Monday, 14 April 2008

Mon 17th March

The original plan for today was to crack on northwards to Nelson to try out the riding around that region but I had spied a the Extreme Descents white water rafting outfit in the service town that is Murchison. After making a quick enquiry I was suited and booted and being whisked off along the Buller River which flows from the Southern Alps out to sea at the west coast. The water was blue/green and clear. After a typical Kiwi safety briefing (not the namby-pamby dross that you get in the UK, more like 'If you're stupid you'll get hurt, if you're not you should be ok', we were drifting pleasantly along the river as our instructor (another Adam who looked uncannily like Euan McGregor) issued commands that the rest of the team followed. There were eight of us in the raft altogether, I had the dubious pleasure of sitting right at the back with Adam which is the best place to sit if you want to be shaken about a bit. We cruised on through a succession of rapids which to be honest weren't very exciting. At each rapid Adam would give me a nod and a wink and point to the two 'victims' who he expected to fall out. He seemed keen to throw the American couple at the front out first for some reason! Anyway, after explaining that the rapid grades are based from 1-5, and the higher the number the less chance you had of popping back up if you fell in the swim. We were paddling mainly down grade 3's and it was all a bit tame so we ramped it up a bit as two rivers merged, which in itself threw us straight at a big rock face but Adam steered us by after giving us an intentional scary moment. We hit a rather 'busy' grade 4 as Adam again mischievously nodded at the front of the raft. Two seconds later the front of the raft had entered the rapid and, as it exited, the rear of the raft kicked up violently and threw Adam out of the raft via my head and shoulders. So he's clinging on to me and I'm clinging on to the raft with my feet firmly wedged under the raft paneling for extra adhesion. We quickly hit more bumps and the raft was in danger of flipping everyone out, at this point I noticed that I was more out of the raft than in it, with Adam still gamely hanging around my torso somewhere. However, despite my body having already left the raft my left foot was stuck fast under the raft's rubber lining. I looked down to see my left knee directly under my chin and realised I had the weight of two people and the force of many tonnes of water ripping through it. Something had to give and sure enough, with one of those grinding, crunching noises that makes you go queasy I saw my foot slowly released from it's prison. The noise alone indicated that this was not a great situation to be in and that something pretty serious had taken place. No time to worry about that though as the raft had been taken by more rapids and I was momentarily lost physical contact with the raft, which was a moderate concern given the power of the water here. At this point 'the other Adam' turned from villain to hero as he stretched out an arm, I did likewise and like a scene from a cheesy kids cartoon we got a monkey grip on and I was pulled towards the raft. I had to jump back in the raft which involves kicking your legs like a spastic which I suddenly found quite difficult. Fortunately and by complete coincidence I had popped up next to 'Jan' a Czechoslovakian bear wrestler and full time rafting instructor. This bloke was built like a bull, I had sat behind him the whole journey and didn't have to paddle once because he was doing the work of the entire left side of the craft. So The Bear pulled me into the raft (and nearly out the other side) and at this point the pain in my knee began to register. Yeah, it wasn't good but it wasn't completely debilitating and I wasn't going to let it curtail the trip, I'll deal with it back at base. We cruised on down the Buller as it quite literally cut deep into bedrock. At one point we got out and swam through some rapids which was un as they rip you under then spin you in all directions before spitting you out somewhere downstream and we also did a bit of rock jump (only 12m or so for the 'brave') but I still managed to land it on my arse better than my knee I figured!

The Room of Doom
One thing I've noticed about the Antipodeans, they like to have fun, and are quite happy to make their own entertainment. The other thing is that they give things names that put a smile on your face. For instance, as we exited one series of rapids we ste
ered towards a rock face where there was a large whirlpool. Now the locals go swimming in here and it grabs hod of you and dunks you under for 5/10+ seconds before spitting you out if you're lucky. We weren't allowed to do the swim but we did do some donuts (360's) and the rip was pretty violent. The locals had named the whirlpool 'The Room of Doom' 'cos if you got stuck in there you were in big trouble. Just next to The Room of Doom dangling, as if from heaven, was a rope which had somehow been lassoed around a friendly tree and was there should The Room of Doom be about to squeeze your last breath out of you. This was The Rope of Hope. I couldn't help but grin in admiration as Adam gleefully relayed tales of near drownings and daring rescues.

Whip Crack
We debriefed, unsuited, showered and checked out the photo's and videos (yes, they got our crash on vid). At this point Jan declared us all his friends and produced a bull-whip from somewhere and began twirling it around before getting another out anothe
r and treating us to a Wild West show (he had recently won the bull-whip competition in Las Vegas so he wasn't bad). I've no idea how he got those whips through customs without anyone raining an eyebrow but fair play to the big man.

Fired up the Pulsar and made full use of it's autopilot mode, driving with my right foot covering the pedals and my left wedged somewhere up on the dashboard to reduce swelling in my knee as it rapidly ceased up.

We Never Used To Have To Lock Our Front Doors
Landed in Nelson just before dusk and checked in to The Shortbread backpackers which is at the top end of the high street but still quite suburban. After unpacking and being shown the facilities, the girl running the place asked 'Is there anything I've forgotten', I looked back at her a little puzzled and said 'Erm, a room key would be nice', to which she replied, 'We don't have room keys here, nothing ever gets stolen'. I was a little taken aback as (A) Nelson is one of the biggest cities on the S. Island after Christchurch and (B) I'd booked a double room for myself for the specific reason that I'd be able to lock my belongings up safely without having to worry about who had access to it. Ho hum. I don't mind trusting in the milk of human kindness but
there's always a first time for something to get nicked. I suppose it shows that on the S. Island at least it gets pretty close to a Utopian society. I mean, can you imagine any city in England running a joint without locks?! I recall English generations past (shout out to Nanna Eileen and Grandma Vera!) taking about going out and leaving the doors open, well, finally I've found somewhere yet to experience a crime wave!

As tonight is a Monday I expected it to be quite, so I went out for a bite to eat then realised it was St Patrick's Day which the Nelsonians found an acceptable reason to stay out and have a beer. I met a really nice couple from England called Sam and Michelle, it was Sam's 25th birthday coincidentally so it was Sambuca's O'clock until the wee small hours. It helped the knee pain subside your honour.

1 comment:

Catherine and Simon said...

Ouch! Hope your knee recovered quickly!