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The section of the Rangitikei River from River Valley Lodge to the sea does not exceed Grade 2 (very easy), with long stretches with no rapids worth the name at all. After the first 50 km these sections of river are seldom visited. Just why would anyone bother going there?
An Idea That Was Ready for its Time
The idea had been in my mind for quite some time, but mostly pushed to the side with a "Why Bother".
You see what I had been thinking about was a river trip from River Valley Lodge to the Tasman Sea.
But Rapids Were Supposed to Be My Thing
Rivers with rapids are definitely supposed to be my thing. In fact I think I sometimes miss out on a few invites to river trips because everyone thinks I will be bored traveling a stretch of river that is not known for rapids.
The section of the Rangitikei River from River Valley Lodge to the sea does not exceed Grade 2 (very easy) and is mostly Grade 1. A section of river with long stretches with few rapids worth the name at all.
Why Do It Then?
I juggled a number of reasons in my mind, as much to convince other people that it was a worthy use of my time, as for myself.
You see, I really just wanted to see what was there, and for some time out. Time alone pondering all the big questions - you know - the meaning of life, what was my place in the universe and what I was going to cook for dinner that night? However my official reason was to see what state the river was in fact in.
Was it littered with rubbish downstream?
Did the water still seem clean and clear?
Did a lot of farm animals have access to it and were fouling it?
An Aside - Something Unexpected
As I talked to various people about the trip one thing that often came up, and was certainly unexpected, was the response by them when I said I was doing the trip solo. There was invariably responded with - "By yourself? I would love to do something like that by myself."
What does this mean? Is there an unmet need here in our society? That was something else to think about on the trip.
How Did The Trip Come Together?
Towards the end of March I decided I needed to get serious about making it all happen, and to start bringing the trip together.
First thing to bring it together was time spent on Google maps working just how much distance I would have to travel. That was a shock, as it came to 160 km and I had only allowed myself three days. They were going to be big days! The second thing I did was to check on the logistics of the take out. Finally, I had been pondering what craft to take - kayak, raft or cataraft?
I ended up going for the cataraft. It is a fairly quick craft, can carry a reasonable load of gear to make life off river more comfortable, and is a rowed boat - and I like rowing.
Other than these points, everything else was a day before pack - food, equipment, 1st Aid and all the other things that need to go on a river trip.
The Farewell Committee
Monday morning, the boat was loaded and the farewell committee of wife, daughter, staff, son in law, dogs and grand children were all there to see me off. Anybody would have thought I was on some great trek into the unknown.
And for me it was, if not the rest of mankind.
What Did I Find On This Journey?
What I found was a river in beautiful order. The warm glow of the autumn sun caste a soft glow on the landscape, while sunshine reflecting off falling yellow and red leaves were clearly enchantingly delineated against a deep blue sky.
Day by day, and almost hour by hour the river changed character. Cliff lined box canyons would give way to open reaches through hill country farmland, then back to patches of native forest, and then finally well downstream the river started winding its way amongst patches of willows and poplars. It was here that I saw the most bird life.
This bird life had started with the occasional Shag, Hawk or Paradise Duck, but by late on the second day there were great flocks of Geese, Ducks of all descriptions, Plovers, Pigeons, Pied Stilts and various other wading birds. Great clouds of them would take fright at my approach and launch into the air with much honking, quaking, peeping and twittering, before settling again some distance behind me.
Surely with Few Rapids, there Would be Little Challenge?
Covering 50 km to 60 km in a cataraft each day was actually a considerable challenge. At the end of the first day I was sore - wrists, elbows, shoulders, back and butt. I certainly hoped it would get no worse, and I was lucky that in fact it got easier.
By the third day I had settled into a steady rhythm of between six and seven kilometres per hour. This ate up the distance at a steady rate, leaving me weary but not shattered at the end of each day.
The Welcome Committee
Three days went incredibly quickly, and before I knew it I was coming round the final bend to Scott's Ferry to be greeted by daughters, wife, grand children and a cold beer.
Thinking About it Now, What are my Reflections?
I have spent the last few days reflecting on what I gained from the experience, and what insights I may have gathered over the state of the river.
First of all, the Rangitikei River is truly beautiful. Maybe we all knew that, but I would like to really drive home what a treasure it really is. We need to be vigilant to keep it that way so our grandchildren can also enjoy the beauty of it.
Second, time out by oneself is actually pretty good, but next time I do this trip, I think I might go with a few friends and take an extra day ....... or even two!
And The Meaning of Life? Well I think I might have to do a few more river adventures to really nail that one.
Have You Considered a Multi Day River Trip?
River Valley offers a number of Multi Day river trips for most abilities. Click here to search one that may be appropriate for you.