RIVER WILD RAFT RUN TEAM CHALLENGE
Everyone likes November; it’s full of the promise of summer, it's usually the start of warmer weather, and the beginning of the month also hosts one of our favourite events in our favourite places; the River Wild Raft N Run Challenge, hosted by Rafting New Zealand in Turangi.
Our Adventure Girls team stumbled across this event back in 2013 when we in Turangi for a girl’s ski weekend away. Unfortunatley the weather was bad and the mountain was closed so we decided to go rafting instead. It was the middle of winter, it was cold and raining, but we had so much fun. Our guide then told us about the River Wild Raft N Run Challenge and suggested we come down in November and compete.
The River Wild Raft N Run Challenge begins at the Poutu Dam just south of Turangi. Teams enter the water in 1 minute intervals and raft 16km down the Tongariro River through over 60 rapids. Once you reach Red Hut Bridge you drop your lifejacket, wetsuit and helmet and run 8km along the Tongariro River Trail. Each team has their own professional raft guide who will help get you down safely then it’s up to you and your team to navigate the last 8km trail to the finish.
Personally, I am not much of a runner, however, this is one run I actually enjoy. The 8km follows the Tongariro River as it meanders its way back towards town. The track underfoot is gentle, and the time passes pretty quickly with such spectacular scenery on both sides; the river on your left and the rolling hills and farmland on your right.
Our first time competing in the River Wild Raft N Run Challenge was 5 years ago and we have been coming back with our team of six women every year since. Our results have varied, from average to dead last, but where we have placed has been unimportant; it’s been all about the great vibe, the rafting, the scenery and the people.
So for the first few years we were not at all competitive and spent most of the time on the river telling stories and laughing at the banter, however that all changed last year. Our constant talk about the River Wild race had rubbed off and in 2017, our friends and families decided to join us and we ended up with four teams entered and the challenge was set. It seemed we didn’t mind being beaten by complete strangers, yet we were not going to allow our other friends to show us up. So last year, when we hit the river, we actually paddled and made a real effort.
It’s quite incredible what you can achieve when you put your mind to it. Despite the fact that two of our teams were made up of averagely fit middle-aged women, and we were competing against mixed and all-men’s teams, our times on the river were pretty impressive, placing 6th (1hr 36 min) and 7th (1hr 37 min) out of 20. Our two mixed teams placed 2nd (1hr 31 min) and 15th (1hr 39 min) off the river so we were pretty stoked.
Our mixed team continued their excellent form and finished 2nd overall (with a total time of 2hr 36 min), with our two girls teams finishing 9th (2hr 48min) and 10th (only 10 seconds behind) and our other mixed team made up the time on the run and finished 6th with a time of 2hrs 45 min overall. We celebrated with beers and hotdogs at the Rafting NZ headquarters in Turangi and talked about what we could have done better; our mixed team determined to take out first place honours the following year. Amazing how we’d suddenly all became so competitive.
The thing we love most about this event though is the place and the people. Turangi is one of those hidden gems of New Zealand and is often overlooked as a destination as it hides in the shadow of the more well-known adventure town of Taupo. However, Turangi offers a unique environment and has a huge amount to offer the outdoor enthusiast. There’s excellent mountain biking nearby and hiking trails a plenty. The Tongariro River is world renown for its fly fishing and is perfect for kayaking and rafting too and then there’s everything Lake Taupo can offer.
TOP: The inaugral River Wild Raft Run Challenge, 2013 ABOVE: With event organisers, Luke and Pianika Boddington from Rafting NZ in Turangi. RIGHT: Teams in action in 2014 BELOW: Team Miss-Adventure on the final run section in 2015 BELOW RIGHT: The...