Testimonials from a Mountains to Vineyard trip on the Ngaruroro River, Hawkes Bay, NZ
The Ngaruroro River starts high in the Kaimanawa and Kaweka Ranges, plunging towards the Pacific Ocean through Beech and Kanuka Forest, before lazily meandering through the Heretaunga Plains.
It is a Wilderness River for much of it’s length, with few visible signs of human habitation.
A Mountains to Vineyard trip is a great introduction to expedition style wilderness rafting.
“We would definitely recommend River Valley to our friends and to visitors from overseas. The whole operation has retained the feeling of a small family run operation and we were made to feel special.”
“There was an overriding feeling that our guides loved what they were doing and that the trip was as much fun for them as it was for us. It felt as though we were all in it together rather than it being just a routine day at work for them.”
A highlight for me was seeing a falcon on both days. I’ve wanted to see this rare bird ever since moving to New Zealand and to see one twice in two days was such a thrill. It brought home to me just how isolated and undisturbed an area we were rafting in.
The approach to River Valley filled us with anticipation as we drove deeper into the Ruahine Range and eventually descended into the Rangitikei Valley and found the lodge nestled beside the river. The setting is stunning and the buildings are in harmony with their surroundings.
We were immediately given a warm welcome by the owner Brian and made to feel at home. All the staff and volunteers were really friendly and the food was excellent.
It was a 4 hour drive down from Cambridge, and the thought of another 1.5 hour drive to the put in the following morning wasn’t great. However, the scenery was impressive and it was new country for us so the journey didn’t seem that long.
As soon as we were on the river the added travel time to the Ngaruroro Valley was instantly forgotten. It was the same on the way home: the extra time in the minibus was a small price to pay for the splendour and isolation of the Ngaruroro Valley. We were on such a high that our drive back to Cambridge that evening flew by amid recounts of falling out of rafts, camping in the wilderness and navigating braided river channels.
The highlights for us were:
· The total sense of isolation and wilderness that began within 10 minutes of launching the rafts and lasted until we saw some fishermen an hour before reaching the take-out site. This was exactly what we had been looking for when researching a rafting experience for our family. Although we were only away for two days we felt we had been on a big adventure, and at times it felt like we were exploring uncharted territory!
· Camping on a boulder-strewn terrace on a bend in the river, surrounded by Manuka scrub, with cliffs above us and water racing by. Add to this the freedom to pitch our tents wherever we chose, the feeling that it had been a long time since anyone else had camped here, and the reassuring ease with which our guides set up camp and cooked a great meal while we rested our tired bodies. A truly memorable end to a fantastic first day’s rafting.
· Seeing a falcon on both days. I’ve wanted to see this rare bird ever since moving to New Zealand and to see one twice in two days was such a thrill. It brought home to me just how isolated and undisturbed an area we were rafting in. Without Tom’s expert ears and eyes we’d have been unaware of what was soaring above us and missed this unique sight.
· Watching the skill with which our guides navigated the rapids and the braided river channels. They made it look easy, but their experience and strength was a constant reassurance. It was great to be in the company of such experienced people who were informative, fun and extremely capable. They were great with the teenagers too, giving them enough guidance to keep them safe but trusting them to find out the rest for themselves.
· Running the rapids in the inflatable kayaks and finding out how hard it is to negotiate the currents and avoid the rocks when you don’t have a guide with you! We all loved the thrill of being slightly at the mercy of the river and yet never doubting the ability of our guides to come to our aid if we got into trouble. Some of our strongest memories are of being wrapped around rocks, capsized, thrown half out of the kayaks or fighting doggedly to stay in the kayak and remain afloat despite the river’s efforts to sink us. Even those of us who ended up in the water remember the experience as exhilarating rather than terrifying.
As a parent, I trusted the guide’s judgement and never felt my children were in danger. My children say what they liked most was the thrill of the white water: the sense of danger and the need to react quickly to stay in control.
· Experiencing the different stages of the river, from shallow riffles to deep pools, calm sections to raging rapids, steep valley to open braided floodplain. And throughout its course, no evidence of human interference.
· Being able to drink the river water without fear of getting ill. This has become a rare luxury in an increasingly polluted world and we all took full advantage of it during the heat of the day.
We would definitely recommend River Valley to our friends and to visitors from overseas. The whole operation has retained the feeling of a small family run operation and we were made to feel special.
There was an overriding feeling that our guides loved what they were doing and that the trip was as much fun for them as it was for us. It felt as though we were all in it together rather than it being just a routine day at work for them.
I realise this was in part because the Ngaruroro River is a new venture for the company, but it’s also a reflection of the personalities involved.
Great trip, awesome experience, loved every minute, and feel privileged to have been able to share the Ngaruroro River with you guys. Thanks for your enthusiasm and experience.
The Ennis and Jones families.