Drowning in fun!

Trip Start Oct 13, 2011
Trip End Jun 07, 2012

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Flag of New Zealand  , North Island,
Sunday, February 12, 2012

Conor – Well the post title puns are coming thick and fast now!

So Taupo is home to New Zealand's largest lake, and the kiwi bus advises everyone stops two nights here, mainly so we can do either a skydive, bungee jump or both. We booked the two days, but had decided to do both those things elsewhere, so we had a fair bit of time to kill. On the one full day Annabel was keen to get up a do something so we got up to go for a long walk around the beautiful lake. Well, it had started to rain. A lot. So we just walked down to the lake briefly, in time to see an old local finish his morning swim! After that we sought shelter in the local museum, which had a pretty good collection of Maori and pioneer history and was notable for housing a winning NZ entry to the Chelsea flower show (I really sounded quite like a guide book then didn’t I!). After that we had a brief look around town and bought some Latin American phrase books; South America is starting to look very close indeed. In the afternoon the weather cleared up a bit so Annabel, me and Aaron and Sarah decided to head down to some hot pools that you can swim in. The book implied that they were only a 20 minute walk away, well this turned out to be nearer an hour, but we used the time to continue learning Spanish!

The hot pools themselves were pretty cool (pun intended). A thermally heated stream runs into a main river, and if you can find the right sweet spot its nice and warm. I didn’t get in the hot pools as I wasn’t really up for swimming but from watching the others I could tell it was quite hard to find that sweet spot, it was either too hot or too cold. I also quite enjoyed watching the three of them having to talk to a really spaced out local guy who was obviously high on something! Aaron did his best to communicate with him, but ended up getting nowhere fast! After that we made our way back to the hostel and went to the pub for the evening.

The next morning we all woke up to head off to a stop called River Valley. This unfortunately was our first experience of how busy the Kiwi bus is at the moment. Aaron and Sarah had attempted to book out of Taupo for the same day as us, but had been put on a waiting list. As it turned out there were four people on the list, and only two spare spots on the bus. Despite being told before that they were first on the waiting list, the bus driver arbitrarily decided they weren’t going on his bus (we think because he knew one of the other people on the wait list) so Aaron and Sarah were unable to join us. It was all a bit upsetting for them as they were left without anybody they knew, but alas the bus moved on and we had to go with it.

Anyway, moving through some beautiful country towards River Valley, a secluded hostel in the middle of nowhere. The main activity here is white water rafting, which was to happen the following day. There was also the chance to do some horse riding which Annabel had been really looking forward to. But, as we got nearer, the weather turned very nasty again and it rained. And rained hard! No horse riding today. As it was the hostel was in an amazing setting, so we weathered out the rain by looking out the window and being taught to play Swedish Snap by our two new Swedish friends. The dorm room at the hostel was a 32 man monster of a room, so despite going to bed relatively early we were woken up by a very drunk group of British guys, which was funny for about the first 5 minutes. After half an hour it was less so!

Come the morning we all got up ready for our day in the water, and amazingly it had stopped raining! We assembled pretty early (after the British guys were hauled out of bed) and where driven down to the start point. After a pretty funny briefing we ended up being in a raft with two girls called Jo and Jodi (easy to remember!) and a rafting instructor with an amazing moustache called Brian who was obviously a pro! He gave us a rundown of how not to kill each other with the paddles and what to do if we were about to flip over. This basically involved everyone dog piling to one side of the raft! After a short slide down a hill we were into the water and away.

The whole course lasted about an hour and a half and had a whole heap of different rapids, up to grade 5 which is the highest level you can do without training. Before we started properly we had a chat with Brian who cheerfully let us know that he was not a fan of everyone falling in (good news) and also that people had died on this trip down the rapids (less good news). Jodi seemed pretty keen to keep herself above water and got quite amusingly flustered after hearing about the deaths!

We did the first few rapids with no issues and we got to one point where we were supposed to 'surf’ a rapid. This basically involved going over the rapid, turning around and then rowing as hard as you could to try and get the front end up. As we got to the rapid Brian gave a call for everyone to go forward and in her haste Jodi basically rammed Annabel off the front of the raft!! It was all over in a flash, one moment she was there and the next her feet were disappearing over the side! Unfortunately for Annabel she was stuck between the raft and the rapid, so her only option was to go under the boat and surface further downstream, which was probably not pleasant. It certainly took her a few minutes to get herself together afterwards!

We carried on down the rapids doing things like 360 spins, bouncing off rocks, going over like 4 rapids in a row and other mental stuff like that! At one point we got to the second hardest rapid and all the instructors got a little bit more serious (there where about 8 or 9 boats in all). They had instructors posted on rocks down the rapid just in case, which made everything seem a little bit daunting! Anyway, the group of British guys were actually being instructed by Brian’s daughter, also a rafter who hadn’t been at work for a few weeks. As the rapids change really quick as rocks move etc she took some advice from her Dad before heading down and…got completely the wrong end of the stick! We couldn’t quite see it ourselves but the raft flipped half way down and threw everyone out in all directions. One of the guys got bashed off a few rocks and was pretty shaken up, and another managed to clamp himself to a rock so he needed to be rescued. It was evidently pretty serious as we had instructors diving in all over the place! So after all this excitement we had to do the same rapid. No pressure.

As it turned out it was really quite easy. Not sure how it went so wrong for the others! But I imagine that was due to Brian’s expert steering.

Not long after that we cruised under a waterfall and then got to the jumping rock. This was quite straightforward, an 8 metre drop off a rock face into a narrow stretch of rapid water. Simple. Actually it was pretty high when you got up there, but being us we both took the plunge and typically really enjoyed it! However Annabel was less pleased when I worked out that the Nevis Bungee jump is 16 times higher. She’s getting pretty scared about the bungee at this point!!

Anyway, that was the last major bit of the rapids so, just as the rain started again we got back to the lodge, got the boats out and peeled ourselves out of the wetsuits . All in all the rafting was a hell of a lot of fun, well worth doing and only had a slight risk of death or crippling injury. A pretty standard day in New Zealand!
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