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RIver Valley – New Zealand

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River Valley is  destination that often missed by most travelers, and I find that quite sad as it has honestly been one of my favorite stops of the trip thus far! It is only a few hours from Taupo, so if you find yourself in the area, then this is a must. The drive is very scenic (assuming you are coming from Taupo), first taking you around the banks of Lake Taupo, then through the mountains of the Tongariro National Park, and finally winding through the hills  and fields of the River Valley. Your destination: The River Valley Adventure Lodge; a small, family-owned lodge on the banks of the Rangitikei River.The lodge is quiet and comfortable, and has a small bar, a guest-kitchen, and fully staffed kitchen serving up some absolutely amazing meals (we had a roast dinner while we were there). Beyond this, they also offer a number of guided activities such as whitewater rafting and horse trekking (see also horseback riding), as well as a number of good hikes and leisure activities.

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Our bus pulled into the River Valley lodge just before dusk, and we were quickly shown to our rooms where we dropped our bags and returned to the lodge for some R&R before dinner. At 6PM the cook served up a proper roast supper of roast beef, garlic mashed potatoes, a mixed vegetable medley, rolls, cabbage, and gravy. Everything on the table was made from scratch, and I don’t expect I’ll have a better meal for some time… After dinner, we sat around the large stone fireplace in the center of the main lodge, played some guitar, had a few beers, then called it a night.

Having gone to bed a bit too early the night before, I woke up around 5AM and just could seem to get back to sleep. I had to be up and ready to go by 8 for rafting, so this wasn’t the end of the world. I packed my bags, made a bit of breakfast, then met up with Tom, our rafting guide. After a brief overview we all grabbed our wet-suits, helmets, and other gear and made for the river. Bear in mind, Tom was the only one in our boat that had any rafting experience, and we were about to head down one of the few rivers in NZ that offer grade 5 rapids (this wouldn’t be allowed in the states). We all piled into the boat and Tom gave us some instruction on how to properly row, duck, jump, as well as a few other commands we would need to know to safely navigate the rapids, and with that we were off! Over the next 2 hours we made our awy through some absolutely breathtaking canyons, surviving the rapids, and stopping along the way to jump off a 40 foot tall boulder into the freezing cold river. It is truly an experience I will never forget…

After returning from the rafting trip, I had just enough time to grab a (much needed) hot shower, and a bite to eat before boarding the bus for Wellington…

So, what do you think ?