Westport to Murchison Road Trip

Buller River

In the morning the feasting continues with a hearty breakfast in town before we visit Coaltown, a museum that brings Westport’s history alive through its sawmilling, gold and coal mining, and shipping displays. We spend an hour looking around and then leave town on SH6 following the Buller River inland to Inangahua Junction, then on through the Upper Buller Gorge Scenic Reserve to Newton Flat where, shortly after, we stop at the 110 metre long swingbridge over the raging Buller Gorge. We enjoy a latté then cross the wobbling bridge to the other side, where we decide to ride the comet line, a 160 metre long flying fox, back across the river. It’s a blast; but Bob’s slightly vertiginous, and yells all the way!

After a lunch of egg and cucumber sandwiches in nearby Murchison, a small town that offers a range of high adrenaline activities – most of which centre on or around the river – we don wetsuits at Ultimate Descents and join a whitewater rafting tour. Bob’s a little hesitant, he’s not sure what to expect, but after we board our raft and receive expert instruction from Dean, our whitewater rafting guide, he begins to visibly relax.

The first stretch of river is tame - great for first-timers. I slip into a quiet reverie as our raft drifts along the Buller’s crystal clear waters; a kaleidoscope of colours reflect from the surrounding hills onto the river’s glassy surface and beneath lies a riverbed of perfectly polished pebbles. “F-O-R-WARD!” Dean’s bellowed commands suddenly shatter the silence. “LEFT! RIGHT! F-O-R-W-A-R-D!” Bob shoots me a horrified look as our raft gathers momentum, sweeps around a bend, and we come face to face with a tumbling tower of bottle-green waves and foaming white wash. For a precarious moment we perch at the crest of the towering wall, then we’re at right angles descending into the roaring foam.

The last thing I see before the world turns abruptly white is Bob’s grimly determined expression.

Through the white-out Dean can be heard shouting at us to hold on. Between gasping and screaming there’s no time for communication at our end of the raft!

Seconds later we emerge from the rushing icy whiteness only to charge headlong into another rapid. Adrenaline kicks in and we’re loving it. Eventually we emerge at the other end - totally unscathed. “That was amazing,” says Bob later, as we’re checking into a farm stay on the outskirts of Murchison. Then he gives me a strange expression, “You know I’m positive I came face to face with a trout!”