story By Ian Trafford images Courtesy of raftabout
My full immersion whitewater rafting baptism came at aged eighteen in the 1970’s. Compliments of the mighty Motu River in the eastern Bay of Plenty I saw God and the white light on a four-day private whitewater rafting trip thrown together by a team of enthusiastic farmers with access to yacht tenders and rubber boats better suited to being bath toys. A merciless mistress, that river had us bruised, battered and gasping while we learnt the whole river alphabet of disasters - flips, wraps, pins, swimmers and downtime were our daily lessons. We were spanked and we hurt, but in some funny old way we hurt good.
A rafting baptism should be much easier. The rapids and gorges of the Motu River injected in me its own opiate-like endorphin, blocking the pain and initiating a long addiction to running rivers over the years, both commercially and privately. For most people a perceived near-drowning experience can put you off rivers for ever and a day but in New Zealand rafting need not be anything like this. Leave the rotting yacht tender and tyretube raft in the shed and jump on a commercial whitewater rafting trip with a professional guide. If you choose to run the big rivers you are still going to crap your daks as you drop over a foaming lip and punch the air when you survive the falls, but your risks are managed by the pros so you are many thousands of times more likely to be going