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River Valley Blog

What Is The Story With Being Pedantic

I have somehow missed a week writing this blog. Why?

Because I was being pedantic.

Yes, pedantic, or so my wife, Nicola says. In fact she was somewhat concerned it could become a permanent condition. I had got to the stage of being able to recite every rule about anything to do with safety, safety that is to do with our adventure activities.

What triggered this was two fold.

First was the governments new Adventure Tourism regulations. A set of regulations that apply to some activities, (but not others - horse trekking is exempt, but inflatable kayaking is not), with the general thrust that having better safety systems will make the adventure industry in NZ safer.

The second happening was our annual rafting audit with Maritime NZ. I put both of these together and decided that somehow I could bring all these systems together. A noble cause that has consumed the last two weeks of my life. However I have got very good at acronyms and being able to quote various rules. Hence being pedantic.

What Difference Does This Make To Our Customers?

After all the dust from various audits has settled you will know, (with a touch of cynicism) that the companies you have entrusted with your care have passed all their box ticking and acronym tests, they can use spell checker in Word, and have become very good at creating a form for everything, including a form about where to put all those forms.

Why am I so cynical?

I'm cynical because at the end of the day adventure companies are made up of people. Where you have people working together you develop a culture. This culture defines how a company does things, including looking after your safety. A culture is not defined by pieces of paper and document files.

Do we need the paperwork and systems? Undoubtedly. However without a culture that actually cares about people, that is focused on not only your safety but whether you are having fun, then I doubt very much that the massive effort being put into this will have the outcomes that the government expects.

Time will tell.

For me, I work in a company that has a strong culture based around looking after you. I'm proud of that. Oh, and by the way, we have lots of bits of paper as well.

Brian Megaw

Inflatable Kayaking fun on the Rangitikei River, mid summer 2014.

Posted by Brian Megaw on 15th August, 2014 | Comments | Trackbacks | Permalink
Tags: rafting new zealand, adventure holidays, Rangitikei River, white water rafting, inflatable kayaking

Signs of Change in the New Zealand Rafting Scene

New Zealand, unlike say parts of North America, has developed a rafting industry that is almost totally centered around short, exciting, high grade (harder rapids) trips. To meet demand for this type of trip we see companies chasing a volume type business model - more boats, more departures, inevitably mostly young guides, such is the churn factor with guide burnout.

While there is nothing wrong with this, it is what a large section of the market wants, I do ask myself at regular intervals, what is the real point in it all. Surely this type of experience could be described as not a huge amount different than a theme park, though a theme park in the outdoors.

Other than a dose of adrenaline, are our customers coming away from this type of trip having gained in any way a deeper appreciation of the natural world and their place in it? Unlikely I would think.

There are signs of change however.

I feel quite sure that the short high adrenaline type of trip will never lose its appeal, but the main sign of change we are noticing here at River Valley is the growth in people booking longer multi day rafting trips. Trips that can be as short as a simple overnight, or as long as 5 days on the river, camping on the riverbank each night.

It is on these types of trips that people start to hear the song of the river. Start to rediscover the pace of the natural world, and often make more of a connection with themselves.

It is allowing our customers to hear this type of music that I think gives a meaning to what we do and love as river guides.

You can hear the music yourself by booking a trip from the range of multi day river trips that River Valley offers by clicking here.

Brian Megaw

Deep canyon on the Rangitikei River
The solitude offered by deep river canyons - Rangitikei River, New Zealand

Scenery in the headwaters of the Rangitikei River, North Island, NZ on a rafting trip
Isolated wilderness beauty in the Headwaters of the Rangitikei River, North Island, New Zealand

Posted by Brian Megaw on 2nd August, 2014 | Comments | Trackbacks | Permalink
Tags: rafting new zealand, adventure holidays, Rangitikei River, white water rafting, conservation, Ngaruroro River, multi day rafting trips

The Kindness You Would Give Your Brothers

Brian Megaw, river guide"Who hears the rippling of waters will not utterly despair of anything"

Henry David Thoreau

This year, 2014, marked 28 years that I have been commercially guiding people down rivers in rubber rafts. 28 years of stories, white water, friendships and sometimes, rarely, heartache and tragedy.

While there have been many changes to equipment in that time, and even a greater growth in skills, it is the changes within me that I am most acutely aware of.

At first, like almost all young river guides, it was all about the rapids. The thrill of white water. The camaraderie of working with other guides. However the longer you spend on the river, the more acutely aware you become of an almost spiritual element. You feel the pull of the river, and you feel a bond.

"The rivers are our brothers. They quench our thirst. The rivers carry our canoes and feed our children. You must give the rivers the kindness you would give your brothers"

Chief Seattle of the Duwamish

What does this all mean, this musing on a winter's day?

What it means is that one of the greatest things we can have our customers take away with them after a river trip, is an appreciation of the magic and value of clean, free flowing water. It is to touch them in a way that they feel they too, should become advocates for retaining wild and beautiful rivers and the creatures that depend on them.

Is this important?

No, it is so much more than important. It is vital.

Can we do this without lecturing? That is the hard part.

Brian Megaw

Posted by Brian Megaw on 26th July, 2014 | Comments | Trackbacks | Permalink
Tags: rafting new zealand, Rangitikei River, New Zealand, white water rafting, multi day rafting trips

Multi Day Season Will Be Upon You Before You Realise

Horse Riding Holiday North Island New ZealandMid July - half way through a Southern Hemisphere winter.

And wintry it is here at River Valley. In saying that, it is not anything less than what you would expect at this time of year. Winter will be over soon.

What scares me a little at this time of year is that many of the projects I was going to undertake - you know the great things I was going to achieve - during this quiet time have not even been started, let alone completed.

