Last time I wanted to raft the Kaituna River, torrential raining had closed it. But, I finally got a rematch after so many months and was looking forward to the seven-meter-high Okere Waterfall, the highest commercially raftable waterfall in the world.
I met the Raftabout shuttle bus with Cris and two other girls from our hostel. It made its rounds stopping at various accommodations before returning to the base camp. Ushered into a room, we filled out some forms, then taken over to the supply shed where we were given a wetsuit, booties, gloves and a helmet. We reconvened after getting changed and the raft guides went through a safety demonstrations. Afterwards, we were split into groups and met with our personal guide. His name was Andy and he was from Canada.
A short drive later and we were at the river. It was exciting to watch as each raft plopped into the water and people hopped aboard. We had about four rafts in our group and more rafting personnel zipped along in kayaks besides the raft. Despite the overcast day, we all had a sunny outlook and were eager to get started.
Unlike when I rafted the Tongariro River in Taupo, this trip was short and sweet. In fact, there was a bit of waiting along the way as we waited for each raft to go through the rapid one at a time. There was less paddling on this trip, making it a bit boring. Despite the Kaituna being a grade 5 river, I think I enjoyed the grade 3 Tongariro a lot more.
But, I guess the main attraction of the Kaituna River is the waterfall ending. I heard most rafts tipped over when they reached the bottom and I was hoping ours would too. At least then there’d be a bit of excitement. We watched as each raft headed for the waterfall and then disappeared over it. Sometimes we’d hear cheering from the other side, but we didn’t know if that meant they did or didn’t flip over. When it was our turn, we paddled hard toward the edge. Then we ducked into our seats and hung on to the ropes along the side as the rushing river picked up momentum and hurled us over.
Our raft bucked forward and seemed almost parallel to the waterfall as we fell. It couldn’t have been more than a few seconds, and before we realized it the entire boat submerged itself under the water. A second later, the raft was popping up and we continued downstream. In the end, we were the only raft that didn’t flip over. How disappointing.