Becoming a River Philosopher
“Hearing people telling their personal stories is always a privilege. Being able to listen properly, in an atmosphere of trust, becomes easy in the natural world where time is no longer the preoccupation and there are none of the usual day to day distractions. I came away from the trip feeling much closer to the those I shared it with, enriched by their stories and their understandings.”
An Idea Whose Time Had Come
It all started from an idea that had been thrown around for some time.
That idea was this.
What if you took a group of people on a multi day river trip, whose purpose was not only for the participants to enjoy the river and the company of the people they were with, but also to have the opportunity to debate meaningful questions in an environment that had few outside distractions? An environment that felt safe and trustworthy.
We found the answer to this, and out of it was born the Philosophers trip – the River Philosophers Trip.
The first of these trips departed in early December 2013
A laden gear raft carrying all the equipment required for a Philosophers trip
It was a standard meeting type room, as most are. Comfortable seating, table, coffee pot in the corner, water on the table. The hum of traffic outside the window, the hum of air conditioning within.
Could everyone please turn off their cell phones. Addicts. Most switched to silent, vibration only. That lost call could be vitally important – or so we all tell ourselves.
Time for a break. Out the door, cell phones on, check messages – a flood of them. You rush through them, trying to deal with them before the meeting resumes.
Back inside, your body is present, but your mind is not.
About 3.00pm we made camp. After helping unload the boats and set up tents, it was nice to stretch the legs and go for a short wander, exploring the adjacent river terraces. While walking you thought about the discussions that had taken place on the raft and looked forward to continuing them later.
5.00pm and the campfire is a light, chairs are set up around it, cheese and snacks are out, pre dinner drinks. The conversation continues. You focus in, seeking to really understand what is being said, and to impart your own views. Time passes quickly. Dinner, the evening drawing in as the light in the canyon fades, seats are rearranged around the campfire. Your mind feels refreshed and focused in a way that is impossible in normal life.
Sleep comes easy that night. A contented sleep born of physical activity and the pleasure of being able to debate and share views with others in a safe and trustworthy atmosphere, free from the distractions of everyday existence.
This is the essence of a River Philosophers trip.
Time for conversation
A River Philosopher’s Trip in Detail
Who Can Go?
Invite only. That is right. Unless someone invites you on a Philosophers trip you don’t get to go, unless of course you organise one and invite others yourself.
For How Long?
A minimum of three days on the river, preferably four, with two or three nights camping and one night at River Valley Lodge.
How many People?
We recommend a minimum of 4 and a maximum of 8
Beginning of November to the end of March.
What is provided?
Pretty much everything, you will only need some clothes and a sleeping bag. We provide comfortable camping equipment, excellent food and good guides.
How Do You Organise a River Philosophers Trip?
Contact River Valley and we will pull the logistics together for you.
The Last Word
“We need, at least occasionally, ‘time out’, an escape from weighty concerns and preoccupations. Rafting a river like the Rangitikei is an experience of total immersion, of being absorbed in and embraced by nature and the river. Taken in combination with the company of good friends, great food, and the sense of history afforded by the river, life assumes its true perspective; beautiful, ever evolving, and changing. And there is a reminder of what really matters to us in our personal lives and landscapes. We need one another.” Clive Anstey
Clive was part of a group on the first Philosophers trip, and included an artist, an author, a retired farmer and tourism operator, a representative of the local Maori Iwi, a landscape architect and an engineer who was dealing with climate change issues.
I was lucky enough to be a guide on this inaugural trip.