Marooned on a sandy isle

Declan awaiting rescue.
Declan awaiting rescue.

By mid-morning we were marooned on a small islet of sand in the middle of a river in full flood. OK, it was only ankle deep, but still….

The Dart River is about an hour Noth of Queenstown. The route is scenic and was only paved about 15 years ago. It winds along the side of the Lake providing lovely, scenic views around each corner. We passed Sunshine Point where many of the people who work in Queenstown live – it was called Sandfly Point until they realised that no one was buying property there.

In a rather more accurate bit of advertising, Glenorchie is the ‘gateway to paradise’ and certainly is a lovely area. We stopped there to put on wet suits and board a jet-boat for our trip upstream. The jet-boat streams along at such a pace that, going into the wind as we were, our faces were being pulled back like a test-pilot being subjected to high-G.

Now regular readers of these pages may think I’ve been whinging about the weather a bit recently. But to put this in perspective, there has been so much rain recently that the river channels have shifted all over the place. in addition the huge flows had turned the normally delightfully clear water a muddy grey, filled with alluvial dirt and glacial milk. And that meant that we swished around a corder at amazing speed, slid over a gravel bank, ground over another – and became firmly stuck. We spent a very entertaining 20 minutes trying to find a way to free ourselves and then had to call for replacement boats to come an save us from the small, muddy islet where we found ourselves utterly stranded.

Our stranded jet boat.
Our stranded jet boat.

Eventually we were rescued and our trip up-river continued, taking us to the point where we met our kayaks. The ‘fun kayaks’ are actually inflatable canoes – that makes them eminently practical for transporting up-river, but also quite unstable and prone to being blow about in a firm wind.

IMG_0564Going back down-river on the kayaks was great fun. They aren’t easy to control, and needed a lot of control when the shifting channels meant the guides had no more idea that us where to go. That made it all very exciting. The thing that made it safe was that most of the time the water was no more than knee-deep.

We stopped for lunch, and were foiled in an attempt at a side-trip up a ravine by the force of the current, but then continued further down the river. There were a couple of hairy moments as the current and wind combined to have us spinning out of control, but that just made the whole experience more fun.

Dart River.
Dart River.

Eventually we came to our pull-out point and deflated the kayaks. We drove back through country where scenes from Lord of the Rings were filmed much to Declan’s delight. Seeing the actual spots drove home how much the movies owe to CGI.

For us there was no advertising or CGI, our various mishaps today made our whole experience seem much more real, a real adventure.


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