The Rangitīkei flows through magnificent and varied terrain 185km from its headwaters in the Kaimanawa Ranges to join the Tasman Sea southwest of Bulls. Yet, from SH1, it's not easy to get more than a glimpse of it, though enormous white clay (papa) cliffs, impressive and visible to the east of the main highway, hint at a river below.

Rivers offer the traveler many solaces; fish to catch, banks to picnic on, willow trees to lie under, views to dream on and tunes with which to harmonize. This gentle but dramatic river demands to be ridden. Paul Eames' family pioneered river rafting in the area back in 1981 believing that while the Whanganui River was getting most rafting attention, the Rangitīkei should receive its due.

At various stages, the Eames ran their rafting operation Awastone from the famous Mangaweka DC3, a plane they carried to its current spot in 1986 (now closed).

Paul and his wife Tricia took over the family business in 1998 and now operate from beside the river, which is precisely where a rafting company should be.

The section of the river by Awastone is grade 2, safe for families and novices to drift along, through gorges and canyons (yes, it featured in

The Lord of the Rings) with plenty of time allowed for lunch and a swim.

There's a one-hour “splash and giggle” family trip, full-day scenic outings for the mellow explorer, lunch amongst the magical Whitecliffs Boulders as well as options for the more daring.

Awastone is open year round (although the café closes for part of the winter), with a hot tub at the ready to warm up winter rafters. Tricia and Paul are constantly adding “a bit of this and that” to Awastone and aim to provide a relaxed experience beside the river they love. Tricia believes the Rangitīkei's appeal is partly that not many people have experienced it.

“It's not as easy to access as the Whanganui or the Shotover, but it offers so much beauty and diversity in flora and fauna, and levels of adventure.”

143 Ruahine Road, Mangaweka. (06) 382 5744,





NZ Lifestyle Magazine Group