Now Alan wants a jet boat

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Oceania » New Zealand » South Island » Wanaka
November 29th 2007
Published: December 4th 2007
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I should have known it. The first time our Maori driver spins the jet boat around, Alan says, “I gotta get me one of these.”

The wind whistles around the corner at Wanaka Springs Lodge this morning. Will we be able to take our jet boat ride today?

While Lynn and Murray cook a breakfast of poached eggs, broiled tomatoes and mushrooms, we sit at the dining room table discussing our options. Robert assures us we will be sheltered from the winds in the river valley.

So, we walk down the hill into town beside gardens that flourish on the edge of a creek that bursts from the springs near our lodge.

Sue from Wanaka River Journeys picks us up in a van and drives to the access point on the Matukituki River. The car ride is scenic, traveling around the edge of Lake Wanaka past sheep stations and ski mountains.

Arriving at the put-in point, we meet her husband, Brett, our Maori jet boat driver. After learning about the safety aspects of riding in jet boats, we put on our life preservers and board the boat.

The flat bottom boat skims the water’s surface as Brett swerves from one side of the river to the other. I’m amazed that Brett can thread the boat through a maze of channels that wind through the glacial runoff.

Brett puts his hand into the air, the signal for all of us to hold on tight with both hands. It’s time to negotiate another 360-degree spin that stops the boat.

The winds are a factor and Brett is careful how he maneuvers the boat. Stunning scenery roars by, tall mountains, sheep stations, and in the distance, a cloud cover hides the glaciers of Mt. Aspiring.

When Brett stops the boat, he tells us about the land’s history or recounts a Maori legend. Further up the river, we stop for a bush walk. The wind whips around us as we scurry through a pasture to a wooded area where a creek rushes by tall trees. After hiking along the water’s edge, Brett leads us up a hillside where the ground is spongy with sphagnum moss.

Back on the boat, it’s time to turn around and head back down the river. At the end, Brett puts his hand up in the air, we hold on tight and the boat spins to a stop.

Back at Wanaka Springs Lodge, the wind is too strong for wine and cheese on the deck. So, we move to the lounge to share stories of the day. This time a French couple has been added to the mix of international guests.

It’s time to eat again. Robert walks with us back down the hill for a dinner of shrimp stuffed Dover sole at Capriccio’s while we relive our day. Alan really wants a jet boat.

To read more about Wanka River Journeys , visit My Itchy Travel Feet , a blog about baby boomer travel.

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