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March 17, 2004
The last section of the river was complete whitewater with a huge waterfall drop. We were not to go the route of the waterfall, but had been instructed in how to go under the fall and not land flat should we miss the turn. The two guides that were always to side of the group were there to keep us from the waterfall and if not able to, assist in getting out of it. One of the guides did go over the falls to make sure no one slipped by. When we reached the end, we felt as if we climbed Mt. Everest such was the experience. We stood still long enough for a couple of group photos and pats on the back and then we wanted to get all the gear off and go for lunch that the guides supplied. During our fish and chips lunch, we all got to see our photos on the computer and all decided to purchase a CD, even at the price of NZ45.00.
On the ride back we all wrote in the guest book, as did I, but this time I took the time to read all of the comments, no longer intimidated. I thanked the guides for taking such excellent care of me. Talking with the lady next to me who had just done the class V rapids the day before which I was contemplating, I was told it would be a let down after sledging. What a shock to compare class IV whitewater sledging to class V rafting. Happy Birthday to me!
Just a side note, Kaitiaki Adventures has been sledging since 1989 and also offers whitewater rafting. There are 100% Kiwi owned and the guides all begin and end tours with a traditional Maori prayer which they explained was to pay respect to the people of the river and ask for safe passage.
From journal NZ Whitewater Sledging
The instruction book showed a few diagrams with the sledge (similar to hard plastic boogie-board) in the middle of the river at different angels with arrows indicating the directions in clock hand terms for upstream and left and right for downstream. Specific number of kicks and the angel to which you moved your leg were also discussed. We also received verbal instructions to keep our arms inside so as not to scrape rocks and holding the boarding at all times. Kicks were to be straight-legged to avoid knee accidents and we never to stand up as most accidents occurred when feet got stuck in rocks while the current continued to pull the body downstream. Lastly, we were shown how to right ourselves should we take on water and wind up with board on top of us.
Not really understanding some of the diagrams I passed the booklet on and began reading the guest book in the hands of the fellow next to me. After reading a few excerpts like: I never knew drowning could be so much fun, thanks for keeping me from drowning, and this is the most insane thing I’ve ever done, I choose not to read anymore.
When we arrived at the starting point, we were fitted with wetsuits, life jackets, booties, odd shaped fins and helmets with front cages. What have I gotten myself into?! Okay, scuba, skydiving, rafting, but this is a little unnerving.
After being given instructions on how to get across the river to the eddy, our group had to demonstrate our ability. If the guides didn’t think we could do it, that was it, they wouldn’t allow us to endanger others or ourselves. With four guides to our group of seven, this was SERIOUS fun. Fortunately, we all passed, and after a briefing of the obstacles and which side the next eddy was at for us to get out at, we took off. We were to be as close as possible to the person in front of us, but always in direct alignment with the front guide. I remind myself not to open my mouth as waves are breaking in my face from all different directions. And whatever happens, I must not loose my grip on the board. I was so intent on these two things as well as staying right behind the person in front of me I totally missed seeing the two boulders we skirted around. Nor did I ever see the photographer that was taking pictures of all of us. We reached the eddy and all managed to pull out and gave each other a pat on the back. This was good practice for the next two, which get progressively more difficult.