Hiking Through Swampland, Paddling Through Rapids and Jumping Off Tree Tops in New Zealand

Hiking Through Swampland, Paddling Through Rapids and Jumping Off Tree Tops in New Zealand

by Paige Diller, CCI-Greenheart Travel High School Abroad participant in New Zealand
This past weekend in New Zealand has been very exciting (as well as very tiring)! On Thursday, we left school and headed to Otaki for our Outdoor Education Class trip. It took only an hour to get to our camp site, but it felt like we were in a different world. The first task of the day was a 5 hour tramp. We walked/hiked through the green hills of Otaki up the inclines, then down again, then around the swamp, then through the swamp, through the wind, through the wind, and through the cold. Though the conditions were extreme, it was an incredible experience. Anywhere we went, there was nothing to see but rolling hills cut into a valley by three rivers that met in the middle. We tramped across open fields and through dense bush that made me think we were in the tropics somewhere. Regarding the swamp, our group was very lucky. We only have to walk through with the mud going up to our knees, but other groups, didn’t realize it was shallow at parts, and waded through with the mud up to their chests!

When we finally finished our tramp, we set up the camp site and settled in for the night. After a scary story or two (one about possums…), we headed to bed. Quite honestly, I was not excited for the next day. I slept for a grand total of maybe 4 hours that first night. All that time that I laid awake was spend thinking about the white water rafting we were doing the next morning. I was NOT looking forward to jumping in cold water after a cold night of no sleep.

The next day, we got up, packed up camp, and attempted to mentally prepare ourselves for rafting. At the rafting place, we got suited up in our wetsuits, splash jackets, and life vests. We separated into groups for each boat and set off down the river. White water rafting that day was incredible. I can’t believe I started off the day dreading it. The water was cold, but I got used to it very quickly and couldn’t have enjoyed myself more than I did. We learned the commands from the guide in our boat; “Forward paddle,” “back paddle,” “left side forward,” and so on. Our boat worked great together, we got pretty good with keeping our paddling in time. At one point, we had to jump out of the boat so that another person on the boat could rescue us. When our boat’s guide, Steve, asked for a volunteer, I was the first to go in- flipping backwards of the side. After we practiced rescues, we had to do another exercise, this one quite scary. We were told that we had to flip the boat upside-down and then climb onto, while still floating down the stream. It was the scariest part of the whole experience, but very, very cool. I’m glad I got the chance to do it.

After rafting, we changed back into dry clothes, had lunch and then headed to the high ropes course. (I didn’t know what that meant at first, so: high ropes is beams and ladders and wires that are stretched high up between trees. You wear a harness, and have a belayer on the ground keeping your harness rope taunt. You have to maneuver through the course that you are on. The main part is keeping your balance and not letting your nerves get a complete hold over you.) I was completely terrified at first. Well, I still was every time I climbed up a tree. But it was awesome! I’d never done anything like that before, and I’m not so sure I’ll ever get the chance to do it again. There was one particular course that I did, that was terrifying, but I’m so proud of myself that I did it. You had to climb up a ladder, then continue up a tree (with pegs in it), to about… 30 meters in the air. Once you get to the top, you have to stand on the top of the pole, which had a diameter a little smaller than the length of my foot (and I wear a size 6). You don’t have anything to hold on to while you’re up there, other than your own harness ropes. Once I finally got both feet on the top, my legs were shaking like crazy. From there, I had to jump a few feet into the air and catch a bar, like a trapeze act. It was unbelievably scary. But I did it! It was awesome. I was also the first person to do it, so it was a special honor.

Though I was very nervous about the trip to begin with, with not knowing many people, and being apprehensive about rafting and camping in general, I’m so very glad I went. It was an amazing experience. The rafting was definitely my favorite part. Not only was the activity exciting, but the river we were on was absolutely beautiful. When the sun finally came out, you could see all the rounded rocks at the bottom of the river. The walls of the river were green and covered in beautiful trees and vegetation. During a calm part of the river, we even saw a sheep and her two baby lambs! They were so cute!

Thank you to everyone who has sent me letters or cards. They are much appreciated. It’s so very exciting to hear from you on the other side of the world!

7 thoughts on "Hiking Through Swampland, Paddling Through Rapids and Jumping Off Tree Tops in New Zealand"

  1. I’m not in the least bit jealous of having mud up to my knees, but the rafting sounded like a blast. (Scary story about opossums? You may have to tell me that one.)

  2. SherriW says:

    You make me want to be an exchange student! You think they would host a couple of
    (40 something??) adventurous women? I think this sounds like an adventure for your mom and me!
    You are so much like your mother. All of my best adventures were with her! I always admired her strength and sense of adventure!

  3. bubba says:

    Enjoy reading your blogs and hearing about your adventures and challenges while living in New Zealand. Take care and be safe!

  4. You really are so much like your Mother, aren’t you… no matter how tough it gets, in the end you own the day! So proud of you, Paige! Love you, love you… Mom-mom.

  5. Dana (mom) says:

    What an exciting adventure. We are so proud of you and how you handled each of the challenges. Love and miss you.

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