Ultimate Queenstown

Initiation to the Ultimate Travel Team

Initiation to the Ultimate Travel Team

Posted by Stacey Phillips: 9th Mar 2018 @ 20:25:12

It wasn’t long after joining the Ultimate Queenstown team, and working hard to learn the ropes in the office, that it was time to go out on my first adventure, and if you know Kate and Dave, you will know that the first choice had to be Rafting…

Early on a fresh Queenstown morning, I left home with my swimwear and a towel. Going to hit the gym maybe? Or a relaxing Sauna? Wait, this is Queenstown, we are going White Water Rafting, Shotover style!

We arrived at the Go Orange shop, checked in, and were directed onto a bus that would take us to the base, here we were met with a smooth assembly line of people, who look at you, smile, and present you with an item of clothing! (If shopping was this easy, I might enjoy it more!) Boots and wetsuit in hand I headed down to the changing rooms, I always get a strange thrill from donning a wetsuit, no they are never particularly flattering or comfortable, but they usually mean adventure, and this one was certainly did! The first two items on, my valuables safely locked away, I ventured back upstairs, and back to the assembly line where I received the all-important helmet, jacket and life jacket. Outfit assembled and looking like a collision between a ninja and a traffic controller, I jumped in the first bus, ready for action, or was I?

This, I quickly discovered, was no ordinary bus ride. As a tour guide of 5 years, I have spent more than my fair share of time on buses, across country borders, deserts and coastlines, but nothing could prepare me for this. The Skippers Canyon Road. If you weren’t nervous about white water rafting, this may do it for you! This gravel road was hand cut by minors during the gold rush over 140 years ago. You think NZ roads are bad today? You ain’t seen nothing yet!

This road was cut into an almost completely sheer cliff face, with no barriers between you and a sudden drop, you can almost imagine Wiley Cayote chasing the Road Runner off the edge! Oh, and did I mention it’s incredibly windy and only just wide enough for one vehicle? No, it’s not a one way road, Yes, if you meet someone coming the other way, one of you has to reverse to a passing spot, No, you are not allowed to take rental cars down this road! Still with me? You should be! One of the ever calm and experienced raft guides will be on board your bus as it meanders along the edge of sudden death towards your destination, giving fun facts and stories along the way. What a way to start the journey!

Sadly the awe inspiring drive was over, but the fun was just beginning. We arrive at the river bank, and really begin to take in our surroundings, beautiful doesn’t begin to describe it, and you begin to find yourself in a Lord of the Rings scene, yes of course they used Skippers Canyon in the movies! This however does not last long, not only have you traded in your cape and hairy feet for a life jacket and rubber booties, but suddenly a shiny blue jet boat swings into view! But that’s an adventure for another day, the rest of our team, and all important equipment, (the rafts!) had arrived, and its time for the safety briefing!

All important information safely in my head, we collected our paddles, were divided into our teams, and allocated our fearless guide, Ico! A quick team photo then no more time to lose, we were given our positions in the raft, and next minute we were on the river! After all the preparation, it was hard to believe we were here, we were ready, or were we? Yes, all of the procedures had been executed perfectly, but what about us? Rafting is not a roller-coaster where you just hold on and scream, you need to participate, no, you need to work, and work together! This calm section of the river is perfect for that, Ico put us through our paces, shouting simple commands over the rushing water.

We soon felt that we had our rhythm, forwards, backwards, start, stop, left, right… no the other right, yes there’s always one! We got to know our team mates while taking in the scenery, which continues to be spectacular throughout. We spotted mountain goats gracefully clambering up the sheer cliffsides and remnants of the old mining equipment, painfully brought into the valley all those years ago only to be destroyed by nature, but before you get lost in the history, the present comes right back at you, we had rapids to prepare for!

The Shotover river is always changing, not just with water levels, but new rapids can form from rock slides and flooding. Each one in our path had been given a name, some were descriptive, such as ‘squeeze’, and ‘toilet’, others left an air of mystery such as ‘surprise surprise’. But for each our guide explained our tactics, and if we followed our instructions, we would be able to tackle everything ahead of us!

That we did! Well almost! Early on, we failed to gain enough speed for one rapid and we got caught in an unusually long surf and had to get pulled out by one of the other guides with a rope. Amazingly we all managed to stay in, and had a good laugh after it, but that in mind, we all knew that we had to put our backs into this! The rest of the journey was a perfect journey of splashes, slides, twists turns and even a 170m tunnel, sadly over too soon as we emerged from this final obstacle victorious!

The Shotover river rafting is the perfect balance of energy, excitement and engagement. With some adventure sports the thrill is over before you blink, but we had 2 hours on the river, and a mixture of exhilarating rapids, and calmer spots to take in the scenery! It’s definitely one you won’t want to miss!

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