After having a pretty chill day the day before (our excitement for the day was going to watch Trolls in the theatre, we both agreed it was a good movie) we decided that the next day would be a little more exciting. We decided to do something neither of us had ever done before. We had both been white water rafting before, I had actually done this exact river 3 years ago, so we decided we would go down the river in a way we didn’t even know existed until we seen it on the website.
White water sledge (AKA: riverboarding).
As opposed to getting into a raft with 4 other people and a guide we were going to be putting on flippers and grabbing an oversized plastic boogie board with a handle. We also got a helmet and life jacket.
This river has the highest commercially rafted waterfall in the world at 7 meters! Luckily we didn’t have to battle our way through that one as we started after that section of the river. Trust me, the “little” 1 or 2 meter ones we went down were plenty difficult and washed out our noses, ears, and even my mouth, quite well enough.
After being given the proper safety briefing (of which Alanna understood next to none of as the guides had a fairly heavy accent and talked pretty fast) we grabbed our sledges and headed down the hill to the edge of the river. Once there the guide said a bit to the river as it was a very sacred river to the Maori people, sacred as in they used to “bury” their dead in it. I’m not exactly sure what he said, it was all in Maori, but I think he asked the river to be nice to us and allow us to safely enter into the waters.
With that it was time to jump in. Literally. Flippers, helmet, and life jacket on we jumped into the river having our sledges tossed to us once we had resurfaced. We then went over the few ways there are to roll over and get back on top of the sledge in case we happened to end up not on it at some point. Even in the fairly calm waters of this section of the river this proved to not be easy, but we eventually got it sorted out.
Performing that to the satisfaction of the guides (we each had our own as there was only us two doing the sledge) off we went down the river.
I’m not going to lie, I don’t remember a lot of specific details as it was all one big blur (especially the five or six times my contacts decided they wanted to almost come out of my eye). I don’t remember how many waterfalls we went down but it was enough. Most of them we would go straight down first then kick of to one side so we could circle back around to the edge of the falls.
Once at the edge of the falls we did a few different things. A couple of them we actually climbed out of the water, up onto the rock, and jumped back into the waterfall with our sledge. The idea was to land just at the edge of the waterfall and “surf” the “bubbly” part. More often than not this did not go according to plan the first time and we were flipped around, upside down, backwards, and spit out the other end of the “bubbly” part into the river. This usually also was paired with having your nose and/or ears cleaned out really well. Then we would regroup (usually making sure both contacts were still in my head), revise the strategy and try it again. The second time generally went better than the first although we still had a less than graceful exit from our “surf”.
Other times we swam into the waterfall from the edge where it was a bit more calm and then enter back into the “bubbly” part to try to “surf” again. This was done with much the same lack of grace as the jumping into the waterfall was done but it too usually went better the second time.
One of the waterfalls created a sort of whirlpool off to the side so we decided to have a play in that. It was one of the easier things we did as the water pretty much did the work for you. All that was required from us was to swim into the flow of the river right below the waterfall and hold that for longer than you wanted to, and then spin around and face down river, letting it take you where it pleased. Again on the second try things went much more the way they were meant to and what ended up happening was that you would go down river for a few seconds then be swept to the side and spun around in the whirlpool a few times before entering back into the flow of the river and repeating the ordeal.
On the last waterfall we did things slightly different. We still started the same going down river with the current only this time we twisted sideways so we were looking at the bank and pressing the edge of the sledge, that was going into the waterfall first, down into the water. This waterfall was slightly different and instead of spitting you out the other end it would grab the edge of the sledge and twist you around so you faced up the waterfall and would “surf” the waterfall. If you did it right. I apparently did not as I only glanced the waterfall in passing for a second before being sucked under and given a right proper face wash. It felt like I had stuck my head out the window of a speeding car only it was water that was slamming my lips open onto my face and cleaned my teeth for me. The I was promptly spun around, flipped upside down, and spit out the other end.
Again gathering my wits and organizing my contacts back into their proper spots I swam to the edge of the waterfall to watch Alanna go. And. She. Nailed it! Side of the sledge down, water grabbed it, flipped her facing up the waterfall, kept the nose pulled up so the water went under, and didn’t pulled her under like it did to me, then fairly gracefully rode out the end of it.
Then it was time to do the jump into the waterfall for a “surf”. On my first attempt things went pretty well according to plan. I managed to “surf” a few seconds then give a thumbs up to the camera before I pulled the nose up too far and the water pushed me over backwards, spun me around a few times and spit me out the other end.
Alanna’s turn to jump in came next. She jumped in, landed exactly where she need to be, kept the nose up just enough, then started to tip sideways. We all thought that was the end of it. Until she barrel rolled out of it and right back up into her “surf”. Wow. All of us watching started to hoot and holler, the guides leading the excitement. Again it was a fairly graceful exit from the waterfall for her.
This next time we jumped in was going to be the last. The idea was that we would all jump in and “surf” the waterfall for the camera lady to take a group picture. One of the guides jumped in first, not before telling me, “she’s showing you up so far, better show us what you got on this one”. With that he was off into the waterfall. He stuck the landing. Now the pressure was on. I jumped. Sledge slammed onto the water. Got it. The guide and I were “surfing” beside each other. Now it was Alanna’s turn. She jumped. Sledge slammed onto the water. Nose dove down. Alanna disappeared for a brief second before she presented her fins to the sky and her face got a good wash as she nearly flipped ass over tea kettle. Somehow righting herself she grabbed out for whatever was in front of her. Turns out that something was me as her sledge had been ripped from her hands and spit out behind her. It wasn’t too long before she too followed suit and was re-acquainted with her sledge as the guide caught it and then her. With that it was my turn to take a less than graceful exit from the waterfall, although it was much more graceful than Alanna’s. With that botched we ended our sledge down the river.
Once back at the office and out of our wetsuits and back into street clothes we got a chance to check out our pictures. This is when we found out that the last attempt for a good picture was not completely botched as the camera lady caught Alanna’s golden exit of the waterfall. We had quite the laugh when we saw them, hopefully you enjoy them even half as much as we did.