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Finding the right place to match my list for a three-day break was proving fruitless until I came across River Valley. Set alongside the Rangitikei River, River Valley Lodge and Stables is an adventure company specialising in outdoor activities, predominantly white-water rafting and horse trekking. It has a beautiful river running through it, that’s swimmable and fishable, with kayaking and rafting options. There’s lodge accommodation, or camping and backpacking should I prefer, and it promises wonderful meals, good company and a spa. It ticks all the right boxes.
River Valley offer everything from grade two to five, and half-day rafting trips, right out to four days. Owner Brian Megaw says most of River Valley customers doing the grade five section have never been in a raft before. “As long as they listen to their guides, get stuck in at the appropriate moments, and are out there for a fun time, they will have a great experience.”
Brian is a self-confessed “river junkie” and his wife, horse loving Nicola, looks after the stables. Their eldest daughter, Janey, is second-in-charge.
The River Valley team are all trained professionals with “heaps of passion”, who are either hand-picked full-time employees or come back season after season. “Some guides have been with us for nine seasons - that’s a lot longer than the average in the industry,” Brian says.
He promises me I just have to turn up and it will all be taken care of, even if the weather turns bad. “For some activities it’s not a big deal. “If the weather’s particularly rough we’ll cancel, with a full refund. “A spa or a massage can be a great alternative,” he says.
I can be as alone as I want to be or, “lonely by choice”. “There’s lots of opportunity to meet others. “The outdoor activities such as rafting tend to break down communication barriers,” he says. “Over the years we’ve seen how time spent on a river trip can change people's lives.”
Seeing the connection between strangers is what makes Brian’s job worthwhile, the shared stories by the camp fire after a day’s adventure or enjoying a meal together back at the Lodge.
“When I see someone’s face light up with excitement after a rafting trip, the sense of wonderment they show after they’ve learnt to communicate with their horse, or the awe expressed at the scenery and beauty around them, that’s my reward,” he says.
Five generations have lived on this land, back to when Nicola’s grandparents farmed in the 1930s. The farm has been sold now, but River Lodge and Stables still own 40 acres, and have access to ride over thousands more.
“This is my passion - I love connecting with the natural environment, the river and the horses. “It’s one of love and kaitiakitanga, ancestral relationship. “It’s incredibly special to be part of a multi-generational family adventure company, particularly when our children have decided they want too as well.”
Brian says River Valley promises to go out of their way to give me a good time, but if
I want to really connect with the people and landscape, then that will need to come from me.
River Valley is near Taihape, about halfway between Auckland and Wellington and a short distance off State Highway 1. For more information go to www.rivervalley.co.nz