Why River Flavours Vary as Much as Ice Cream

Can you imagine this scene? Isla and her mother, Janey, have just walked into Mississippi Mud, Taihape’s one and only Ice Cream shop. Janey says, “Isla, what sort of ice cream would you like today?”

3 year old Isla does not at first reply. She is deep in thought as with her face and grubby hands pushed up against the glass, she surveys the options. Finally a decision on flavour is made.

“Strawberry” she says with an air of finality.

The day before the flavour had been Banana, and last week it was Boysenberry. Each flavour with its own set of taste sensations. This young girl already realises that all ice cream is not the same.

But Rafting is all the Same

How often have I heard this, “Rafting is all the Same”, in fact way too often.

I am standing at the Bar at River Valley Lodge talking to a group of young travellers. I ask them – “So are you guys going on the river tomorrow?” Most often the reply is, “Yes, really looking forward to it”. However all too often the reply is “Ah, no, I went rafting in Rotorua (or pick another location of your choice – Africa, Chile, Colorado, Switzerland, Australia), I’ve done rafting”.

They’ve “done” rafting…….

From this simple statement it would appear that you can “do” all the variation in scenery, rapids, geology, local culture and wildlife that the world’s thousands of rivers offer, in one trip.

Is this possible?

Of course it is not. This is impossible. You can no more experience the wonders that each river holds, by only exploring one, than you can experience all the flavours in an ice cream shop by only tasting strawberry.

And What Flavours.

The Flavour of Africa – the Zambezi

The flavour of a raft trip on the Zambezi River is made up of the intense heat in the depths of the Batoka Gorge. The bare black basalt rock, the dried out vegetation, the naked thorn trees in such stark contrast to the huge volume of water that thunders over Victoria Falls, Mosi-o-Tunia, The Smoke that Thunders.

Further downstream from those mighty falls, the watchful, hungry eyes of crocodiles and the noisy aggressive hippopotamus touch raw edges of fear as you survey them from the thin safety of your rubber raft. In the dry season the sky at dusk burnt orange with smoke. Africa burns, it always burns.

And the rapids, great walls of warm white water that swamp and flip rafts. But such fun.

The Zambezi’s flavour is then a mixture made of smoke, rawness, power, heat, fun ………… and fear of what lives in the water.

The Flavour of Switzerland – the Lutschine

The cow bells, yodelling, watches and cheese of Switzerland have little in common with the Lutschine River. Grey water, ice cold as it spews from the base of glaciers higher up the valley, has carved a narrow trench that runs through farms on its way to Lake Brienzersee.

Hot days and the bitterly cold water meeting the hot air in this trench creates a river of fog – but only to the height of the trench. Stand up in your raft and look over it, but watch out for low bridges! Such a contrast, this unruly river flowing through the order of the Swiss countryside.

And it’s rapids – rumbling, steep, shallow, and constant.

The Lutschine’s flavour is the head cramp of cold ice cream on a summer’s day. It is a flavour of order, stone bridges, and picture post card perfect scenery.

The Flavour of New Zealand – the Rangitikei

Alpine Beech rainforest that gives way to high country sheep stations. A young landscape and a young river carving it’s way still. The Rangitikei is in a rush. It’s name means, “The day I took great strides”. It has little time to meander as older rivers do. When it meets obstacles it tries to crash over them, to move them, to overpower them, to scour them down.

But there is also another side to this river who would bust and overpower. It is water as clear as Bombay Gin, water that you can scoop up and drink. It can be a river of solitude, of days with no sign of man.

The Rangitikei’s flavour is remote, pure, it is energetic, it is a flavour in a hurry.

Theres way more to Life than Strawberry

Can you “do” rafting on the world’s rivers?

No, you cannot “do” rafting, you cannot anymore experience the world’s rivers from one rafting trip, than you can experience everything about ice cream from only tasting one flavour, like Strawberry.

A word of warning, those flavours can be like a drug. Once you start down the road of tasting, you may want to experience taste after taste, after taste.

Next Step – Rivers vary as much in themselves as with each other. The Rangitikei has sections perfect for families, others for thrill junkies, and still others, that are an escape far from other people.

For further information on these, and also a small soon to be released selection of International Rafting Trips, please click on the “By Water” tab

You just cannot beat this environment with these people and the energy.

The one thing that I think probably stands in the way of a lot of people coming to River Valley is it is in the middle of nowhere. Mostly you need to be in the know about it or have been told about it to get here.

But when you do get here, it is worth it!

It’s worth the ride into the wilderness!

But for me, the rafting is what it’s about, it’s awesome.

The river can be scary. You’re in a boat with other people that you have to trust.

You need to listen to your guide but it’s worth it to keep your eyes open to see the other faces as well. Everyone reacts really differently.

Most of all though, I just loved the feeling of being on or near the river.

I’ve done the trip three times and every time it’s been completely different. Today, we had a higher river level meaning that everything looked changed from a couple of days ago.

It’s also the place itself. The environment is awesome. Out in the middle of nowhere, and you can hear the river flowing at all times. The staff too are amazing, everyone is so warm and friendly and open.

You just cannot beat this environment with these people and the energy.

I would really recommend River Valley. There are so many people who never really experience the outdoors. They don’t get to breathe fresh air and the air here is so pure. You can even drink the water in the river.

Just come visit and enjoy River Valley.

Paula Byrne
County Gallway

Absolutely amazing, had a fantastic time on the rapids. Brian was a class guide! Enjoyed not falling out too!!!

Toby, Norwich, England

What as amazing place to stay! Rafting was awesome, food delicious, stay friendly, and stars beautiful. A lovely break from crazy travelling.

Charlie, England