River Valley - White Water At Its Best

What did freelance journalist, Pippa Brown, think of her first white water rafting trip?

Just off the beaten track, River Valley offers some of the best river rafting in the land and is the perfect example of what is really good about New Zealand’s back country. Together, with some great food and welcoming true kiwi hospitality it’s a stay not to be missed.

With multiple adventure options on tap you need more than one night to appreciate what River Valley has to offer. There are opportunities to relax or fish for trout, and various white water river trips and horse riding opportunities  ̶  everything from two hours to multi-day trips. This is what this piece of paradise is all about.

On a recent trip I met a group off one of the regular Kiwi Experience buses that stop here on their tours throughout New Zealand. The company describes River Valley as a unique overnight stop, “a remote adventure lodge, with amazing white water rafting – you couldn’t find a place like this if you tried”.

The autumn weather had broken and it had been drizzling most of the day, darkness was descending, but this didn’t deter 30 rowdy, recently arrived Kiwi Experience passengers from donning their bathers and jumping off the flying fox, screaming at full volume, into the cool waters of the Rangitikei River. A group of us stood on the banks and as we watched the water level rise the talk was full of anticipation, about rafting the grade five section up-stream of the lodge the next day.

River Valley are an experienced team, having first rafted the Rangitikei River in 1978. Four years later they were running regular rafting trips on the grade five section. Then, in 1987, they started horse trekking adventures over the hill country.

“White water rafting is what this place is known for,” says Londoner, Saran Girdwood.

It’s Saran’s second time in New Zealand and he loves it. “Every day I’ve been in New Zealand something has surprised me,” he says. Yesterday it was the Tongariro Alpine Crossing. The day before it was a tandem sky dive in Taupo. All this adventure stuff is a bit out of character for him. “I like to be control of my destiny, but I’m glad I've done it all. “I’m loving it because I’m so used to city life and it’s different from what I’m used to.” 

Another Kiwi Experience passenger, James Hughes, also from the UK, says he can’t wait to get into the white water rafting. “They say it’s really good.”

He’s already spent three months in New Zealand and what has stood out to him is the sky diving, sheep herding and of course white water rafting.

More rain overnight has brought the river up to a good level. With two days of rain it’s risen to just under one metre. “A really nice level – my favourite,” says river guide Derek Klapka. “The amount of rapids for the section we’re running today is awesome.” He says all the river is shaped nicely, but as the river goes up or down, some rapids are nicer to raft.”

River Valley runs a fun and interactive trip. Jumping in the river and swimming some of the quieter sections of the river is part of the game. “Getting people wet – it’s sharing the fun. “People like the adventure and sense of the unknown,” says Derek. So is building a crew in each raft and trust in the guide. Every guide has a different set of skills and it’s this diversity that makes up such a good team.

After two and half hours on the river the general consensus from the tourists is “totally wicked”.  “Let’s do it again. “The best thing I’ve done up to now.”  No disappointment here. And yes, it’s definitely up there with walking the Tongariro Alpine Crossing and sky-diving in Taupo.

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

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