Down the Rangitikei in a dodgy raft

Down the Rangitikei in a dodgy raft

I used to think that the best sort of raft was one that didn’t sink. But I don’t think that anymore, not after a trip down the mighty Rangitikei with some work mates on a recent offsite: it turns out a sinking raft can be just the sort of vessel that makes a river trip really enjoyable.

We headed off for our overnight ‘strategy session’ at about midday. Our destination was a hut on the banks of the Rangitikei at Te Para Hut, a true gem of a back-country shack on a farm just outside Mangaweka. To get there, though, we were driving in convoy from Wellington. A compulsory stop for fast food in Levin saw us lose one of our walkie-talkies and all inter-vehicle communication. It may have been Rick’s fault, or it may have been mine, we’re not quite sure. I think it was Rick.

It’s amazing what you can learn about a colleague on a 3 hour car ride. Who would have thought that our office manager used to work in mines in Australia, or that our legal eagle can breath fire and dance with fire poi? Crikey.

But it was when we hit the banks of the Rangitikei river that the fun really started. The raft looked OK parked up by the trees, but when we hopped in and started paddling, we quickly learned that there was a massive amount of air escaping from beside a valve. The first set of rapids was a complete shambles with us trying to make it through with the gunnels under the river level. Off to the side of the river to pump up again and then set off with one person perched at the front trying to stop the air escaping, kneeling on the canvas floor.

Hilarity ensued when rapids came and the leak-stopper got their knees bashed by the rocks just under the water.  Ouch. But we soldiered on (or is that “sailored”?), took shifts and made our way through to our destination.

It would have been less embarrassing if we weren’t being accompanied by 3 of our team in a Hamilton 150a jetboat with a 350 chev, and another of the team (a true pioneer and mountain man) in a one-man kayak/raft that he brought along in a backpack, with accompanying collapsible carbon fibre paddle.

These clowns were darting around the river, spraying us with water and navigating the rapids with no bruises or leaks whatsoever.

Here’s how the raft looked when we arrived, battered and laughing, at Te Para Hut:

Dodgy raft

Before we did some work we had some time to firstly appreciate the absolute quiet, the stillness, the beauty and the clean air of that magic spot, before we shattered that silence with the booming reports of an Enfield .303, exploding Rangitikei greywacke rocks from 100 feet. Marvellous. (We were shooting responsibly with a clear range and targets, kids, and well-maintained firearms and heck it was good fun).

Safe range shooting at Te Para Hut

Although we did actually do some work, we managed not to let strategy documents spoil the enjoyment that the privilege of being on the banks of the river with a bonfire, a fine single malt and some great company can provide. It must also be said that while the hut was in the middle of nowhere, had dodgy cellphone coverage and no power, the shower was incredible. Roughing it we were not.

Looking towards the river

Te Para Hut

It can be easy sometimes not to take a breath and look around at what this marvellous country can provide in terms of simple pristine beauty. At Te Para Hut on the Rangitikei there are no snowy-peaked mountains and no panoramic vistas, just plain old green trees, clear water and fresh air: it’s good honest countryside and it is all the more spectacular for it. If you get the chance, take a trip to the Rangitikei, float down the river in a dodgy raft, marvel at the sheer cliffs and spot a jumping trout or two. Breathe it in, you’ll love it.

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