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Rafting Trip to Rangitaiki and Mokau

7-8th August AUCC took out the shiney red rafts and big blue for a rafting and kaykaing trip of epic proportions.

A few weeks ago I didn’t even know that Frisbee could be a game, yet I did sign up for the ultimate Frisbee tournament with the university team. A few practices, still no clue how it would be to play with a whole team of newbies and I’ll tell you how it was: Awesome and fun! Even though we lost each game, we improved and got better and better, or should I say we got less and less bad? Anyway, match 4: team on the peak of our Frisbee carrier (do not think that anyone in the team is thinking of going pro?!?), multiple catch and throws within the team and BANG! We scored one point!! What a feeling and a wonderful crowd, we were jumping up and down hugging each other, without even paying attention to the thirty something points against us during the day, like we just won the whole thing. Good times and good fun!!

After spending Friday in Hamilton on the Tertiary Challenge playing ultimate Frisbee with other students, I got a ride with Andrew to Rotorua to meet the others for another AUCC trip. Amusing ride where we luckily did not end up at McDonalds (Thanks Katie) and we had an hour sightseeing in Rotorua visiting some attractions: New World chasing directions, Top 10 holiday resort chasing Ally and Claude who were at another top 10, and last but not least: the petrol station chasing the police officer asking for directions.

The officer explained the direction to Andrew, and from within the car it looked rather complicated with all the pointing and chatting. Just before Andrew got in the car the officer made a comment: “your car looks heavily loaded”... What did he mean about that, with 5 people in the car, gear for the weekend and 3 boats on the roof? We waved to the officers, and drove in the direction the cop had instructed, took a right turn 500 meters down the road and then the police lights came on together with the sirens. Oh no, total confusion in the car: did they change their mind, everybody has seatbelts on? The cop comes over to the car “first time pulled over by a cop?” Andrew: “yes!” Cop: “We gave you the wrong direction…” Laila: “you scared the shit out of us” forgetting that it was a police officer. He gave us the correct directions, and our sightseeing in Rotorua was over for this time.

Day 1 Rangitaiki (report by Laila)

Pete and I camped not too far away from Kaituna, and as always 7 o’clock is the time to get up in the weekends, I managed to drag it out to 7:15. Then Pete pulled “the letting out the air of the mattress” trick and I was forced out of the warm sleeping bag. Tent came down, the car got packed but we were not rushing because we knew we were going on a trip with AUCC. We walked and looked at the river, and it was way too high level to go rafting, so after we had breakfast we headed towards the others to find out what plan B was and pick up Luc. Soon Rangitaiki was the plan for the day, and this was going to be my first grade 3 river and my stomach was facing a bit of turbulence. We portaged the first rapids that were grade 4, and watched the better paddlers making the whole thing look so easy, the rafts came down and I am not sure if everybody was the way and direction they wanted to be, but everybody came down safe and smiling.



Going down Jeff's backwards... successfully

The ride from there when the body was full of energy and focus was awesome, and I finally got why I am working so hard to become better at this: it’s awesomeness. After the long rapid were I did work as a hero, did a combat roll and continued down to the eddy happy as! I was thrilled and loved the day even though it was raining.

We continued from there, there were some swims and rescues done, and my swimming nightmare hadn’t started yet. The order of all this events is still blurry, but I’ll tell you some of the moments I remember:
One of my flips was so ridiculous, because I was focusing on doing the hard movements, and I guess I relaxed a moment too soon and actually managed to flip over on flat water, did not managed to do my roll, waited while my head was bumping into the rocks and pulled my skirt and went for a swim, useless and some of my confidence was flushed down with the water. Next one I flipped over again in the current, was tired and did not manage to roll again, Pete barrel rolled me up, no paddles heading for the waves. I went down under the surface first, getting Pete’s boat over me pushing me under and I could feel my boat being pinned between rocks, for a second or two I was stuck. I felt the boat moving again, doing my best to tuck my head into the boat at least protecting my face and I was jammed again at a spot and that’s where I pulled the skirt again and I went for another swim. Do I need to say that all confidence was now flushed away, and I was shaky and tired from the exhausting swims? James had to tow me twice from where I was to my boat, I was hanging on to the back of his C1, holding on and kicking as much as I could to help out as much as I could as he manoeuvred down streams.

Some salami in the belly and I got in my boat again, and a bit further down in the river I ended up upside down again, and this time I did go for my roll to feel that I got pushed further down under the water and I got out of breath and yet again pulled the skirt and went for a swim. Out of my boat Pete yelled out and caught my attention as I was about to be dragged under a big log, my legs and lower body was already under the log and I believe that my strength miraculously expanded and I managed to lift myself over the log and trying to avoid other things before I swam with the strength that I had left to an eddy and dragged myself up while I heard the others were trying to rescue my boat. I literally kneeled in front of Pete’s boat almost hugging the boat, and realized that that was a close call. I was petrified and I actually did shed my first tears on the river at this point, pathetic: maybe, sad: sure, but true! I was low on energy, my head was a chaos of thoughts and emotions, yet the walk out would be hours of bush and steep hills. I was talked up by Pete, and we soon were ready to roll again, to realize that all our mates had bailed on us. I’m sure that it was not only me that felt uncomfortable with this, and I felt bad about being a burden on the river, and this thought did not help me, so not too long after I ended up in the water again. Pete went for the boat, and they went down stream and I couldn’t see them anymore. The hill over me was so steep, so I had to pull some climbing moves to get me and my paddle up. After a while I did hear Pete yelling for me, and I was closer than I thought. Well down by the boat I got a talk from a concerned but strict boyfriend: “we really don’t have a choice, we have to get down to the get out”, and he even made sure to tell me that I did something right (which helped me mentally), and what to focus on the rest of the river.

