Alba and I were determined to do some whitewater rafting and booked a trip out of Taupo onto the Tongariro River. There were six of us and Garth, the owner of the rafting company, picked us up and drove us around Lake Taupo to the office where we suited up. We were given a ton of gear to wear – two fleeces, a wetsuit, a pair of boots and gloves, a beanie, a helmet and a life jacket. After donning all of it, you really felt like it was armor and that you were ready to take on the river in a no holds bar battle.
We drove to the Tongariro River, unloaded the raft and carried it to the riverbank. We were given wooden paddles and took our positions on either side of the boat before shoving off. During the first few minutes, Garth gave us some simple instructions. He taught us the verbal commands he would be using to guide us and what we were to do in response. The river was calm and easy as we practiced and became more confident with our paddles and just sitting in the raft.
In total, we spent about 90 minutes on the water, which was quite surprising to me. It was a lot of work at some points but mostly fun. There were a few points when we had to paddle furiously to get through a rapid and others when we cruised along and just took in the scenery.
Garth told us that the river was flowing really fast due to recent rainfall. With more rushing water, it made subtle changes to the river’s course and added to the challenge of navigation. With this in mind, a rock popped up out of nowhere and the raft hit it straight on. The momentum of the raft abruptly halted and brought the rear up out of the water. As I was in the back of the raft and didn’t see the rock coming, I was completely taken by surprise that we were airborne and actually fell out of the boat. One minute I was in the air and the other minute I was hitting the water and watching as the raft floated down the river ahead of me.
Remembering Garth’s instructions, I made sure to turn my body around so that I was floating down the river feet first. This softened the impact against rocks as I bumped along. The life jacket helped keep me afloat as I slipped along through a couple of rapids. Garth and the girls were paddling to keep the raft stationary so I could catch up. When I did, he told me to let go of the paddle and he lifted me up into the boat by the front of my life jacket. One of the other girls snatched up the paddle and pulled it inside as well. Even though I wasn’t expecting to get dunked into the cold, rushing river, if I were honest, it was one of the best parts of the day. It was as if I got a free sledging experience thrown into a rafting activity.
At the end of the rafting, we jumped back into the van and went over to some hot pools. I imagined it to be a natural spring, but it turned out to be a heated swimming pool. Still, we beat feet into the changing room and made our way in to get our relaxing on. After a luxurious 30 minutes of wading around in the warmth, we made our way back to the office where we shared a hearty tomato soup with some bread. It was mmm, mmm good. Not one who normally likes tomato soup, I had to admit that after a hard day in the cold water, it was delicious.