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Rangitaiki – A Beginner's Perspective


After a late start Sunday morning, Greg & I arrived at the campsite to discover that those doing the Grade 2 section had already left and were probably already on the river.  It seemed that my decision whether or not to do the Rangitaiki Grade 3 that fateful Sunday was made for me. 

Once we were finally on the river (sometime around 2), it seems things couldn’t be better, we each had our own personal instructor as well as a couple of extra instructors to help out and bring up the rear (to save us and the kayaks which continued to get wedged between rocks – more on that later!). 

We were repeatedly told how the first few rapids usually take people by surprise but not to worry as these were the most difficult and that it does get easier.  So after rounding a corner and seeing several rocks randomly scattered throughout the rapid (unheard of in Grade 2) which we were to avoid, we saw what they were meaning.  However, all the beginners (myself, Cullem, John, Luke, Nick and Ross) got through the first and at least the second and the third rapids without even a spill or t-rescue (from memory), even if we did go over the rocks instead of around them! 

As stated in previous trip reports, the fatal words where then uttered; “we’ve finished the hard part and everyone's doing great, we’ll be off the river in no time”. 

Within the next two rapids, there were several swims and a great t-rescue from Cullem, Quentin & Mo (awesome to watch!).  At this point we were sitting in an eddy awaiting the arrival of Ross’s boat from upstream, which was the first of many boats to get wedged between a couple of rocks that day. 

We got back on the river reasonably quickly, but unfortunately were off it just as quickly with John swimming and his kayak wedged between two rocks somewhere downstream (darn rocks!).  It was at this point we realised how cold and tired we all were getting, as due to the increased rapid size and wave trains (from Grade 2) you ended up getting completed soaked each rapid without even swimming!  (Okay, so Grade 2 had softened us up slightly!)  It was also at this point that Luke, Nick & I were celebrating as Guido told us that that we were doing “all-right” (go “all-right”! J). 

After getting back on the river again, apart from me paddling straight through the big hole we were earlier told to avoid - but with no adverse consequences!, nothing eventful happened (in our group anyway) – until…”the log incident” (as Quentin referred to above).  Big thanks here to Guido for getting us all righted and back on the river so quickly and for resurrecting my kayak from the river floor which had sank after being run over by Nick following right behind me! 

The log incident (as it shall now be referred to) was also where I was beginning to panic.  It was starting to get dark and after having been repeatedly told by Kristen that we were nearly there I was starting to lose faith.  This was not helped by the fact we had appeared to have lost John (who had actually just walked a little further downstream then everyone else), so thoughts of having to get the rescue helicopter in were also going through my head! 

With having found John and everyone back in their boats, everyone was praying that nothing more would go wrong so we could get off the damn river and thank god, nothing did!  After rounding a few more corners we saw the welcoming lights of Speedy’s car!!  After crying “we made it” and “we’re alive” we gladly got off the river (after nearly 4hours!) and quickly warmed up with the help of Mo’s hot chocolate (thanks Mo!) and some food. 

After a minor hiccup (Mo having driven off with mine and Guido’s car keys) we hit the road, only to spend 2 hours driving around forestry roads and ending up further away then when we started (we ended up back in Murapara)!!  It was not looking good for us as we left Murapara at 9.45 tired and hungry, (hence the boot incident referred to above) but we all made it back to Auckland safe and sound and without having lost anything! 

The most amazing thing about this trip is that after all of the above and the fact that I came away scratched and bruised (and can still not move my left shoulder fully) I still want to continue with kayaking and if anything, get out on the river more!  That either says something about the amazing group of people that day or my sanity!  On that note, thanks heaps to all the instructors Alana, Ben (speedy), Greg, Guido, Keri, Kristin, Mo (Andy) and Quentin – I think we owe you all a rescue bottle of vodka for your efforts!! J

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