Oh beautiful New Zealand….the land of extremities. Extreme landscapes, mountains, rivers, giant ferns and extreme sports. But the thing is, I’m not really an extreme person.
I’m pretty much scared of everything. Spiders, heights, the sea, the dark….. So it always stuns me when I come out with these crazy ideas. Like getting ridiculously lost on a mountain for 5 hours in Courchevel and eating snow wasn’t enough. (It wasn’t yellow.)
Or climbing Mount cooks glacier with the hangover from hell. ( I think I was still intoxicated )
So in 2007 we decided to descend down one of New Zealand’s highest commercially rafted Waterfalls, Kaituna falls situated in Rotorua.
More commonly known by tourists for its thermal springs and healing volcanic mud, how ironic this serene destination is also home to a 22ft waterfall. That’s a whopping 7 meters!
We duly signed our lives away with an extreme tour company called Raftabout and joined another couple of trembling tourists as we boarded our life raft ( Literally )
The guides were great fun and playfully teased us as they took us through a series of safety checks and what to do if the raft overturned (apart from panic, we had to regroup UNDER the raft for our own safety from what I can only imagine are other tourists falling out of THEIR rafts)
After a failed attempt at the first few rapids and nearly tumbling head first out of the raft, the guides decided Id be the first to fall out. Oh joy.
We did get a chance in the calm before the storm to admire our Jurassic parkesque landscape of giant ferns and gentle rapids, working together to become a team before the final decent was upon us.
As we carefully approached the falls we watched in stunned apprehension, waiting in turn as the raft in front of us tipped over the precipice in a crescendo of man screams, prayers and then…….Silence.
‘OK we’re up!’ proclaimed the guide happily, bringing me out of my terrified stupor, knuckles whitening as I gripped my paddle tighter and nearly cried out over the impending doom that lay ahead.
‘Ok team, Let’s go!’ Did I mention that because of weight distribution they had decided to place me at the front? I cursed my previous 8 months of NZ travel living on a diet of sickly bourbon & coke cans as we made our way towards the drop off. And then, in an instant, we were over. A flash of the drop, awareness of other rafters watching from below, the raging waters rushing up to consume me before we hit the breath sucking, icy water with tremendous force and completely submerged.
Before we knew it, we were on the surface again completely upright! What should have been a stunned sense of elation was quickly dismissed when the guides told me that’s not the actual drop, we have the bigger one coming up.
It was only when safely on dry land a few minutes later I realised they were winding me up and I was jelly legged and ecstatic over my achievement. The highlight had to be the tour groups photographer who captured the fall. In my terror I was photographed laughing like a mad women whilst the male, jesting companion behind me screamed like a girl.