We're alive!!!! we made it through and what ...

Trip Start Sep 19, 2002
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Trip End Sep 22, 2003


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Thursday, November 7, 2002

WE'RE ALIVE!!!!

We made it through and what an awesome day we've had. The best 85 pounds I've ever spent, dunno about Phil.

We had a lazy morning in preparation and checked that the trip was still on and then it was time to go. I was stupidly wearing my England rugby shirt in preparation for the game against New Zealand on Saturday / Sunday and was promptly told that I would therefore get an extra special dunking.

We boarded the bus to the shotover river and donned long black rain macs and life jackets before getting into the speedboats. The water shoots out of the back of the boat at 400 litres per second and enables them to go up to 70kph. The hand rails are heated (thank god) but the rest of you gets pretty wet and cold as you jet up and down the canyons having near miss after near miss. When the waves hit you (usually during one of the many 360 turns) and then you go fast, your face freezes because it was wet already. During the 360 spins, you slide about all over the shop and I managed to bash my elbow (don't have to be at home to be incident prone it seems). Wet and cold we exited the boat and were fitted for our wet suits. For some reason, they always take mine from the mens rack which means that although it fits round my backside, it's always about a metre too long in the leg and I end up like Nora Batty. So booties fitted, red macs on, life jackets and helmets at the ready we boarded the bus to the upper part of the canyon. Six by six we boarded the helicopter (we were last) and we squeezed in together. Just as Phil was taking a picture, the chopper swerved and turned and nose dived and reared up all over the place. It was all over too quickly and we'd both love to do it again. But that was the minor stuff over with!

The chopper landed by the water side deep in the canyon and we teamed up with some people who spoke English as a first language to make sure our communication was good in the raft. After a safety briefing (if you end up in the water, don't put your feet down 'cos they might get stuck under a rock or some old mining equipment) we entered our trusty rubber rafts. As we pushed off, we noticed that our guide (who I had already told that I was scared of water) was accompanied by another guide and that he was under instruction (oh no - life flashes before eyes etc) but then we thought, hey we;ve got two people who know what they're doing so it's unlikely anything bad will happen (cross fingers, prayers said, lucky rabbit stroked etc etc etc). Phil was at the front as a strong oarsman and director and I was at the back with the guides so they could stop me falling in. You have to sit on the edge of the raft so that you are near the water to steer but your feet are tucked under the rubber to stop you dropping off the edge. About 40mins of pleasant rafting with practising our different techniques and safety issues and we occassionally had a bit of a bumpy ride and hit a few rocks. These waters were considered grade 1-2 (5 being the highest commercially raftable grade). Even so, several people in other boats lost it and fell out and had to be rescued. The water of course is Bloody freezing and not being a water baby anyway, there was no way I was going in.

Then it was rapids time - 5 rapids in a line (can't remember what they were called but one was called the toilet) up to grade 4!!! However, we all got to the end intact and cheered our excellent good fortune and oarsmanship. A little while longer down the river and a few more were lost or beached and we hit a rock unexpedtedly. Phil fell in but fell into the boat rather than into the water which was lucky because I wasn't about to get my hands even colder pulling him back on the boat. The shotover river itself still contains gold and mining only stopped 10 years ago to prevent further damage to the canyons. Another 40 years of the embargo to go and they will be able to mine again (allegedly) although most people reckon not because the tourism is more garuanteed and it will still harm the environment.

Then it was time for more rapids! One called Jaws, then one called The Sequel and then........ the tunnel! Phil, who always seems to get picked for everything, got picked to be the front guide and had to sit on the front steering by himself while we all cowered in the boat for safety. We cheered him on though and thought encouraging thoughts as he led the way down the 170m rapid in the dark. As we popped out the other end we all had to "get down" which means you get right down in the boat and hold on for dear life (which is actually quite hard when you have no feeling in your fingers) and the biggest rapid of the day (also a 4) spits you out at the end (with a bit of luck). Also at this point, some fool with a camera tries to take your picture and you are supposed to smile. We've just had a look at them and apart from Phil and the other front man, you would never know it was us (I was there - honestly) we were obviously too busy cowering in the back! At 5 quid a photo we didn't bother - our memories are enough.

Hot saunas were followed by showers (our first for days....) and it was back to town to compare bruising and scary stories. I can honestly say I didn't want to get out of the water as I had enjoyed it so much and would love to do it again. Definitely one of our best memories of the trip so far. Phil always said I would never do it so I feel really proud of myself and almost invincible (but not invincible enough to try the bungy).

Talking of which, we saw the A J Hackett bungy yesterday which goes into a canyon from the Kawarau bridge. I was nearly sick just watching and people were crying and cheering and it all looked very dangerous to me. Phil however, thinks he might be up for it and is now using money as an excuse not to do it. I've told him, money is no object when you're trying to kill yourself. I couldn't look for long and I was almost crying with the girls who had to be peeled off the instructors before they fell off. No thanks, I'll leave that one to the nutters. Next big adventure for us is zorbing and then swooping(answers on a postcard please as to what they are) and then the biggie - SKYDIVING!

I'm now going to do something even more challenging as I think I deserve it. I'm going to try and get some pennies out of Phil for a kebab - wish me luck!

Red
(and Pip)
xx
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