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In these days of safety and political correctness it was hard to imagine such high profile members of the UK royal family being allowed to roar down a river mere centimetres from rocks. Plus the very close access that many members of the public would be able to have alongside the gorge seemed like a huge security risk.
However, about two weeks out the reality really hit home. As the itineraries were released to the public and all of a sudden it was all people could talk about. The boats, buildings and staff were all given a coat of polish. The garden’s were pristine.
Sunday 13th April 2014 dawned fine and sunny. In fact it was to be one of the very few moments that the royal couple would be photographed in sunshine on their New Zealand tour. That was one concern gone, now to the real thing.
Media started arriving and setting up their ‘spots’ from about 8am. Security followed as the beach was cleared from noon and all the staff and guests in position along with a group from Arrowtown primary school.
A large number of public gathered on the lawn outside Cavell’s and there were quite a few coordinated practice ‘screams’ of welcome in the minutes leading up to their arrival. The security boats departed and checked the river shortly before the arrival of the Duke and Duchess and then . . they were pulling down the drive to the beach.
Official welcome line from Sir Mark Solomon (Ngāi Tahu), Clark Scott (Shotover Jet) and the driver Wayne Paton were aided by the traditional flower girl Maggie Langford. Boy did she have a story to tell at school the next day! On the Shotover Jet and off down the river.
The photos and video tell the story, the footage and images went worldwide. At this point all the focus of the Shotover Jet’s team effort was on Wayne who was driving the Duke and Duchess with Nick behind him in a chase boat. The royal couple followed a standard 30 minute trip down through both gorges and back to the jetty. I think it’s fair to say that Wayne's euphoria at getting to the end with a good trip behind him was at an all time high, he was peaking!
There is no doubt that hosting the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge only further reinforced Shotover Jet's iconic status as the must do activity in Queenstown for all ages. After all, if its good enough for royalty, its good enough for you.