I have booked river rafting at the Shotover river with the company Go Orange. I’ll need to be at the starting point at 8:00am where it’s more convenient for me to drive afterwards, instead of being picked up and delivered in the city center – parking in Queenstown is a mess. Weather is good, and with all the rain the last days the river is high and with good speed – the team of guides are also looking forward. First part is by bus along Skippers Canyon Road. It’s a narrow gravel road with steep edges but also with very nice views to the deep gulf which we are close to several times.
We are roughly 30 persons, so a total of 5 rafts each with 6 persons and one guide. There is also one person in a kayak who can help people if they fall overboard. We practice all the different strokes in the beginning of the river where there are no rapids, under very clear guidance from Morgan. She has been a guide for 7 years, both in US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. Her smile is just as large as the rest of us – clear that this is something she enjoys. With very clear and specific orders, we are told to ‘Left Forward’, ‘Right Backward’, ‘All Forward’ etc. Also different versions of how to get quickly down into the raft are being rehearsed. We are sitting at the edge of the raft, only with friction of our feet (fixed underneath parts of the inboard part of the raft) ensuring we stay inside the raft, so for some of the coming rapids we’ll need to quickly jump down into the raft when we have the right speed and direction.
Safety is high on the list, and we get good and clear instructions of what to do in the different situations. When we get to a point where people regularly fall in, or the raft turns over – some of the guides park their raft at the shore and then go further down prepared with ropes to get eventual people into shore. All rafts pass this tricky point without anyone falling in.
It’s really pretty to go down this river, total of 16km (as I recall) with cliffs on each side. The river is also fast today, and through the different passages we get wet – but not a problem in wet suits. We have a good team and with Captain Morgen we manage to pass all waterfalls – and one of them in compelling style, to Morgan’s satisfaction such that she can brag about it to the other guides. It’s a really cool team of guides who are all very interesting in river rafting and taking good care of us. In the end we go through a 200m long tunnel (only two places in the world where you can raft in a tunnel, and this is the longest) and when we come out, we almost immediately go over a large rapid – all still inside the raft. It was a really cool experience to river raft, and for sure not the last time when I get an opportunity.
The drive is now towards Te Anau. It’s also a very nice tour, first with lakes and mountains, and later with long views to open landscapes, fields, cattle, sheep – probably the first time with such long stretched views with mountains and hills in the background. I have had the camper for 3 weeks and driven 3200km, and I have the Scenic Drive playlist from Spotify playing (a bit too much Country). Te Anau also seems like a very touristic city, located at a lake with mountains in the background (not sure at which height the definition of a mountain starts). I go to an Outdoor shop to hear which equipment I can rent – especially I’ll need a sleeping bag, since there are only mattresses in the Kepler track huts. I’m a bit skeptical about the need of a sleeping bag, since I rented such for the Mount Everest Base Camp trek – and never used it. It was sufficient (although freezing inside) with a liner bag, base layer, and a quilt – but in the Kepler track huts there are no quilts or blankets, so I better get the sleeping bag anyways.