The lights lit up the darkness, the music was blaring, and it was all happening tonight at the Tarawera River. Teams were competing to be selected to represent New Zealand to go to Indonesia later in the year. Not that we know anything at all about rafting – but after being told about the evening trials, we just had to see what it was all about. Excitement, strength, skill, and a whole lot of hollering from the supporters on the river bank, that’s what it was all about. Each raft battled the Grade 3 river to get the six man team through the gates strung across the river. The rafts came hurtling down with the current, aiming for the green gates, and then had to turn and paddle against the current to slip through the red gates, before continuing on their way again.
Stainless steel wire cables were strung across the river, and the numbered green and red gates showed the course to be taken. Power cables were everywhere, and the area was brightly lit us with numerous lights, with loud music pumping out of the many speakers arranged along the riverbank. Judges and officials were perched on rocks with the river almost lapping at their feet, taking notes as each rubber boat rushed by.
Six teams will be selected, we were told, three men and the woman’s teams of different age groups. Participants have come from all over New Zealand to Kawerau for the trials, and the selection will still be continuing tomorrow. No doubt they will be battered, bruised and exhausted by the time it is all over.
Our day had started with a mere 20km drive from Edgecumbe to Kawerau today, and the flat topped Mt Edgecumbe looks down on the town.
This is a “motor-home friendly town”, in fact was the first one so designated we were told. There are several freedom camping areas close to the town centre – in fact, some are available with free power, so they are very popular and most sought after, if you are lucky enough to get them. Sadly, no room for us there, so we parked up behind the Cossie Club.
We had a delectable treat in the afternoon when Eileen kindly cooked us a batch of scones. Served with jam and cream, they were delicious, and most appreciated. The six of us were chatting together after consuming our scones when there was a tap on the door. Ray, a fellow motor-homer, welcomed us to his town and told us of the river rafting. He was one of the many volunteers down at the trials, and informed us it was on again in the early evening. Be sure to go and check it out, he advised – and we are so glad we did. We will be staying in the “timber town” a couple of days – we have never been here before so that is a good enough reason to come and stay.