Lord, grant me the strength to romanticise the behaviours I cannot change, the courage to ignore the underlying concerns I have about the overall efficacy of this approach & the wisdom to pretend it isn’t happening. - Hera Lindsay Bird
It was early December and those of us stuck in town decided to take a trip. Dasler Pinnacles was decided upon as a midpoint between Dunedin and Christchurch. I was feeling particularly apprehensive when packing for the trip (grumpy from poor sleep, completely over Law School and sick of a month of washing dishes in the bath). I remember buying a new packliner (a wise move) at Biv and telling Sarah that a tramp was exactly what I needed to blow out the cobwebs. We meet Frazer in labyrinthine Twizel and the six of us squeezed into Jason, Lottie’s champion station wagon . Spirits were high, despite Frazer having neglected his muesli duty. Now, the Hopkins Valley doesn’t really have a road end, just a 4WD track of decreasing quality. Around midnight, after a valiant effort, Jason could go no further. We were getting ready to start walking and set up camp further down the road when we met some hunters. The boys consisted of Cam (The driver who knew Rowan and Finn Cox), Jamie (very talkative and a bit drunk), Ramen (yes, that’s how you spell it) and Ramen’s dog Tussock. They were driving a Toyota Hilux loaded with six big tires (for burning) and three crates (for drinking). They kindly offered us a ride to the Hut and as Frazer said, it was “too good an offer to pass up”. So the six of us and our packs piled on top of an already loaded tray. We were stacked pretty high, and there wasn’t much to brace ourselves on. Jamie leaned out the window and had a yarn to us, telling us about their misadventure last weekend when they floated a different ute down a river. Haha. They gave us a can of Ranfurly Draught which we passed around while staring up at the clear night. Sophie’s croc was in danger of falling off, so I took it off her foot and quickly stashed it in a tire, in a reverse Cinderella. I’m a bit of a scardeycat so the combination of bumps and nothing to hold onto made me a bit nervous, but it was mostly great to be outside on an adventure with my pals. At this point in the story, I’d like to mention, it was now the early hours of my 23rd birthday. Right before Red Hut we came to one last tributary. A proper Fuck Off river.
Jamie gots out of the ute and tested the current. He got about halfway across the river and looked a picture of rural New Zealand in his stubbies, redbands and norsewear. Then he dropped his durries in the river and scurried back to the bank. Later he would say “maybe if you can’t wade [the river], you shouldn’t drive across”. There were some mutterings about getting out and crossing the river manually at a better place. But there was no deliberation, and the vehicle suddenly revved ahead. We were heading steadily towards a nice exit point on the other side. The ute was ¾ of the way across, then the river got deeper.
Instantly, the back of the ute was at the front and we were floating downstream. The river bank was too high to get out of easily. Frazer was on top of the cab coaching us all to “not jump yet”. We froze. The water was a beautiful milky-blue colour, but certainly not “swimmable”. I remember untangling my feet from the tire I was bracing against so they were free. We floated for 50-80m. Water was at the level of the tray and had started to spill in. It was unreal and horrible. Happy Birthday to me.
As suddenly as it started, the back wheel caught the riverbed. The bank was low enough and Cam had the presence of mind to reverse reverse out. The Hilux was out of river, on the the other side. Cam got out of the ute and dry retched. We started shaking. Miraculously (not a word I use lightly) everyone was safe. We arrived at Red Hut at about 3am and had tea and birthday cake. I was in a state of disbelief and I don’t think anyone got much sleep. The information panel in the hut said it was built in 1916 as a stopover for motor tourism. Haha. The rest of the trip was comparatively uneventful. We had two bluebird days and a fun night in two-bunk Dasler Biv (good thing none of us are tall!). There were great views and good kai. We spend a lot of time chuckling uncomfortably about our boating trip. When we arrived back at Jason on the last day we found a note from Cam, with a special message for Tash. ;) When I got home a very sunburned Meg and I swapped weekend stories and I crawled into bed exhausted, too tired to shower. What a memorable birthday. I would like to pre-emptively nominate this trip for the Piton of Almost Certain Death Award at Annual Dinner.
Epilogue: In March 2017 Cam and Tash become a Facebook Official™ couple. You could say that Toyboata Hilux was a good pick up truck!
Party: Torea Scott-Fyfe, Tash Spillane, Lottie Armstrong, Sophie Bicknell-Young, Frazer Atrill and Ella Borrie (author).
- Digitized from Antics 2016