Map of events
Joe’s Diner Logo

Home » Adventures » New Zealand » White Water Rafting

Dec. 17 — White Water Rafting

Rangitata Rafts Shuttle

Rangitata Rafts Shuttle

My first real adventure in New Zealand was whitewater rafting with Rangitata Rafts. A shuttle carried other rafters and me from Christchurch for the two-hour ride south to the river. Upon arrival they provided sandwiches and other grub, before we received final instructions and changed into the provided rafting attire — helmets, wetsuits, and other clothing necessary for the cold, wild river.

With the prospective rafters donning all our protective gear, another short bus trip transported us to the put in on the Rangitata River. The first several river kilometers were flat which allowed the guide to train us in paddling technique, how to work with the raft, safety, and teamwork. Shortly after this well-oiled machine emerged, small rapids put us to the test. These warm up ripples were fun and exciting, with their difficulty increasing as we moved downstream.

Before passing through our first grade five rapid, the group pulled over to climb the shore for a good look at the beast. Since the guides did all the hard work and had paddled this stretch many times prior, scouting this rapid was exclusively to build suspense in the guests, rather than any added safety. Still, this extra pageantry improved the experience.

The bus at the put-in

The bus at the put-in

Putting back onto the river, we dove headlong into the abyss. Passing through the rushing wall of water that it pushed us around was a blast. Of course the guides did most of the real work to keep the boat on course, while we smiled blissfully ignorant through the ordeal.

On a calmer stretch of the river, we climbed from the rafts and leaped into the water for a swim in the current. The water was more than a bit invigorating, but playing in the river and small rapids was still fun.

Leap of Faith

Myself at the put-in

After passing through a few more ripples while inside the boat, we arrived at jump rock — a five or ten meter cliff rising above the river. First came the leap from the five meter ledge, where a surprisingly long time elapsed from when my feet left the platform until they plunged into the water. With that warm up step conquered, we climbed to the ten meter platform’s peak. The ledge did not appear overly tall while perched atop it, but she grew exponentially larger half a blink after my feet left solid ground. The free fall seemed to last forever, before gravity finally finished doing its job of dropping me into the river.

I had rafted, swum, and jumped on this river but the entertainment continued as surfing remained on the schedule. The guide turned our raft upstream, and we paddled towards a rapid. He positioned the boat such that it stood on the edge of the great wave and rode directly in front of this wall of raging water. Invariably the front of our ship would tip into the abyss, which tried to wrestle the raft from us while also soaking everyone. It was a blast. We repeated this dance at least half a dozen times for continual fun. I ended up in the drink once, as did our guide, but we were both pulled back into the boat swiftly.

On this trip the number of river kilometers traveled and rapids run was not enormous, but Rangitata Rafts presented what was there spectacularly. The groups did not just breeze downstream, but we patiently played with the rapids and enjoyed the river for all its worth. They did an excellent job, and I had a great river trip.

Upon arrival back at their lodge we took hot showers and changed into dry clothes before looking at pictures of us in the rapids. A BBQ followed where everyone recounted the day’s tales before the shuttle bus brought the exhausted group back to Christchurch.

Back in town I wandered around the city, exploring its luscious botanical gardens and The Christchurch Arts Centre, which seemed straight out of Oxford (not that I have been there). After absorbing what Christchurch had left to offer, it was back to the hostel to enjoy an evening with people from around the world.