Peering out of the curtains to the raging river outside, it was hard to believe I would soon be transformed from PJs to lifejacket in the time it took to digest my bacon and egg sandwich. I’d wanted to get off the beaten track and do a bit of rafting. And if anywhere deserves the title of off the beaten track, it’s Taihape. Along state highway one, between Taupo and Wellington, most travellers probably don’t even realise there’s any reason to stop there. But in a way, that’s the beauty of it. I headed another 30 minutes from Taihape deeper into rolling green hills and stunning river canyons to rock up at River Valley, nestled in the heart of nowhere. There’s not many places where you can jump in a raft before you’ve barely wiped the sleep from your eyes. Here they’ve been braving the Grade 5 section of the Rangitikei River since when mullets, snow-washed jeans and fluorescent pink shirts were the in things (younger readers may not know this disastrous time is generally referred to as the “80s”) on the raft. Looking just as badass as my fellow rafters in my wetsuit, helmet and fetching life jacket, and despite the news there were 10 major Grade 4-5 rapids on the 12km trip, plus numerous smaller rapids, I was ready for action.