Today we had another leisurely morning with the only real goal of the day being a rafting trip in Rotorua in the mid afternoon. We both slept well (minus a dream Lynn had about a dog falling three floors and surviving, though not in good shape) and slumbered for a while while Lynn emotionally recovered with some cuddles. Around 9.30 we finally got up and made breakfast while Lynn briefed everyone on things we could do in Rotorua to fill the morning until rafting. No one was very strongly opinionated so she decreed that we would be leaving at 11.30 to go see the California Redwood forest nearby. Satisfied with that plan, everyone made lunches, showered, and readied themselves for the day.
Lynn did an admiral job driving Attila to Rotorua, and we arrived at the redwoods just in time for a picnic lunch under some of these towering trees. There were no picnic tables available so we sat down in the few patches of grass and ate our packed lunch. As soon as Lynn and I sat down, before the others came over to join us, a creepy boy from a neighboring picnic wandered over and vacantly stared at us for a good two minutes before his brother came and got him. It was a little Children of the Corn, he even had bleach blond hair.
After lunch we took a short hike through the redwoods. Though not as magnificent as the actual redwood forests in California, these were still quite interesting. It seems they were intentionally imported and planted as a study done by the government in 1898 to determine which imported tree grows the best to support the local timber industry in the Bay of Plenty region. Having these giant redwoods placed amidst tree ferns and sulfurous hot springs bubbling out of the ground certainly made for a neat vibe and the trees themselves seemed to be thriving.
After our hike we headed into the town where we waited for our raft pickup and some of us booked a jetboat ride for tomorrow, having become excited about it after witnessing one near Huka Falls the day before. Just as we finished booking, our ride pulled up and Lynn and I bid the others goodbye and left them to go to the Rotorua Museum of Art and History.
We arrived at the rafting basecamp, situated in the center of a campervan park, signed some waivers, and changed into our wetsuits. Luckily, the Kaituna river was a lovely 68 F, so we needn’t be too worried about the cold which was a pleasant surprise. Ready to go, we piled into a very crowded van with the other six people who would be rafting with us and a handful of guides. We got a quick safety overview during the short ride and learned that some of our fellow rafters don’t know how to swim, which we both thought a little odd, especially given the river stretch we would be doing. This portion of the Kaituna river features three waterfalls that you raft over, including a 7 meter waterfall, the highest commercially rafted in the world, and has a propensity for flipping boats. Oh and its a grade 5.
Arriving at the put in we were split into two boats and Lynn and I were placed at the front of ours since we had some rafting experience. We were given quick instructions and then into the water we went! We didn’t waste anytime, immediately going over a 3 meter waterfall. Lynn was not very happy but seemed to be smiling through her worried face. The next forty-five minutes featured a whole host of rapids in quick succession, one we stood up and surfed through, one Lynn rode on the nose of the boat through (and fell backwards into the boat), and one we floated through sans raft (and got a lot of water up our nose).
The main event though was the giant waterfall, which was smack dab in the middle of the run. We stopped at a little trail, affectionately called the walk of shame, at the top of the falls and everyone was given the opportunity to skip the big waterfalls. Lynn had to think long and hard but stayed strong. When there were no takers we all raised our paddles together and our guides led us in a cheer of “Hell no! We wanna go!” After a quick reminder for how to position ourselves in the boat we wasted no time in heading straight for it. Being in the front of the boat, Lynn and I felt ourselves cantilever out above the churning falls before pivoting face down into it. We dropped for much longer than seemed normal before our raft was completely submerged underwater. The force of the falls in fact pushed us so far below water that I felt the buoyancy of my helmet trying to pull it off my head towards the surface. Water rushed up my nose and into my sinuses and the shock of the cold water everywhere quickly used up the deep breath I had taken. We finally surfaced and the whole boat celebrated having made it through the waterfall without flipping, though I think we were just as wet as if we had.
At the end of the run, Brad, our guide and owner of the small company, had Lynn and I get in the front of the boat and drove the nose of it straight into a small falls. This had the result of sinking the front of the boat and forcing water straight into our faces. My side of the boat seemed to get it a lot worse than Lynn’s and she laughed at watching her husband fight hundreds of gallons of water to breath. The whole adventure was a ton of fun, and though not the most technical section of water we had rafted, it was by far the most entertaining and adrenaline producing. Maybe minus Lynn falling out of the boat in the middle of a dangerous rapid in Colorado last June.
After changing and saying goodbye to our rafting comrades we got dropped back off in town. We found my parents and aunt and uncle and heard about their afternoon at the museum while we walked to get what else, ice cream. The parlor was quite busy and not very organized which was a little frustrating, but Asia had trained me well to deal with selfish crowds and we got our ice cream.
Feeling energized, we drove home and Lynn cooked a delicious dinner of spaghetti and meatballs for everyone before we retired into the TV room to look at our rafting pictures on the big screen TV. There were quite a few hilarious faces captured in the pictures and everyone agreed they were glad they did not come with us.
Daily Walking Miles : 5.3 miles
- Lake Taupo is the caldera of a dormant supervolcano which has produced the two most violent eruptions in recent geological times. The caldera alone is 238 square miles, the size of the island of Singapore, and last erupted in 1380 AD.
- Kumara, New Zealand sweet potatoes, are evidence that Asian cultures were trading with South America well before European exploration of the continent.
- Ta moko, Maori tattoos, are started on the face with one third representing you mother, one third your father and the center third representing your exploits. The tattoos are actually done with chisels (ouch) which leaves a distinctive groove in the skin.