Armed with a paddle, wetsuit, lifejacket and even a thermal jersey, to keep the icy waters at bay, I was ready to do battle with the mighty grade five Kaituna River.
After a briefing from Kaitiaki Adventures, I joined a group of fellow rafters on a bus and we headed out to the river.
During the journey, our guides filled us in on the history of Rotorua and the Maori meanings for many of its lakes and rivers. Awesome.
I thought this was a pretty cool introduction to the area we were going to be rafting through, as it was great to know the significance of the area in Maori history.
We even listened while one of the guides said a Maori prayer or blessing to wish us luck on the river. It was amazing to hear those Maori words being spoken, but it kind of made me a little uneasy. Just what was I getting myself into?
Before we teamed up and jumped in the rafts, we had a run through of what we could expect to happen on the river, and what to do if the raft capsized or if someone fell out. After all, we were going to be rafting down three waterfalls of three metres, then four metres, finishing off with the mighty seven metre high drop. Wow! These guys don’t do things by halves.
We started off by warming ourselves up and learning the techniques of forward and backward paddling, which involves a fair bit of coordination between everyone in the raft. The only thing was, I was sitting at the front, so everyone behind me had to stay in time with me. Ooh the pressure!
As we limbered up for the first of our three waterfalls, I was beginning to wonder how this was really going to work. How were we going to make it without the raft capsizing or someone tipping out? And I was right at the front. So I’d be getting the full force of it. Right in my face.
But there was no backing out now. Here we were just near the edge of the waterfall, trying to peer down it from a distance. Our guide got us all psyched up, and told us just to paddle hard, do as he says, when he says and we’d be OK. This might involve holding on to the rope round the outside of the raft, or getting right down inside the raft. Sounds about right.
So off we went. Straight into the heart of the waterfall, and wooosh, we’d dropped down and popped out the other side. And we were all intact inside the raft. Wicked.
The next four-metre waterfall didn’t seem so bad, as we were getting more confident and comfortable with our technique. Yes, at least I think we had technique anyway.
But then we rocked up to the big one. The monster. The seven footer no less. But at this stage we were all so pumped we’re feeling invincible and we’re totally ready for it.
We pulled up nearby so we could stand up in the raft and check out what we were about to do. It was big. There was no getting away from it.
Once again we got the same instructions, to paddle hard then get down, so fully charged up we steamed forward.
The incredible rush of water around us was deafening, and I didn’t even notice the cold. We went down through the middle, and popped up triumphantly on the other side. The feeling of jubilation was incredible as we bashed our paddles together in the air. It was well worth it.
Kaitiaki Adventures offers rafting and sledging on the Kaituna and Wairoa rivers.
They do pick-ups and drop-offs from accommodation in Rotorua.