Trip Start Nov 01, 2005
Trip End Apr 14, 2006

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Friday, December 2, 2005

After leaving the internet cafe yesterday, I went to a restaurant for a nice lunch with Libby and Maria- they didnt seem too interested in seeing the city, so we took our time (well- the restaurant took their time) and I didnt get out til an hour before we had to leave! So I just wandered around, taking photos of the Cathedral and botanical gardens (which were really just like the parks we get in cities in England) but the whole city/town was reassuringly like England- they even designed the Arts Centre to look like a Cambridge college- and they didnt do too badly. We took the bus to the Rangitata camp- and it was raining, so all but 2 of us paid extra to sleep in a 10-bed dorm inside that night. Definitely worth it.

The day after, most of us decided to go white water rafting- Rangitata is one of the best places to do it, as it has the longest commercial grade 4/5 rapids in New Zealand. About 8am the guides prepped us about our morning, kitting us out in close fitted tops, fleeces, wetsuit bottoms (like those fishing trousers), splash jackets, lifejackets and helmets (evidently it was going to be cold). The main guide, Ben was very jokey and said with worryingly seriousness that the guides had no idea what they were doing, so we'd better just hope for the best. He made us all laugh, although didnt exactly put our minds to rest!

We took a bus down to the river (which incidently was where Liv Tyler gallops across the river on a horse with aragorn to find Orlando Bloom in LOTR) and split into 3 rafts of 6, with a guide each (who inconspicuously steered and was in control the whole time). We drove past lots of deer (who had some babies that looked like Bambi) and lots of sheep on the way. The first 30 minutes of the rafting was on really calm water, while Steve taught us how to paddle properly, and what to do if a. we fell out b. we fell out and couldnt get back in the raft c. the raft tipped over and we all fell in. It was quite a lot to remember, but it seemed that if you did fall in, all you could do was the 'economy' white water rafting and ride it out til calmer water!

We went through our first bit of rough water- it felt bumpy under our feet, and it was quite fast- when we got past, Steve said we'd soon be getting to some baby rapids- what we'd just gone over were nothing! Throughout the rapids, Steve would shout at us (not really loud enough for me and Andrew to hear at the front though) to 'paddle forward! Hold on! or Get down!' Before we got to the grade 5 rapids (the first bit was quite short but still impressive), we all got out, climbed to the top of a rock and watched the photographers raft go down (unfortunately they made a mistake- one person got thrown out, and then they got stuck in an eddie!) and we had the choice of walking around if we didnt feel up to it- but what would be the point in that? We all clambered back in, and off we went- no turning back now! Fortunately Hil passed on the message that I'd missed- to lean right when we were in the rapids, and I think that saved us from tipping over! We apparently were a bit close to a certain rock, so we were really really close to tipping over- I didnt see (I think I had my eyes shut) because I felt like I had just had 5 buckets of water chucked in my face! We all leaned to the right through, so we eventally righted ourselves, and drenched but laughing, reached calmer waters safetly.

The later Grade 5 rapids were a bit longer- not quite as exciting because we didnt have any more near capsizing experiences, but just as fast, and we definitely got just as wet. It was such a great experience and soo much fun!

We paddled down a bit further, and reached a 10m cliff that our guide said we could jump off if we wanted- only 5 of us did it, but Libby and I counted down 3, 2, 1 and jumped off together- it was a long long way down... and the force of the water at the bottom made it go up your nose and out your mouth without you even realising anything had happened! The water was icy cold though, and it was a shock to the system when you got in the water. Needless to say, we ran back up and did it again- this time it hurt my feet when I landed such was the force. Our arms went completely numb but i'm glad I did it!

We rafted back to the end of the course, although everything seemed tame after our grade 5 rapids, and then got the bus back up to the lodge- it was nice to return to where we'd been staying the night before and being able to have a hot shower. 5 mins before we had to go though, I was looking for my purse to buy a crunchie and couldnt find it anywhere.. if I lose my purse, I have no money, nor anyway of getting any money! But Rachel found it behind the sofa luckily... I dont know what I would have done if she hadnt have found it! No idea how it got there!

After a longish drive (past some ostriches?) and a stopoff at Lake Tekapo (which was absolutely amazing- exactly why I came to New Zealand) a lot of us decided to take the scenic cycle ride into the camp, along the hydro canals. We had to start off 2k along a busy road though, and a lorry passed me about a foot away from me, really fast- I was hit by this wind and since I didnt even know it was there, it was a bit of a shock. The sun had come out by then, and despite it being a long straight road, there were amazing views of the mountains, and then there was a really really steep windy hill down to lake Puneki which I went down without using the brakes so went really fast! And as we came round this corner, you just see this enormous expanse of the blue lake, with the mountains in the background. Its so beautiful here! Unfortunately there was a problem with my bike, and no less than 16k into the 35k cycle, my pedal fell off. No joke. Just came off in the middle of the road. Well what on earth do you do? We waited for Libby and Libby to catch us up, and since we didnt have phones with credit on them, one of them and Maria cycled off ahead to tell Grant to come and pick me up, while the other waited with me. Fortunately we managed to flag down a passing car, and not only were they driving past our campsite but they also had a bike rack! They put it on the back of the car, and drove me all the way there- they were a British family who had been living in New Zealand for the last 30 years and were really nice! I couldnt believe they'd just happily pick up a stranger (plus bike) but I guess its safer here than in England. We missed the campsite, and so had to turn around, but we found it eventually, and the campsite was no more than a hill overlooking this stunning lake, again with all the mountains in the background.

I opted for a swim in the ice cold lake (yes, I swum in a glacier lake) instead of helping out with dinner like I was meant to (ahem) and had a nice dinner of BBQ with really fresh corn on the cob. The sunset was lovely over the mountains, and I shared a tent with Libby (assistant guide) because she couldnt be bothered to put up a tent :D
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