• Liz Lucas

A True Adventure

There is this awkward time between my Adventure Guide Program (AGP) ending any my new job beginning (check out my next blog). As previously mentioned it has been time for working hard and living the van life. Fast forward to now when many of my friends have returned after the holiday season and now all the work I have done gets to take the backseat, and I get to adventure with them! And let me tell you! It has been quite an awesome adventure life. There have been many but I need to highlight 2 in particular.

I surface from being thrown around underwater, I immediately look around for the rope in hopes that someone is going to save me from the rushing river that I am now floating. . correction: half drowning down. I see the rope, hold on for dear life and am hauled in taking in a lot of water. I get to the boat and the people in another raft look absolutely mortified as they grab my life vest and throw me into the boat. My first thought is “thank goodness, I am in a boat and can breathe” my second thought “where is Hannah, is she okay”. I take a moment to assess and Hannah is nowhere to be seen.

I skipped ahead for dramatic effect 😉 is it working? Hannah my very good friend from the AGP wants to go river rafting for her birthday, now, as previously noted in another blog, being in a high flow river is not totally my thing. However, it is her birthday and rafting does sound fun (operative word SOUND), so we go for it.

We are placed in a raft with 6 other people including a guide with 15 years’ experience to master the rapids. We are pumped, for whatever reason Hannah and I are placed in the very front (to this day we have no idea why the guide made this decision). It is our job to paddle together, and because we are in the front, we “get” to see everything that is coming (I would have been fine in the back, ha). Most of the rapids are fine, we are listening to all the commands well and things are moving smoothly. We get to the most challenging part of the river. We are 1 of 10 rafts and the way it works is each raft goes down one at a time and there are guides that are set up on the sides just in case a raft flips or whatever (yep, kinda scary!). It is our turn, we go into the section, we hit a side wall get turned around hear “back paddle, back paddle” and then the boat goes down front right side under.

I am front right, I get pushed under water, I can’t sit up the water is flowing to fast, Hannah later recalls that she just sees my blond hair floating, thinking I might not make it. I begin to run out of air so I escape the boat, luckily it didn’t take much effort to get my feet untangled. I get thrown deeper underwater and I concede to the flow knowing that is my only chance. My head comes above water, I gasp for air and keep my feet up knowing that if my feet get caught on a rock, I am a goner for sure. Luckily this only lasted a few seconds and I get thrown the rope and am rescued.

As for Hannah, she is still in the boat when I escape being told to jump out of the raft. She is looking at her options and is not too happy with them but finally jumps. Circumstances would have it that the 2 throw ropes that are thrown her way just don’t work out and she gets thrown down a second set of rapids. Yep the rapids that we are to go down in a RAFT, she goes down in her body. She is thinking that she is going to float down the whole river and never have a proper breath of air again. After the second set of rapids she is finally thrown a rope and is saved but her thought is the same as mine “where is Liz”.

Hand signal for wrapped raft

Our raft has been wrapped around a rock. Because of our locations we can’t see each other and for the next 1.5 hours we are not sure that the other is actually okay. It takes that long for us to get the raft out. I was near the location so I helped along with many others pulling on the ropes to get the raft unstuck. Once the raft is unstuck, they re-inflate it and we all HAVE TO GET BACK IN THE THING AND FLOAT THE REST OF THE RIVER. I get in the raft, again front right (really, are you sure. .. .?) I see Hannah and we both are so relieved to see each other in the flesh and be confirmed to be okay. We are both very nervous as we float the rest of the river. The photo shows it all. The last rapid the guide told us to get down, which means you get to the bottom of the boat and just hold on. We are the front two people staying down because we don’t want to have another incident. Ha!

Yes, it was a terrifying experience. One I don’t need to repeat, we have a good story out of it and I assure you I am 0 for 2 in the Shotover river and won’t be going down that one again (this is the same river where we did our swift water rescue and I floated down it because I wasn’t saved during our training exercise). I am so happy that everyone in our raft was 100% fine, none of us had any physical ailments. I believe this is due to the fact that the river was so high so none of us hit rocks or anything! Happy 26th birthday to Hannah! One to remember that is for sure.

Adventure 2: Less risk and totally epic!

You know those times when you daydream and think about what a perfect day might look like or perfect week? Yeah, me too and I was able to live this perfect week recently! From top to bottom it was an experience I was waiting for.

The moment hit as we were closing up the evening, two vans were sitting across from each other, we had just finished an evening of climbing, we had thrown some food together and were chilling drinking a beer, it was a great adventure day and it ended at a campsite. Nothing fancy, rather the exact opposite which made it perfect, we all wanted to be there 100% no one was faking and no one was doing it because they had to. 3 people just hanging out together planning the next adventure together. Magical. This would set up the epic 3 day (majority of hiking was in 2) hike we would do a day later!

Here are the stats: 16.5 hours of hiking 17 km (10.5 miles) 1,500m (4,900 ft) elevation gain, Off trail

That is all the bush we went through

Day 1: Hike 30 min to a cool place to put us in a good position to hammer it out the next day, and we had access to water. I laid outside my tent watching the clouds move in front of the moon, the air was still, my mind was anticipating the next day and in complete awe of nature and the exact moment I was in. Life was amazing, I am in New Zealand, I am hiking in the wild with 2 friends, life is good.

Day 2: 10 hours of hiking. 8:30 we start hiking after having eaten, gotten water, and packed up. We set a baring toward the ridgeline and was off. The goal was to access Lake Isobel which is surrounded by mountains and had no trail access. We trudged through the bush, totally bush bashing (bush whacking for the American’s out there). We were going through thick Manuka plants (basically a prickly shrub), climbing up slopes and using all 4 limbs getting above tree line as soon as possible! After 4 hours we break through the plants and at last we are in the open air. In the process, my arms and Keri’s are covered in scrapes and bruises, Chloe popped her shoulder partially out and back in when she fell. We were a bit mangled but spirits where high (at least mine where, haha). We had a bite to eat and could see the mountains ahead. We knew where we were going and trudged up the elevation, mostly following animal tracks. We walked along rock and grasses across ridges that looked like knife edges from the bottom. We saw the Wakatipu lake from above, the majestic towering mountains and breathed in the freshest air around. It was challenging and completely amazing!

We hiked up the sides of the mountain were only broken rock is below your feet, sliding around looking for a way to get over top so we could make our destination. To no avail. . we ended up ending the night camping on the outside of the mountains that surrounded the lake. It was amazing there. I even slept on a really cool rock (my sleeping pad had a leak so I literally slept on the rock). It was glorious and also a bit cold!

Day 3: 6 hours of hiking. We hiked to the tops of the mountains to take a last look at Lake Isobel posed for some photos and was off, hiking down the 1,500m down different grassy ridgelines. We slipped a lot and even had some times where we just sat on our butts and skidded down the mountain. We made it.

It was an epic mission full of wicked legends (that is NZ/Aussie talk for it was a super awesome adventure with awesome people). So freaking cool to be going through the mountains with a couple of friends 😊. This in between zone has some pretty great things to offer. This is the reason I worked so hard when they were gone, in order to have the time and flexibility to do these things.

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