The Day To Take Great Strides

Hau, an ancient Maori warrior, had been on the journey from Taranaki for many days. He had crossed rivers, trudged through swamps, climbed hills and traveled bush clad trails in pursuit of his errant wife and her lover.

Perhaps feeling that those he chased were not far ahead of him, Hau hurried his pace, pushing his body as much as he dared. Later that day he came upon a particularly beautiful river where he chose to sit and rest for a short time. Looking at the river he gave it a name, the name it bears to this day.

The name Hau gave was Rangi (the day), tikei (to take great strides). Rangitikei – the day to take great strides.

From a Small Stream Springs a Mighty River

The Rangitikei is New Zealand’s fifth longest river at 241 kms. It starts as a small stream amongst the tussock covered peaks of the Kaimanawa Ranges, south east of Lake Taupo. For many kilometres it travels through tussock lands, before entering Mountain Beech forest. Along the way it is joined by other small tributaries, until finally upon leaving the Wilderness Area it is joined by the Otamateanui Stream.

It is at this point that the Rangitikei is now big enough to float a boat, and where our rafting journey starts.

The Strides We Take On Our Journey

We journey down the river in great strides, each stride being a separate rafting trip.

The first stride of our journey starts in the Headwaters, at the point where our river is joined by the Otamateanui Stream.

This 50 km long, helicopter in section, while able to be rafted in two days at a real push, is normally run over the course of four days.

Why four days you might ask?

The river here runs through pristine Beech forest, giving way to regenerating Manuka, more Beech forest, while finally at the end, some farmland. The water in the fish filled pools is as clear as Gin, the scenery beautiful, and in places spectacular, the rapids, mostly no more than Grade 3, are abundant.

Think pristine, and you would be underselling this very special section of river.

Why would you not want to spend four days there? Our answer would be “Why only 4 days?” In fact we reckon it is easy to get lost in the midst of such beauty for at least a week!

Striding Through a Maelstrom of Grade 5 Rapids

The next stride on our journey takes us to the Grade 5 section of the Rangitikei River.

This is the section of river that has really made the Rangitikei famous amongst the rafting and kayaking community. In fact if you were given the job of designing the perfect 12 km section of a river to be a half day trip, then what you would end up with is this section of the Rangitikei.

This section starts easy with numerous small rapids as you ease your way into the trip. Halfway down muscles are loosened up, raft crews are trained, and it is time to enter the Gorge.

What follows as you plunge through the steep sided Greywacke rock lined Gorge, are the steep stairs of the 10 main rapids, graded from Grade 3+ to Grade 5, (the hardest level of rapid commercially rafted). These rapids form the crux of this trip. A trip often called the best half day Grade 5 rafting trip in the world.

Another six Grade 3 rapids round out the end of this section, with the trip finishing at River Valley Lodge.

Too Scenic to Have Hurried Steps

From River Valley Lodge downstream, the Rangitikei River loses some of its urgency. Our strides are now less hurried than that experienced in the maelstrom of rafting Grade 5 rapids.

Instead, we can now savor the river and listen to its music. This stride, what we call the Scenic section, takes us a further 13 km downstream.

13 km to be enjoyed with family and friends as you float through the papa cliff lined canyon, stopping for a picnic lunch or side hike. Fun rapids of Grade 2 difficulty are enough to get a few splashes and even more smiles.

The Strides of an Explorer

After exiting the Mokai Gorge, our river now seems to be taking its time. It explores more papa lined canyons, often breaking out into open space surrounded by farmland.

However even here amongst farmland, it will sometimes reassert itself with powerful flood driven strides as it tears at riverbank protection plantings and constructions.

These protection plantings and constructions will in the end be largely futile as our river carves itself new channels, almost at will.

This is the perfect section to again spend some days floating along with friends, interrupted only by great clouds of surprised waterfowl taking flight and the need to find a riverbank campsite each evening.

Finally our river’s strides cease, it’s day is over. It will stride no more for it has reached the Tasman Sea, where other journeys await.

Our River Has Taken Great Strides

This is our river and our workplace, the beautiful Rangitikei, and it has taken great strides. Strides that we have been privileged to share with it. Strides from the remote pristine beauty of the Headwaters, down through the surging maelstrom of steep Grade 5 rapids, and finally floating the spectacular canyons of the Scenic and Explorer sections.

What a river, and what a privilege to have this as a workplace.

How Can You Share in the Strides of the Rangitikei?

If you would like to know more about how you can be one of the privileged who explore this river. Someone who is able to share some part of this river’s journey, then click here to see what River Valley rafting trips are available and most suitable for you.

See you on the river for some quality “River Time”.

Brian Megaw

The Headwaters of the Rangitikei River

Water clearer than Gin

Max’s Drop on the Grade 5 section of the Rangitikei River

Foamy Rapid, Grade 5 section, Rangitikei River

The Scenic section of the Rangitikei River, NZ