White River Rafting on the Rangitaiki

Since we went White River Rafting in Nepal (and Mike went again in Costa Rica) we knew it was an activity we both enjoyed the thrill of. We had originally been booked on a river nearer to Rotorua which was now closed due to flooding but were instead being taken to the Rangitaiki with grade 5 rapids. Rapid grading goes from 1-6 with 6 being off limits so 5 is the toughest you can do. Previously we had only done 3/4 so this was going to be quite extreme!

We had a nice lay in and got into Rotorua town centre where we where being picked up. We parked in a car park opposite and put in money for 5 hours. The machine however only expected for 3 hours. So we put two tickets in the car with a note and hoped for the best!

A mini bus pulling a raft turned up and us and 2 others got in, two more where already in the van. We had an hour drive to the river where on the way we were briefed and given safety talks and what to do if you fall out! One of the guides would be in a kayak for safety in case anyone did.

We pulled in at a little holiday park and suited up into our wet suites and boots. Then we hoped back into the van and drove another 20 minutes through the woods to the river. At one point we hit a massive rock or something, but the van kept going so we didn’t worry. We arrived at little clearing with the river Raytiki going round a bend. We got our life jackets, helmets and paddles while the guides pumped up the raft. Our guide gave us some quick instructions and we were off.

Our raft consisted of 5 people and the guide, with the other guide kayaking. The river started calm and we got to practice what we had just been taught. Paddle forward; paddle back; hold on and get down. Simple.

We had been told the toughest rapids (level 5) were at the beginning. And they sure weren’t lying! We could hear them coming from quite far off. Our guide began yelling instructions and we obeyed. Freezing cold water crashed into and over us as we rocked about in the rapids. Paddle forward, left side only… right side back, get down! We all jumped into the middle and held on. It felt for about 10 seconds that we were underwater as there was that much water going over us. No sooner had they started than they were finished, 2 sets of level 5s and no one and fallen out! We raised our paddles and clashed them together to celebrate.

The next set of rapids came around the corner. Suddenly our guide was bucked and thrown from the raft! He looked as shocked if not more than the rest of us, as we all looked at each other thinking what do we do now? However he was quickly back in the boat, colder and wetter but safe. After a lot of laughter we continued.

Over the course of the river we got stuck twice on rocks in the midst of rapids. First time we really couldn’t budge so we all went to the front end while the guide heaved and shook us free. The second time we wedged and it felt like a waterfalls worth of water descended over Mike and I. We scrambled up the boat which set us free.

In the middle of trip it was quite calm and peaceful and we able to chat and even have a biscuit. Our guide also got us all to one end and we raised the raft up vertically!! Although it felt like we were about to sink with all our weight at one end!

The last section of the river contained mainly level 3/4 rapids. Lots of twists and turns and still remarkably no one fell out.

Before long it was all over and we came round the corner. It was a shame we didn’t have a GoPro or anything as we have no pictures from the rafting it’s self. Our van was waiting but one problem being it had broken down. The large rock we hit earlier and broken the sump pump and it was leaking oil. So we had about an hour having lunch at the side of the river as we got changed into our dry clothes minus a shower!

A replacement van picked us up and took us back to the small holiday camp. Here we waited for another van from the company to pick us up and tow the broken van back home. While we waiting our guide got some beers and we sat in the sun. All the time looking at the clock as our parking tickets were now well out of time.

Eventually we were picked up and got back to town. In all the rush our travel companion ‘Knitted Yoda’ got left on the bus. Not that we knew it at this point. The camper van, some how, had no ticket. A bit of luck!! But interestingly the car opposite did so our note must have done the trick.

We got in the van and made for Wai-o-tapo a famous geothermal pool with pretty red and green colours. Annoyingly we had passed it on our way back rafting. The time delay meant when we got there it had just closed. Even more frustratingly signs said no drones, but we found a quiet spot and sent it high enough no one would notice. It looked spectacular from the drone and was a shame we didn’t get to go in the park, although we saved $30+ dollars each!

We drove for the rest of the evening to Tongariro national park to complete the Alpine Crossing in the morning. More spectacular scenery passed as we drove and the sun set. We missed our target of getting there before nightfall. Eventually we arrived around 7:30pm in the pitch black to an empty car park in the middle of nowhere. The stars were the brightest we had ever seen and the Milky Way was vividly clear but it was extremely cold. We attempted to cook some beans on toast in the dark but failed and ended up eating them cold. We wrapped up in our duvet and spent a very cold night waiting for dawn.

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