Surfing the rapids
Tutea Falls' seven metre drop

Rafting in Roto-Vegas

Article submitted by Krister
June 25th, 2007

Rotorua, locally referred to as Roto-vegas, is a geothermic wonderland of tourist features, activities and striking scenery. The drive into Rotorua is filled with New Zealand native greenery and a spectacular lake view as you drop into Rotorua.

Due to its geothermal properties, Rotorua can have a strong smell of sulphury egginess and once the “poo, was that you?” jokes are over; it’s time to decide how you will spend your stay in Rotorua. You are definitely not starved of choice for activities, in fact standing in front of the multi coloured towering activities pamphlet stand, can be somewhat bewildering.

However, I’m here to help. Indulge me if you will on the story of my recent adrenaline fix, barreling down whitewater rapids and waterfalls in a big rubber raft. Rafting in Vegas, although having a Sheryl Crowe-like sound to it, is a darn fun way to spend a couple of hours.

The Raftabout Rafting Company picked me up and drove me out to their base nestled between a good old kiwi sheep farm and the mighty Kaituna River. After kitting me out from head to toe in rubber warming garments and full safety gear, the guides set about teaching me how to raft and the safety required when on the water.

All suited, booted and instructed we hit the water, suddenly we were transported away from the machine made noises and hustle bustle of society to the way New Zealand used to be: beautiful, untouched and greener than green. You can’t help but have an epiphany of the beautiful world we live in. Silver fern fronds emboss the beautiful river as the peace surrounds you with only the sound of native birds serenading your paddle powered cruise along the Kaituna. That is however, until a distant rumble slowly gets closer and closer. As we pull in to the side, all that epiphanic peace and love to the world rubbish, is knocked aside to make way for a brewing anxious excitement reverberating in your paddle hand. We are reminded again, when instructed to paddle or get down,,, you be ready to do it and do it fast.

The next part of the trip is a blur, of heart in the mouth, screams and hoots and cheering only preceded by the odd splutter of Kaituna water. We fly down narrow white thrashes of water and drop through waterfalls at super speeds. The rapids bounce us from left to right up down and around the corner, the only constant is the huge grin on everyone’s face.

Next we hit a medium sized rapid and spin back to face it. Our guide seemed to have been whacked a bit hard in the head with his paddle, as he calls for us to paddle up river back towards the rapid. Do I take charge and forge a mutiny to override this crazy guide?? …luckily I shut up and embarked on my first ever river surfing experience. Our guide expertly drove the raft back to the wave at the end of the rapid and suddenly we are floating over the wave with the river rushing underneath us, sliding up in down and across the peeling green wave beneath us.

Further down the river we pull into a natural rest bay. I can tell by the glitter in our guide, Steve’s eyes, that something big was about to happen. Big… yes ,… how big ?? 7 Metres of big, that's how big!!! As we sail off the end of the tallest commercially rafted waterfall in the world, Tutea Falls, we drop for what seems like an eternity before plunging into the water, and kept going down . The raft and everyone aboard is submerged below the Kaituna, buoyancy propels us up as we rocket out of the water and back to oxygen, to the sound of “YEEEEEEEEEEEEEAAAAAAAAHHHHHHH!!!!!! HOOOLLYYY SHHHH…!” I soon realized that most of the noise was coming from myself, and in fact I couldn't shut up my cheering, hooting and hollering for quite some time after the drop (it was roughly 2 weeks).

As we pulled into shore the vans picked us up, it wasn't time to finish, oh no it was time to do it all over again, but this time with a twist… a roll and a few whitewater spins. Back up the river we launch ourselves into the water on a small plastic sledge. Sledgeabout have specifically designed sledges that look like a cross between a toboggan and a chilly bin lid. These sledges allow you to surf down the river dropping rapids and surfing the waves. Cutbacks, spins and el rollos were all attempted which usually finished with me blowing whitewater out my nose with hearty, yet somewhat embarrassing, snorts of laughter.

The adrenaline packed day was something to remember and the photo CD from the professional photographer perched at various points along the river is a keeper with many a slide show premiered to unsuspecting guests at my place.

Rafting in Vegas is a definite ‘must’! It is one of my all time favourite kiwi experiences, head on down there and get amongst nature with a full whack of white water adrenaline.

And who knows, maybe it will be some inspiration for Sheryl's new album??

(For more info on the rafting experience call 0800 RAFTABOUT).

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well written, too short, similar to your experience
  • posted on 1256029355 0
    Overall Rating: 10.0 / 10

    Hey thanks Krister for sharing your experience with us. I enjoyed reading your article and hope we see you back for some more adrenaline fun soon!