Rough Rapid Rafting
Nervous condensation covered the vans’ windows and excited chatter filled the air. We were on our way to the beginning of an adventure! Ruma Waru was lucky enough to have an opportunity to go rafting with Tai Poutini Polytechnic. Two groups went on separate days. My group rafted on the second day. It was such an awesome experience.
Wednesday the 27th of June, it was our turn to go rafting with Tai Poutini Polytechnic on the Arnold River. Many excited girls and I arrived at school around 8:30. Before our pickup arrived (one of the Tai Poutini Polytechnic vans), there was a quick talk and gear check. All of the girls practised a favourite waiata which the girls would be singing as a thank you at the end of the trip.
When the polytech van arrived Cameron and tutor Nathan (also known as Reefton) jumped out. Everyone hopped in and drove to a giant outdoor activity gear storage shed. The girls and I were all so thrilled to meet the other polytech guides: Maria, Felix & Ruby.
Our first activity was getting to know each other; this was called The Name Game. Every person had to say their name and perform a dance move for something they love doing. Another game followed after that where you had to become a master baker through a series of games of Paper-Scissors-Rock. You started off as a muffin then progressed to a cake then to strudel and after that you were the master baker!
Next all of our safety gear was collected: helmet, splash jacket, wetsuit & lifejacket. Getting ready was almost as big as the rafting event itself. Putting on our plain black wetsuits proved to be a challenge as they were very tight and squeaky and needed a lot of pulling. I was covered in red gear as I had a red helmet, lifejacket and splash jacket. All of the safety gear got made into a gear baby which is a way to make sure all of your gear is together. Our lunch got placed into a separate bag that would come with us on the raft. I piled into one of the two vans.
When the vans arrived at the Arnold power station some people went for a quick walk where Felix told us some history about the river and power station. I helped carry our bulky raft closer to the river. All of the rafts taken were made out of sturdy rubber and comfortably seated 8 people but only had 4 or 5 people in each. Two rafts were tomato red and the other banana yellow. The raft had many textures; sides were smooth to allow the raft to glide through the water but the seats and rope were rough for much needed grip. All of the rafts also all had holes in them. I know that sounds weird but the holes were self-bailers because if water comes in, it needs somewhere to go out. The paddles were wooden with a special T grip at one end to hold onto and they could even be used to save a life if someone found themselves in the water.
A safety briefing and raft talk followed in our rafting groups; Charlotte, Danica, Ruby, Cameron and I were in a raft together. Our group discussed the possible hazards in the river including: holes (the space behind a rock), sieves (in our case sprawling willows lining the edge of the river), rescue (someone finding themselves in the water and how to help them back into the raft or what to do if it was you) and how to avoid the big rocks that you wouldn’t want to hit. Other things that were covered included: the correct and safest way to sit in the raft, paddling language, and paddle stroke techniques.
Pulling and pushing the rafts down the steep slippery bank towards the river. When everyone was seated comfortably in their rafts and, ready to go, rafts departed the river’s edge. The river was grade 2 and was pretty calm at the start but after a while loud splashing sounds started being heard; white water and rapids were near. On this trip the girls and I learnt the importance of being part of a team. Everybody worked hard to paddle in time, singing and laughing a lot along the way! Water splashed into the boat many times, mostly soaking Danica and Charlotte at first, but the raft turned and it was my turn to get wet. Our rafting group did lots of forward and backward paddling and even followed the command “Hold on!” at some points.
Reading the river is a very important part of rafting because you need to be able to see dangers in the river as well as opportunities to do something fun, which I discovered when each raft got to ride a rock! Paddling hard out in forward paddle hitting the rock with speed sending us soaring up the rock, then back down towards the
blue-grey water of the mighty Arnold. After many more awesome rapids and small rock jumps our group paddled into an eddie (slower bit of water) to where every group had lunch. Everbody ate and played games such as Wink Murder and one where you had to catch someones finger when a certain word was said by the story teller, while ensuring your own finger was well out of the way of being captured.
After a bit more river paddling our raft pulled easily into another eddy to prepare for the rough and treacherous Pyramid rapid. Ruby led a series of body warm up games to get ready for the challenging rapid including doing little circles with your body, slowly getting bigger, and arm warm ups and stretches. This rapid tested everything that I had learnt so far. For this rapid our group chose to hug the left side, which had more waves and rapids compared to the right side which was slightly calmer. Of course all rafts chose the left side for the fun and challenge. Our smooth wooden paddles were rapidly digging into the water and moving us to the other side of the rapid.
Jumping into a safe part of the river was even allowed and it was extremely freezing at first being the middle of winter!. Having layer upon layer of thermals, plus the wetsuit, it was pretty warm. Swimmers had to hold firmly onto the rugged rope along the edges of the raft at all times and had to be on the upstream side of the raft. Throughout the whole trip there were quite a lot of water fights between rafts and our raft made a truce with Lucy and Harper to only get Molly, Casey and Pippa’s raft. Ms Kemp was promising many bad school reports due to some significant splashing that she had received! After around two and a half hours on the river the vans and trailer were in sight.
Students and guides soggily climbed out of the rafts as it started to rain. Everyone hauled the rafts closer to the fence while some guides drove to pick up the other van. A challenge of getting the 3 huge rafts over the fence and onto the trailer appeared.
“Three, two, one” I yelled and hoisted the raft up above our heads to carry it more easily.
The carriers passed the raft over the fence to another group of people; then it was carried over to the trailer and slid on. This was done 3 more times but the last time was far harder because with two rafts already on the trailer throwing the last raft onto the very top was the only option.
While waiting for the vans to arrive another game was played, Toilet Tag; when you got tagged you had to be a toilet, then someone flushed and freed you.Running during the game was great because it kept us warmer as the rain started getting heavier. The vans eventually arrived and all the kids rushed inside to get out of the spitty rain. driving back to the shed with condensation on the windows again. Arriving back around 2pm, everybody was relieved to be getting out of our wet gear into some lovely warm clothes. Once everything was all unpacked our day was completed with a game of Charades about our fears and favourite moments on the trip.
The rafting trip was an absolute blast and such a great opportunity to learn new things. I enjoyed every single part of it, from the calm spots to the gnarly rapids. My friends and I all came home with something ticked on our bucket list and another wonderful experience to talk about with whanau and friends. I loved having a quick swim in the river even though it was chilly. I also really enjoyed meeting so many awesome and inspirational people. The games were hilariously fun. The Pyramid rapid was wickedly amazing because of its rough rapids, it was definitely one of my many favourite parts of the trip! I was so glad to have this incredible opportunity.