And Multi Day Season Is Only a Little Over Two Months Away!

That's right, multi day rafting trips kick off in October, with horse trekking over nighters a little later. There is a alot to do before that happens. Stuff to build, gear to check, and most of all, lots of organisation.

Now Is The Time To Start Organising

This is when you need to really get serious about booking. If you are thinking of booking a multi day trip this Spring or Summer, NOW is the time to get organising. Who are you going with, what river, what dates? Remember some rivers, such as the Ngaruroro in sunny Hawkes Bay also have real short seasons. Seasons lasting only 12 weeks with it all being over by New Year.

Let Us Help

River Valley has been operating rafting trips since 1982, and horse trekking for almost as long. We have built up an immense amount of experience in that time - the family having three generations of guides spanning those decades. We can help you turn that very special experience, which is a multi day rafting trip, or horse riding holiday into reality.

Give us a call, (0800 248666) or drop a line and let us help you pull it together.

Raft on the Ngaruroro River in sunny Hawkes Bay
Overnight Trip on the Ngaruroro River, Spring 2013

Posted by Brian Megaw on 18th July, 2014 | Comments | Trackbacks | Permalink
Tags: rafting new zealand, Rangitikei River, Ngaruroro River, multi day rafting trips, overnight raft and camping trips

Don't Believe That Beer Has No Place On A River Rafting Trip

Croucher Brewing ANZUS IPAYou know the ads on TV. The message being no alcohol around boats, followed by scenes of carnage as this simple rule is ignored.

We agree with this rule. Drinking alcohol while involved in an adventure activity such as white water rafting  is asking for trouble. However, after you get off the river is a different story.

In fact, after a day on the river, a nice cold beer, especially a craft beer, consumed once camp is reached can be both an incredibly simple pleasure, and a defining moment in what has no doubt been a wonderful day. This leads us to our new trip.

Brews With Views

This trip, a three day, helicopter fly in, upper Ngaruroro River, is scheduled for departure on the river on the 22nd November, with people being accommodated at River Valley Lodge on the night of the 21st. This trip is only scheduled to have a departure once per season.

What really makes this trip work however is having leading craft brewer, Croucher Brewing, on board. Croucher Brewing will be supplying a range of specialty beers which will be matched with some great food. Also accompanying the trip will be Paul Croucher, Head Brewer at Croucher Brewing who will be able to "talk" to the brews.

Who Is This Trip For?

This trip is for the adventurer, (and yes it will still be an adventure with 3 days (2 nights) spent on a wilderness Grade 3 white water river), who also appreciates great food, fine brews, and yes, some interesting company.

As mentioned above, this is the only departure for this unique trip this coming season.

Follow this link for further information - Brews With Views

I could propose a toast to that.

Brian Megaw

Baggage raft on the Ngaruroro River, Hawkes Bay, NZ
A gear raft loaded with all the goodies that means camping in comfort.

Posted by Brian Megaw on 11th July, 2014 | Comments | Trackbacks | Permalink
Tags: rafting new zealand, adventure holidays, white water rafting, Ngaruroro River, beer on the river, craft beer

Is There A Difference Between A Multi Day River Guide and A Day Trip River Guide?

Most of the last month I have spent in the USA. And much of that time was enjoying a bus man's holiday. In other words doing some white water rafting.

I was lucky enough to spend six days on the Main Salmon River and six days on the Middle Fork of the Salmon with OARS, and also spent some time in Coloma in California rafting the American River with American Whitewater Expeditions.

The trips on the Salmon were raft and camp trips while trips on the American River were strictly day only. More about those trips in later blogs.

What I want to talk about here is the difference between day trip guides and multi day trip guides. Surprisingly, I noticed a great deal of difference.

Day Trip Guides

The entertainers. You only have your clients for a short time and it is all about making the most of it. Training them quickly, thrilling them, telling them tall stories, and at the end of the day waving bye bye to them hoping they have had a fun exhilarating time. A Day Trip guide is often a high energy individual.

Multi Day Guides

The whole trip is different. A multi day guide has the care of their passengers 24 hours a day for the duration of the trip. That could be 2 to 20 days. The path to burn out is acting like a Day Trip Guide. Rather a multi day guide tends to let the scenery and the river talk more and themselves talk less. When they do speak however, it is often with knowledge earned from many seasons as a guide, and interestingly, often with solid academic credentials.

These guides also need to be able to cook great meals, often play a musical instrument, set up camps as well as guide rafts with a high degree of skill.

Multi Day guides are often older than Day Trip Guides.

Can a Day Trip Guide Become a Multi Day Guide?

There is little doubt that a Day Trip Guide can become a Multi Day Guide, but most choose not to. The appeal of being able to switch off at the end of the day and have a life away from rafting, rivers and clients is very strong. Most multi day guides have little interest in doing day trips.

What Am I?

While I have spent most of my 28 year rafting career being a Day Trip Guide, where I am happiest is being on a Multi day river trip.

A trip where the river and the canyons do most of the talking.

Brian Megaw

Camp scene on the Middle Fork of the American River, Idaho, USA
Camp scene on the Middle Fork of the Salmon River in Idaho with OARS

Rafting on the South Fork of the American River USA
Fun on the American River with American Whitewater Expeditions

Posted by Brian Megaw on 3rd July, 2014 | Comments | Trackbacks | Permalink
Tags: rafting new zealand, adventure holidays, white water rafting, multi day rafting, overnight raft and camping trips, river guides

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River Valley Blog

General comments about the wider tourism industry and where we are going with River Valley, as well as staff, rafting, adventure and horse trekking

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