• Barbara Murphy-Shannon

New Zealand - A Wild Ride. Chapter 6

We left the hostel at 8:30 am to go whitewater rafting on the Kawarau River. I didn’t want to go.

I'm not too fond of rides and roller coasters, and I was pretty sure I wouldn’t love bouncing down a river and crashing through rapids in a rubber boat for hours. I'd love to be someone who loves roller coasters, but I'm not.

Nope! I was scared. Ok, I was petrified.

But they needed four people to be able to go.

So, after some coaxing and promises it would be fun, I went.

Because I didn't want to be that person.

Fully knowing that something like whitewater rafting can have catastrophic consequences and almost dying has never been my way to have a good time.

As we drove to the river with our instructor James, I asked question after question.

James was very reassuring and a competent white water rafting instructor.

As James gave us the safety instructions, we were given wetsuits, life jackets, and purple helmets. He told us what paddle commands he would call and what to do if someone fell out of the raft.

"What do you mean if someone fell out of the raft?"

My hands were shaking as I buckled my life jacket, and I looked at everyone to see if I was the only one shitting their pants.

I was told to sit in the front, so I did.

It started off very calmly with a slow flow in the river.

Then we hit our first rapid.

The boat smashed against the wave, and the impact jarred me into the center of the raft; ending up on my back as water splashed in my face.

I got up as quickly as I could while trying to balance in the moving raft and hoping I didn’t fall out.

Then we went through the second rapid, and Andy fell into the raft.

The river returned to a calm flow with no rapids in sight. James said we could go for a swim if we wanted.

I was sitting on the edge of the raft looking around when Beth and Andy lunged towards me, pushing my shoulders and me into the water backward.

The water was freezing.

Beth and Andy were in the boat laughing.


Peter jumped in the water with me.

We floated on our back with our feet pointed downriver.

Then James said we needed to get back into the raft before the next rapid.

We hit the rapid, and we all stayed upright. No one fell in the boat.

James started to warn us about the next big rapid. It was ¼ mile-long rapid.

I was terrified I would fall out.

“Okay, get ready,” James shouted at the top of his lungs.

He yelled cues with authority. I heard James curse under his breath as we hurtled to the exact spots he was trying to avoid and strained against his oars.

We hurtled toward boulders. I screamed. Everyone screamed.

I was listening to James and paddling my heart out. My emotions were all over the place, and I tried to concentrate on the job at hand.

The water splashed in my face, making it hard to see, and the raft moved in every direction.

I was getting tossed from left to right, drenched by water, and watching house-size boulders pass right by the raft.

I closed my eyes and prayed. My heart was beating through my chest.

I am so annoyed that this is how I die, I thought.

Then our raft started to turn. It turned 180 degrees, and we were faced upstream, going backward.

It turns out that if four people paddle in the same direction, a raft will tend to go in a circle and end up in the wrong direction.

Everyone is turned around, trying to get the boat to face the right direction.

James is yelling commands to keep us moving forward.

Right forward!

Left backward!


In theory, this would steer us around boulders. The boat finally came around, and we were facing in the right direction as the rapid ended and the water started to smooth out.

I gasped, and then I looked at everyone’s faces.

We all had that look of “Holy Shit” did we just do that.

We all started hysterically laughing.

The guys were yelling in excitement, Beth was smiling, and all I could think was...