As I mentioned in my last post, the reason for going to Rotorua in the first place was so that we could raft the world-famous Kaituna River, known for its Grade 5 rapids and 8 meter (20 foot) waterfall, making it the largest commercially rafted waterfall in the world. There’s some serious bragging rights. Anyway, as were being given the quick briefing about safety and what to do if you fall out of the raft, our guide totally breezed through and made sure to assure us that these are just hypothetical scenarios, and it is very rare that people actually do flip. However, in the rare case that this happens, make sure that you hold on to the raft, because eventually it will pull you up to the top with it and you will be able to breathe in the air pocket it creates. Other important side notes: when you go down the waterfall, you need to hold your paddle tight to the side with the rope, crouch down, and tuck your chin. Easy enough. The guide was so lighthearted in these serious and seemingly life-saving messages that we didn’t take it too seriously and our nerves were quickly calmed. At least mine were anyway. The first few rapids were a breeze, and then we came to the big daddy waterfall. Let’s have the pictures speak for themselves. I suggest you click on the first picture and flick through the gallery to get a good play-by-play.
So there I am at the top of the raft with my paddle hanging over the edge. Being the last one thrown off the raft I was also the first one to pop up after being submerged for the longest and slowest ten seconds of my life. When I was first submerged under the water, I felt the waterfall dumping tons of water on me and pummeling my helpless but very buoyant (thanks to the life jacket) body under the water. After being released from the grip of the rapids under the falls, I bobbed around under the water for a little, hitting random rocks and patiently waiting for my life jacket to kick into action and pop me back to fresh air. When that finally happened, I started gasping for air as the chokehold of the water was released from my lungs. I never thought it’d feel so good to breathe haha! Lo and behold I still had my damn paddle in my hand. Forget about holding on to the raft, I was gripping that paddle like it was the last thing I’d do. Don’t ask me why. Anyway, I recollected myself and the girl next to me popped up soon after, and for some reason I got this sudden surge of life-saving ability and swam over to her to help her out. After I got to the shore, I saw Marie dangling over the front of some random kayak basically having a panic attack and then the two heads of our guide and the last girl. I immediately burst out laughing and almost peed in my wetsuit, which would have proved for a rather disgusting but warm rest of the way down the river. Although traumatizing for some (especially Marie) I look back at this as one of the funniest things that has happened to me. I hope I get to go back!