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“They say if you live on an island for too long, you merge with it. Your bones become the sand, your blood the ocean. Your flesh is the fertile ground. Your heart becomes the stories, dances, songs… They say when you leave, the sound of the waves stay with you… The island calls to you…” Australian Aboriginal solicitor Terri Janke.
As tangata whenua and people of the land, Maori also hold a deep spiritual and emotional attachment to New Zealand. They believe everything contains a life force or mauri, recognising that all things are interrelated and reliant on each other.
It’s what happens when you spend time in a place connecting with the natural rhythm, listening to what the land is telling you, where memories and generational stories are interwoven with landmarks.
Since the mid-1930s the family of River Valley owners, Brian and Nicola Megaw, have lived here. With five generations on the land the attachment is deep – one of love and kaitiakitanga. “I see myself as a champion for the river and our natural environment,” says Brian.
It is what differentiates their adventure business with others. “River Valley exists for connections, to the natural world, to each other, and ultimately with ourselves – a world where natural connections are at the heart. “It’s about creating a relationship and sharing the joy, excitement and experience with people who see the world as we do.”
Many people who visit wish they had stayed longer. To sit outside in the warm glow of River Valley Lodge as the shadows lengthen into the evening and hear the mood of the river talking, or venturing out at nighttime under an unspoiled sky just takes your breath away.
“The essence of River Valley is what our guests do outside, on the river – rafting or kayaking, and on horseback over the spectacular countryside.”
People often tell me they think about this place all the time. It stays in their memory. It’s like a “secret surprise” and there isn't another location like it. Someone once told me “it’s so beautiful that you feel like you have everything you need”.
River Valley offer multi-day horse riding and rafting trips and “are really focused on finding a natural fit with the environment”, a holistic style of approach that is always being developed.
“I love connecting with the natural environment, and with people, especially on multi day trips. “It’s incredibly special to be part of a multi-generational adventure company. “Having three generations of river guides – my father-in-law, myself and Nicola, our eldest daughter Janey, and her partner – is unique worldwide. “This length of time on the river means we have developed a relationship that transcends simply running rapids,” says Brian.
It is what makes River Valley unique. “When you take a river trip with us, it’s not some faceless corporate behind the scenes, but a family who are sharing a multi-generational passion and what is an extremely important part of their lives.”
After 25 years of guiding, Brian still gets excited when he can wake up in the morning beside a free flowing river, with mist rising from the surrounding hills, and the smell of fresh coffee on the fire. “Floating down a beautiful pool in a river canyon, is something that feels just as precious as guiding a raft through a grade five rapid – something this precious can never be just a job.”
“If all you see of River Valley is the inside of a lodge, a quick blast down an exciting bit of white water, or a tick on your bucket list, it’s likely your River Valley experience could be pretty shallow – exciting, but still shallow.”
“However that’s not really what we’re about. “For us it’s about people, and passion, and sharing things that are precious – things of the heart.”
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
Article by Pippa Brown