So much for posting succinctly. Sorry about such a long previous post, but yesterday was quite spectacular. You'd think Sally and I did nothing but watch tv. Not true. Yesterday we drove from Rotorua to Taupo (just over an hour), checked into our beautiful hotel on New Zealand's largest lake (complete with geothermal heating), and then went for a Kiwi adventure on the Tongariro River.
Does whitewater rafting sound fun in 5 degree weather? Granted, it was 5 degrees Celsius, but hey, that's only about 40 degrees. In fact, as we drove up the mountain to get to the starting point for our rafting trip, we saw some snow on the ground. When we got out, it was raining. Yeah. Considering all that, it must have been a pretty amazing trip when Sally and I both agreed at the end that it was by far the most fun we've had yet!
Togs and towels. It's pretty hard to understand some Kiwis; sometimes you wonder whether we really speak the same language. Not only was the Rafting employee hard to understand on the phone as I was booking our trip, but coupled with the different Kiwi lingo, it was downright unintelligible. When I asked if we needed to bring anything, she said, "Just ya togs and towels." I said "Togs?" thinking that that would indicate my lack of understanding as to what "togs" were. Oh no, she just thought perhaps I misunderstood what she said, so she simply responded, "Yeah, togs." Okay. Luckily we found out from our hotel manager that togs are swim trunks, so we came ready.
After putting on a fleece, wetsuit, another fleece, a splash jacket, wool socks and wet boots, Sally and I were ready for the Tongariro River. Our guide Luke was awesome. He steered us through over 60 rapids, Class 3+, and also informed us of our Jurassic Park-like surroundings. The river was overshadowed by 100-foot high cliffs at times, and we saw waterfalls, tropical flora, and volcanic rocks, ash, and pumice from one of the world's largest volcanic eruptions about 1800 years ago that created Lake Taupo.
Crashing through the rapids was a lot of fun. It was definitely cold, but with all the rowing, we were also working up quite a sweat. The hands and feet were really the only part that suffered from the cold, wet environment, and after two hours, they were suffering. To their credit, our guides gave us a pick-me-up of hot chocolate about 2/3 of the way through, and that definitely helped.
With only about 5 rapids to go, the other boat in our group hit a hard rapid and crashed into the side of a rock, and out plopped one of their rowers. He made it back into the boat, but considering that it was about 40 degrees outside and the water was somewhere very near that temperature, it was painful just to watch him fall in.
Not to be outdone, and just for good measure, after successfully navigating 59 rapids, our boat made a Luke-patented front nose crash into a wall. (About four or five times, instead of turning, we simply crashed into the cliff face and then hit the rest of the rapid backwards--it was awesome). But this last one was different, instead of the nose folding in half and then pushing us back, we rode up the side of the cliff. This put Jay (the other front paddler) and me into the air and flailing. Jay fell directly into the water, and without any balance, and trying to hold on to my oar, I had no choice but prepare myself for the inevitable fall. I held my breath and plunged into the icy waters, and boy, it took the old breath away! Thankfully Sally was able to pull me back into the boat (thanks for that, babe!) after only about 20 seconds in the drink. Best of all, it was only about one more minute of rowing before we were at the end and only a 20 minute ride back to base camp.
Best of all, when we got back, we were treated to a natural thermal pool with hot water of about 105 degrees. It was the perfect way to bring some feeling back to the feet, and eventually to even get warm, and then sweaty. It was an amazing experience, and Sally and I were very happy with our guide and his Maori wife who just bought the company and were making every effort to run a first-rate operation. It was totally awesome. Sweet as.