Rangitikei River and River Valley Lodge… What an Absolute Gem!
A few years ago I guided a Lord of the Rings themed tour for a really cool British couple about my age. We had planned a 16 day trip for them from North to South with a big focus on seeing filming locations from Lord of the Rings, visiting Hobbiton, a helicopter flight over the famous Mount Doom, dressing up in cloaks and swords and re-enacting the famous battle scene at Pelennor Fields in Return of the King, and so on and so forth.
Another of the Lord of the Rings themed activities we undertook was a rafting trip down the Rangitikei River, which was used to portray the River Anduin in the trilogy. We had booked a rafting trip with River Valley Lodge who arranges both grade 5 white water rafting trips and calmer scenic grade 2-3 trips. We were set to take on the full-on action-packed grade 5 trip but one of my clients had become pregnant not long before the trip, so we opted for the scenic trip on the day.
We took off from the grand Chateau Tongariro rather early and watched the sunrise over the volcanic plateau, which was gorgeous. The main stretch of the road was pretty simple, mostly state highway, but the final part was narrow, winding and eventually very rural dirt road, leading down a steep bank to River Valley Lodge. I was absolutely blown away by the place – it was like nowhere I’d ever been. Bright pink cherry blossoms lined a fast-flowing river which was lined by massive, steep sandstone cliffs. Along this stunning river, there was a beautiful garden featuring a life-sized chess board, weeping willows, little park benches to admire the view, and some fairly rustic and cute buildings in which they offer accommodation.
I can’t really do justice to the beauty of the location just by talking about it, it has to be admired in person to absorb the true power of the natural surroundings.
We took off with a very chilled out but professional guide who took us rafting down the river. We stopped and went for a wander into a small cave and to cleanse ourselves under a delightful waterfall, before getting back into the river and hitting a couple of grade 3 rapids (about as rapid as I’d ever like to get to to be honest!) The trip was about 4 hours long including a picnic lunch. I believe the operation is run by a family who’ve been on the site for a long while, the place had a great community feel to it, our rafting guide’s small kids even came out to wave to him along one section of the river.
Following the rafting trip, one of the owners who was the father-in-law of our guide (who told me he was in his 80s) had a chat to me about his on-site music recording studio. The family seemed to be very happy and fulfilled here and I was thoroughly impressed with this place. We’ve been sending groups as frequently as possible ever since and I’ve returned personally a couple of times. I can still never quite believe that this place exists! It’s a true kiwi treasure!