFers from up north to have a great evening catching up, cooking and then locking Gisele in a different room in the hostel by means of wedging the door shut with a spare mattress which she didn't realise until the morning when she opened the door and came face to face with a rather large matress! It was worth waking up for!

Good timing meant we arrived into the town at the same time as two girls I had met both in Bolivia and Argentina so that was good to have a catch up - bit strange as all the times we'd met previously I'd been with Nikki and they'd been with another friend, Alex and we were now in a different continent, the other side of the world and yet we'd both managed to arrive into smelly Rotorua at the same time - weird!

We did some walking around Rotorua which was nice when your senses deadened a little and the rain on our last day seemed to wash the smell away some what which was a relief. The worst was when you were walking along eating and at the same time as taking a bite there was a particularly smelly whiff! Not pleasant!

Todo bien - thats it - just brushing up on a little missed Spanish! Thats my fun and frolics for Rotorua. Amazing rafting! Will have to do some in Asia now to make it even on all continents. Does that mean I'll have to do some in Australia too? Ah well I suppose I'll have to look into it!
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