River Valley: Connections with the land, river and each other

Is the adventure industry a smorgasbord of thrills, or are there parts of it that are immensely more rewarding? If so, what are those parts, asks Pippa Brown?

For the owners of River Valley Lodge and Stables, Brian and Nicola Megaw, it’s multi-day horse trekking and river rafting trips they find most rewarding. “It’s on these trips that you really get into the rhythm of river time, or make a true connection with your horse,” Brian says.

As well as getting to see some spectacular scenery and feeling enriched, being totally removed from the demands of every-day life means that you can start to truly relax.

“However, what brings the river alive is the people you are with,” he adds. “Multi-day trips allow a group of people to bond and talk about the big issues, without being side-tracked with small distractions.”

One successful trip Brian arranged and guided, together with fellow guide, Daniel Morgan, was an invitation-only four-day River Philosopher’s trip on the Rangitikei River in December. On board were a fusion of minds; an author, artist, climate change engineer, resource consultant, semi-retired farmer, tourist operator, and a representative from the local iwi. 

The river was no stranger for historian and author, David Young, having rafted and kayaked it in the 1980s and written many books on New Zealand’s waterways.

“There was superb food, three times a day and appealing campsites, some with hints of times past. There was also the privilege of sharing a Ngati Hauiti leader’s knowledge of lost names, history and associations. There’s the occasional adrenalin burst on the bouncy stuff, which punctuates long reaches of fast-moving water, crowned by sheer sculptural beauty. And there is having time with old friends. All this adds up to my idea of a great trip,” he says.

A tick off the bucket list and celebrating David’s latest book was why engineer Brian Kouvelis took the journey. It was also an opportunity to reconnect with “a special river”, having designed and built the two bungy jumps, one of which is still operational after 20 years.

David says it was a much belated and thoroughly enjoyable back-to-nature trip with the blokes. “To be part of such an enthusiastic and like-minded group of guys and be able to take time out to share ideas and philosophies and solve the problems and riddles of life  ̶   it’s something I haven’t done for many years,” David says.

Resource consultant Clive Anstey agrees relationships become so much richer without all the daily clutter. “The river experience was perfect in this regard. “The movement of the water and the ever-changing landscape is all absorbing so that one is very present. “There were none of the usual distractions that put the mind elsewhere,” he says.

Four days together on the river, left the group with a huge sense of well being and satisfaction. “The company of good friends brings with it a strong sense of connection, the feeling of being at ease with oneself, the place, and the group.”

Clive says they were constantly traversing a landscape in transition, one with expansive remnants of the past, as well as the signs of a questionable future.

Fellow rafters, Brian and David also recognise that the environmental impact of time and poor farming practices haven’t been kind. The changes in water quality as the group moved down river were an eye-opener with an appreciable deterioration in water quality as the trip moved downstream and into more intensively farmed areas.

Whether you join a group of strangers, combine with friends and family, or make it a novel way to hold a board meeting or corporate retreat, immersing oneself in a multi-day trip is a certain way to open up conversation, build trust and solve problems. The team at River Valley have already taken their first bookings for multi day trips for next season.

River Valley is near Taihape, about halfway between Auckland and Wellington and a short distance off State Highway 1. 

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