On the way to River Valley we made a stop at the Tongariro National park for the Taranaki Falls Walk which is a loop track to a waterfall where we would have our picnic lunch with a great view of the three volcanoes Tongariro, Ngauruhoe and Ruapehu (These form the southern limits of the Taupo Volcanic Zone which is part of the Pacific Ring of Fire).
I arrived in River Valley with the intention of staying for only one night as per the Kiwi Experience itinerary, arriving in the evening with a lovely roast dinner and then white river rafting in the Rangitikei river (grade 3-5 rapids) in the morning and leaving after lunch. However, I decided to stay an extra night to have a little longer to think about WWOOFing as they had advertised the need for WWOOFers – or slaves as they call them (of course it is just for fun).
I originally decided to stay until 11th December but I extended my time with an extra week and ended up leaving River Valley on 18th December!
As a “slave” in River Valley I was working 6-8 hours every day (except the day I had my free activity) in housekeeping and in the kitchen cleaning dishes as well as sometimes sweeping around outside and keeping the dining area clean.
Perks of being a slave in River Valley: 3 free meals a day, free accommodation, free use of the spa, free wifi – not great but still pretty good, and one free activity each week with a choice of natural horsemanship trip (no bite goes into the horse’s mouth and they don’t wear shoes) or a white river rafting trip!
The great thing about this place is also that every day is never quite the the same and you meet so many new people as there is a new Kiwi Experience Bus with lots of other young travellers arriving each day.
I have done white river rafting three times; with the first one as part of the Kiwi Experience activity that I had paid for, the second one as my free activity as mentioned above. For this trip I was put in a raft with three other guys from the bus and one rafting guide, Eddie, who did an awesome job at giving us a great time and working together as a team – even though we got very stuck for a little while – but it just made it more of an exciting adventure;
We had quite a crazy rafting trip with one of the guys, Joey, falling out once at the beginning of a little rapid and ended up “floating” through it in the water – but we got him back in the raft eventually hahaha.
A little while later, our raft got caught badly on a boulder in the middle of the river so the raft tilted and bent around each side of the rock so we were hanging on to the side of the raft while the water was coming in, so eventually you could only see half of the raft. Joey had by that time already fallen out of the raft again with Eddie holding on to his life vest to keep his head just above the water. And by then he saw no other way than to send him to the other raft which was kept in the water just next to us. Shortly after, the other two guys were told to swim to the other raft. Throughout the whole time from when Joey fell out of the raft, I had been holding on to his and my own paddle in one hand and the side of the raft in the other! In the end I was the last person to evacuate the raft while the raft guide, Derek, from the other one jumped over to our raft to help Eddie try and get it free from the boulder while a great force of water was pushing it downwards and towards the rock.
I have no idea how long it took to get the raft free from the boulder, but after a good while with the two guides pushing the raft away from the rock and the rest of us pulling it from the other raft, it was free. The rest of the trip ran a lot smoother but all of it was great fun – and exciting!
For my second rafting trip, I was put in a duckie (a lot smaller raft) with Derek who was the designated photograph for the trip that a group from a new Kiwi Experience bus was doing. This trip was also an awesome and fun experience and very different from the first one but I will not go into details for this one. I’ll save this trip and the third one for conversations 😀
I also went on a natural horsemanship trek which is where the horse doesn’t have a bite in their mouth and is not fitted with shoes. It was an amazing trip and put a smile on my face the whole way. We were walking off track in the fields and on the hills following the sheep’s tracks. It was walking, trotting and I also did some galloping which I absolutely love and have missed doing.
The other slave/WWOOFer, Johanna, and I had some pretty high expectations for my last night in River Valley as they usually tend to get a bit crazy when it is someone’s birthday or last day in the valley. Especially because they have a tradition which is called River Run. This involves four different types of shots where normally you have to tell a little story from your time in the valley for each shot.
However, the evening seemed incredibly quiet. Most people were sitting in different smaller groups playing card or board games. Not many of the staff were there and most seemed really tired and some had already left as they had gone all out the night before. So Johanna and I were walking around the valley wondering were everyone was. When we got back to the lodge the bus driver Ben was arranging a beer pong tournament to get things started and we joined in. Shortly after most of the staff arrived and the evening had properly started. After the beer pong tournament and me doing the River run, I made everyone join in on a danish “drinking” song where you clap on the table and your hand and spin around while drinking which was so much fun and pretty damn awesome. Let’s just say I had a great last night in River Valley.
Kiwi Experience bus driver list:
Auckland – Bay of Islands: Richie
Bay of Islands – Rotorua: Dave aka “Cuddles”
Rotorua – River Valley: Bods
River Valley – Wellington: Ben