The river takes us


Today we’re driving to Napier to see Kelly’s cousin Sharon and co. It’s only a two hour drive in our rent-a-car and the scenery is sublime, rolling hills and vineyards appear as we get closer to the East coast. We pass a sign naming Napier the Art Deco capital of New Zealand, so well done there Napier. We later learn that it was damaged during an earthquake in the 1930s hence the style.

When we reach the house we are greeted by Sharon, Zach and Izzy, who all promptly laugh at my new look (a bandage across my nose), and in we go.

The day and evening spent catching up on all things, wedding, moving to New Zealand and reminiscing about the good ‘Ol days.

One time being when Matt, travelled on a ‘death boat’ to Lombok in the early nighties during his backpacking time. The boat – not marketed as a death boat but marketed as a cheap alternative to flying that included fishing, food and sight seeing stop offs along the way – took them 7 days. It also didn’t have any form of navigation apart from keeping sight of the coast, got them them dangerously close to Kimono Dragons and the food mentioned was actually juse 7 live chickens, 1 for each day, shared between the 10 men on the boat.

My times have changed, and as adventurous as that sounds in hindsight, Matt remarked that whilst staring down a very real plug hole in the sea one night, it really didn’t seem worth the money he saved. In fact they blew that anyway by booking straight into a 5-star hotel in Lombok when they did finally make it.

We only stayed for 24 hours but it was great to be in real-world company again.


Our return journey took us back to Taupo, which we made despite a few shouts and c-bombs from Kelly (mainly due to my goofing around with the camera).

Next day we were back on the Kiwi Experience route down to River Valley, with a new bus, new driver, and mainly new people save Albin, Matilde and the inbetweeners.

Albin and Matilde had to delay each location as they were on standby for the coaches in the South Island so needed to hold off until they were confirmed on one route. Strangely though they were advised not to stay more than one night in River Valley a place situated at the bottom of a valley which felt a bit like a lost world down there. Excellent and worth an extra night or two.

It didn’t have much going on, but you could walk up the vast inclines that made the valley, play volleyball, swim or jump off a pulley chair put into the middle of the river. Albin and I did the latter. Unsurprisingly whilst trying to avoid diving into the water face first, I did exactly that. No harm done though.

The people on the new bus had been travelling together since Auckland. So naturally they were quite a tight group, but they soon loosened up during our party that evening.

Not to get too drunk though as the next day we had white water rafting to tackle.

The Swedes and us chose a raft together with a German called Maxi and our guide Daniel who at 22 had the unfortunate experience of seeing the Phantom Menace as his first trip to the cinema when 7 years old, and loved it. Kelly and I muttered something about feeling old and shoved our paddles into the water.

Kelly with her gammy knee sat in the front keeping time with Albin, whilst Maxi and I were to provide the power in the middle for Daniel and Matilde in the back to steer with. The team worked and after a few drills to get us responding to ‘paddle forward’, ‘dive right’ or ‘left’ we were ready for action, and action we got.


Starting with grade 2 falls and working up to grade 5s we made our way down 20km of Rapids, through the prehistoric looking countryside. Daniel kept the banter and the momentum going, whilst the rest of us tried to not look afraid as we hurtled down waterfalls, or fell into the razor sharp rocky river.

Adrenaline fuelled us down to the River Valley hostel where we finished and picked up our stuff for Wellington. En route we had a quick stop at a waterfall for lunch and then we were on our way.


On the bus we were told we had to get the early ferry to Picton and the South Island the following day, and that we’d be arriving into Wellington at 6. Which gave us approximately 13 hours to experience New Zealand’s capital city. Mis-planning there on my part but it would’ve been different if someone at Kiwi Experience had told me that fact at the time of booking.

Anyway, short lived as it was Wellington is a very pleasant, walkable, port-town with plenty of shops and bars.

Next time maybe…

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