I think I realized that I had to focus and paddle and just stay up and Pete paddled right behind me the rest of the way, and approximately 20 min later we came to the get out. Some frustration and angry words later I just stood there with Pete holding around me and Ally on the other side, feeling beaten up yet happy to be alive and on solid ground. Thanks Ally for encouraging me both when I was thrilled of joy, and when I was down and tired! James, you are a saint in your C1 rescuing my ass! Pete, even though I know you hate this: thanks for being you and sorry for scaring the crap out of you! And to everybody else: at some point I think I need to bring a whole case of rescue beers for picking up me, my boat and paddle, thanks I owe you guys! So conclusion of this trip: I loved it, and I was learning a lot about the river and myself, next grade 3 rives is going to be a shorter run, and I will have to focus on the roll and the brace and for god sake: stay in the bloody boat!!

We had a good night with everybody and when I finally got in the sleeping bag I was feeling like an air mattress without air!


Rafters... aren't they a pretty bunch

Day 2 Mokau (report by Andrew)

The day started off in a very uncharacteristically way by AUCC standards with the group setting off only an hour after we intended at 9am. The drive to the get in was relatively straight forward with the group setting off in convoy from the holiday park. About an hour later we made a turn onto a small road off the state highway. By this time the convoy had become stretched out with myself, James, Claude and Jo’s cars together and Isaac and Colm somewhere behind out of site. By some mix-up nobody waited at the turn off to let Isaac and Colm know where to turn and they drove past. So now with our party of 6 cars now down to 4 we set off to find the get in. I’m not sure how far we drove or where we were but all I knew was to follow James at the head of the convoy. When we got to the get in after getting lost on back country un-paved roads we finally got to the get in to be greeted by Colm and Isaac who had just arrived (turns out we took a couple of wrong turns and ended driving in a 40 km circle on gravel roads).

We then set about getting ready for the river (blowing up the rafts and performing safety briefings). We set off down the river at about 1 o’clock with everybody eager to tackle the high fast flowing river. The first few rapids gave us a taste of what was to come with the features giving the rafts plenty of kick as we went over them with the crew in the front getting soaked.

1st large rapid Little Huka

The first large rapid in the river was Little Huka the rafts eddied out and after some time it became clear that we needed to get across the river so the guides and myself could scout the rapid. Both rafts on the wrong side of the river managed great ferry glides across and the guides were able to scout the rapid. The rapid needed to be run river right to avoid a large boil by a wall and a large hole was waiting at the bottom of the chute for the rafts. Both myself/Speedy and Isaacs rafts got through the rapid without trouble however the last raft managed to hit a feature about 50m above Little Huka and throw both Colm and James out of the raft however they managed to get back into the raft and style Little Huka.

2nd large rapid Little Aratiatia

Once again we eddied out and clambered across the muddy banks (with varied degrees of success, with James falling onto an electric fence and shocking his shoulder through his drytop and several layers of polypro) to inspect the rapid. We decided that due to many undercut rocks and dangerous consequences that the beginners would walk the rapid and that the guides would R2 and R3 the rapid (rafting with 2 or 3 people). We were the last to go down with myself, Speedy and Isaac styling the rapid. Picking up the beginners we set off down the river expecting the rest of the river to be uneventful (or so we thought).


Big Blue takes a surf

The Hole Incident

We eddied out above the rapid that consisted of a number of chutes. We were advised to take the left chute that the two previous rafts had gone down without incident. On the way in we were given many differing directions on what line to take through the chute and ended up taking the left line. BAD IDEA!... At the top of the chute was a rock that just managed to grab the front left of the raft and spin the raft side on to the hole at the bottom of the chute. It just happened by coincidence that we had gone over overs (moving from one side of the raft to the other to stop it flipping) just at the top of the rapid. Within a second of hitting the hole Speedy Yelled “OVER RIGHT”. Shortly after this the raft rotated 90degrees and the bow dug into the water coming down the chute and spat us out of the hole. For a second it seemed we were free and everyone relaxed a little. Speedy tried to do a draw stroke to get the raft away from the hole but in the process as the raft caught the hole was thrown out of the raft. The next five minutes feel like a blur with the crew holding on frantically as the raft was throwing ends like a super large heavy playboat. I was so proud that the crew was doing overs without having to be told as the raft rotated in the hole. We were tossed about like rag dolls being thrown about the raft as it did its own thing as the instructors on the bank tossed throw bags to the raft. I held on the rope as the raft tried to flip many times saying to myself “don't let go don't let go or we’re toast” eventually the instructors managed to get a sling to one of the beginners on the raft who managed to clip the carabiner on to the raft while being thrown about (not an easy task) and the instructors managed to pull us from the grip of the “hungry hole”. After being pulled ashore and checking everybody was all right we posed for the official “I survived the hole” picture and got our paddles back from Claude who had been paddling like crazy to get the paddles, we set off down the last part of the river to the get out relieved we were alright and super stoked we got it on video.

Nice work team BIG BLUE RAFT

Day 0 and 1 trip reports by Laila Nystad, Day 3 by Andrew Walsh.

Day 0 Hamilton (report by Laila)

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