Before I get to your questions, thanks for a really great trip. It was absolutely rejuvenating and exactly what I needed. Perhaps the greatest benefit is in being reminded of what really matters in life- companionship and a sense of belonging. Relationships become so much richer without all the clutter of the built environment; without the ever intrusive technology and materialism that consumes us in our ‘normal’ lives.
What was the biggest obstacle that would have prevented you from going on this trip?
From personal experience I know how much time it takes to organise such a trip. I would never have found the time to organise it myself and would certainly have had reservations about being responsible for several others. You made it remarkably easy and stress free; we were given clear instructions on what to bring, which was minimal because you supplied almost everything we needed, and when we arrived you were there to brief us on how things were to be organised for the trip. I immediately felt reassured by your obvious competence and experience, and also by your warmth and informality.
In spite of life long experience in the outdoors, including a number of river trips over the past 30 years, one inevitably begins to doubt ones abilities with age. At almost 70 I did have reservations about the physical demands of the rafting and the potential burden I might become for the others. In the event my fears were unfounded. We were very carefully briefed for the trip and more than adequately equipped, by the company, to deal with all conditions. I never felt inadequate in terms of what was expected of me and at no stage did I feel threatened or seriously unsafe.
What did you find as a result of doing the trip?
I came off the river with a huge sense of well being and satisfaction. Four days in the natural world, moving with a river and in the company of good friends, brings with it a strong sense of ‘connection’, the feeling of being at ease with oneself, the place, and the group I was with. We all ‘know’ this feeling but we forget how to capture it, how to rediscover it!
The river experience was perfect in this regard; the movement of the water and the ever changing landscape is all absorbing so that one is very ‘present’ in the place and with the group. There are none of the usual distractions that put the mind elsewhere, so often all over the place and nowhere in particular! It is this sense of ‘being present’ and in touch with ones feelings that I keep returning to. They are great feelings and have me constantly back in touch with particular experiences along the journey down the river. Fundamental to the whole experience was the sense of physical well being, of being back in touch not only with ones feelings but with ones body, and being conscious of the inseparable nature of mind and body. In summary, the river experience was a great reminder of what really matters in life and how to be in touch with this.
What specific feature did you like most?
The sense of containment within a deeply incised river gorge where time as we normally experience it ceases to exist; the river, the steep slopes reaching up into the sky, and the bush reflecting the natural patterns and processes of nature and time. This sense of having been put into a timeless place evolving and changing at a natural pace is strangely soothing, even while knowing that not so very far away, above the upper edges of the gorges, is the cultivated landscape of a more immediate necessity.
What were three other benefits you experienced from being on this trip?
I have passed through this landscape of the central north Island many times during my life and looked down on the lower reaches of the Rangitikei River. The experience of being in the landscape and moving slowly down the Rangitikei River itself was to see the place from an entirely new perspective. This was a reminder of the way we move without properly seeing and engaging; we are too often transients.
Having David and Richard talk about the indigenous landscape and people was fascinating, and humbling. Richard was able to talk about the history of the Rangitikei River and it’s relationship to local Maori in some detail which added a very real and immediate dimension to what we were experiencing. In this rugged and relatively remote landscape the places Maori occupied and travelled through are sufficiently intact to easily imagine the lives they led, and the challenges they faced. Hearing stories in the places they originated makes them particularly magical, especially in stunning places like the Rangitikei. Hearing the stories added greatly to my knowledge and understanding of New Zealand’s first peoples and this was a huge benefit from the trip.
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.
The combination of the river and the people with whom the experience was shared provided the stimulus for discussing many contemporary, and critical, issues with regard to our environment and the place of we humans within it. Relationships that are sustaining for people and their environments are ultimately very place specific, and confrontational. During the trip we were constantly traversing a landscape in transition, one with expansive remnants of the past as well as the signs of a questionable future. We have choices and a benefit of the river experience was to know this and to better understand what the choices might be.
Would you recommend River Valley, or that particular activity, and why?
I would unreservedly recommend the River Valley rafting experience, and for as many days on the river as possible! With good guides and equipment, and we had both, rafting is a wonderful adventure. There is always movement – gentle stretches of water punctuated by sudden rushes down turbulent rapids.
The landscape is constantly changing as the river falls towards the sea. Deep, steep sided, gorges that constrain views give way to open stretches where river terraces expand views and the sky opens up. The terraces provide wonderful camp sites with shelter among the bush and ample room for personal space if needed. The food was wonderful and seemed to appear with a minimum of fuss and effort, like magic. The whole trip was of this nature, well organised with a minimum of stress or uncertainty. We were able to experience the river and enjoy the company of others without any of the usual distractions that get in the way.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
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.
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