Rafting With Three Men, Two Children and Two Boats

What do you experience when you take a family on an end of season multi-day rafting trip on the North Island's Rangitikei River.

The unspoken question lurked: "What if the weather pulls a switch and we get stuck in a freezing autumn storm? Driving rain, high winds, and dropping temperatures. Shivering kids, having to pack damp clothes every morning, putting them on, constructing our shelter every afternoon when we come off the river." 

Booking Later in the Season

We had very little notice when a dad and two kids booked a Three Day Mokai Canyon Rafting Trip. All we knew was that the children's ages were 7 and 10, and that they and their father, with an Italian name, were from Singapore.

Ben was supposed to be the guide, but I thought I might help out since it was the season's last trip. (To be honest, I really needed to get out of the office and away from business tasks!)

Gusting Winds, Rain and Freezing Temperatures 

We couldn't help but quietly wonder: "What if the weather flips on us and an early autumn storm overtakes us?" Wind blasts, torrents of rain, and temperatures dropping. We could imagine cold, wet children struggling with cold, wet gear on cold, wet mornings, and dealing with the wait for the evening shelter once we got off the river for the night. In the days leading up to the trip, I'm sure such dreadful scenarios crossed all of our minds.

We were mindful of the weather forecasts and told our client the trip would be cancelled if it seemed like threatening conditions might prevail. Every day, the week before we left we checked the weather forecasts, filled with anxiety. Every day there was a new forecast, today three great days, then two rainy days and one sunny day the next, then three rainy days, until ultimately we got a prediction of three sunny days.

That was all that was required. Three beautiful days.

We Meet the Family

Giacomo and the kids got to the River Valley Lodge after lunch on Sunday, the day before our river trip. Ben met with them, gave them their gear, and told them exactly what they could look forward to during the coming three days. Both we and Giacomo had been keeping tabs on the weather predictions, and he and his kids were excited about the coming adventure.

Downstream the kids would get their first experience of what it's like to raft and camp.

First Day: Except for a few scattered clouds, the sun shone and the air was clear. It was a little chilly outside. No surprise about this, as we were rafting in mid-April, which in New Zealand is the middle of autumn.

In the middle of autumn, you get fall's deeper colours instead of summer's hot haze. Frequently, there are warm days during this season, while there are much cooler evenings.

On any trip that lasts a few days, the most difficult packing is on the first morning. There are so many tasks for the final moments, such as getting food out of freezers and checking the lists over and over again, as clients are struggling with unfamiliar pieces of gear and methods for packing them. The smart thing is to plan a large amount of time and then multiply it by two.

At long last all had been prepared, we were packed, the gear was lashed onto the rafts, and we had finished with our safety briefings. After running around for last-minute tasks, the departure can be a bit of an anti-climax. The raft gets pushed away from the shore and then it moves downstream as we apply paddle and oar.

It Actually Begins After the First Corner

Before long we are taken deeper within the Rangitikei River Canyon. After you're around the first bend, you leave behind the lodge and everything else. For the coming three days, the only human we saw was a bungy jumper at Gravity Canyon, whose excited or scared screams were heard echoing all along the river.

Every morning, packing and lashing the gear to the rafts got faster and easier. Afternoons were made pleasant by locating a campsite early enough to unpack at an unhurried pace, putting up the tents, and eating our evening meal before darkness fell. As it grew darker we'd watch the fire, telling stories about the day and letting the children fall asleep in their seats. Time for sleep.

Our days floating down the river were punctuated by stops for picnic lunches and brief treks to see incredible waterfalls.

Three days passed far too quickly as the canyon walls hid us away from the outside world and modern life, and much too soon we arrived at the pick-up point, the van that would return us to the Lodge.

Giacomo Gives His Summary

We asked Giacomo what he'd liked the best about this journey. We were a little surprised that, even though he had toured much of the world, from Iceland to the Amazon, he was most moved by the scenery, the soaring canyon walls of the Rangitikei River.

We asked Giacomo, too, if he had hints for families who might be considering the Mokai Canyon Three Day River Trip. Giacomo brought kids of 7 and 10 years of age, but thought that 10 was a better choice for a minimum age. Giacomo explained that this wasn't about the ability of the children to deal with the rafting, but rather the time he had to spend getting them organized in the morning and then again at the end of the day.

What Comes Next?

When your family is hoping for an adventurous holiday in the summer, then you might want to consider this trip. If you have friends who'd like this type of adventure, then please forward this story to them!

Click on this link for more information about a Three Day Mokai Canyon Rafting Trip. A true family Adventure Holiday.

Click here to see Giacomo's interview and enjoy his description of the journey.

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