- Wear a helmet. You will fall in. There will be rocks.
- Not all dry bags are equal. Pay for quality.
- When a water-tight barrel explodes open in a rapid, dry things get wet.
- Securely tied items can do a Houdini and wave goodbye as you’re clinging to the upside-down raft.
- If you lose your heavy camp stove at the bottom of a river and a waif dives for it, it will miraculously light first click.
- Chilly bins need to be tied shut.
- Waterlogged bagels are inedible.
- Sunnies should be tied on. What did I tell them?
- A cairn piled on a rock on the side of the river may indicate a ledge wide enough to pitch camp. Stop!
- Memories of past trips are rose tinted. Add an extra few hours and serious amounts of fear to any memory. I would argue (and did) that a rafting trip is nothing at all like giving birth, but it is true you soon forget the pain and turn around and do it all over again.
All these things I learned as we rafted for two long days down the Ngaruroro gorge from Kuripapango to Whanawhana. You’d think I’d know all this by now, but every river trip is different. This one was seriously scary. It felt, and I’m sure was, dangerous. Decisions need to be fast and good (our guide had an excellent instinct for rapids), but if things go wrong you can drown in moments. I suppose this is like any extreme sport, it’s the nearness to the edge that gives the thrill. I imagine mountain biking gives the same rush, or rally driving, or running of the bulls. None of which calls to me.
Thrills aside, it’s the exhilaration of being out there, in this most remote and inaccessible of places, with the sun and the wind and the water, that pins my soul to the world.