Peel Forest & Rafting Take 2

Peel Forest would fall under “off the beaten track” and very on brand for Stray. It is a small community in the Canterbury Region of New Zealand close to Christchurch. It is located near the Peel Forest Park Scenic Reserve, the Rangitata River, and part of the Southern Alps. This entire area was used in a lot of the scenery for the Lord of the Rings movies. Flowing from the Alps to the Pacific Ocean the Rangitata River was the main highlight of this one-night stop for us. When we first arrived and checked in we had super sunny weather and headed to the lake. Some people were brave enough to go swimming in the glacial water. I was fine with being their photographer. Only Stray passengers were staying on property so we had the lodge essentially to ourselves. We had a group dinner that night (the last of the trip) and spent the evening playing cards. We were treated to a lazy, sleep in morning as Christchurch was the next stop and only a two-ish hour drive away.

Most of the group drove to Christchurch in the the afternoon, but six of us stayed behind. We were the adventurers and going to take on white water rafting on the Rangitata River! I almost didn’t sign up for this activity as I already had a rafting excursion earlier this trip in Rotorua. One of my friend’s had done this rafting trip a couple of days before I arrived in Peel Forest and the pictures looked amazing. I also had such a great time the first go that I figured I would love it again. And finally, a couple of the people I’ve gotten close with were also doing it so it would be fun rafting with some friends. All of those reasons lead me to try it and I’m so happy that I did.

This rafting was completely different from Rotorua’s. Mainly, the length of the tour, in time and distance, was much longer. The distance covered rafting on this trip was almost 10 times as long. The water was also icy blue and wider than the other rafts. It was also colder given that it comes from a glacier and all the layers we wore were needed (swimsuit, undershirt, thermal, wetsuit, wind breaker jacket, and booties). The other rafting experience leads up to a huge waterfall whereas this didn’t have a waterfall, but massive rapids (ranging from grade 2-5).

I sat upfront on the raft and I absolutely loved it. I was the only one in our boat that had rafted before so it was nice having an idea of what I was doing. Our guide was really knowledgeable and the entire team, and there were a lot of them, was so friendly and professional. After rafting we had the chance to shower and were greeted to a BBQ lunch to enjoy as a group. I really would recommend this excursion, especially if you are bored in Christchurch and want to go out for a day trip.

Accommodation – Rangitata Rafts Lodge

The lodge and the rafting is all in one place/company and they are the only operators out here. I think if you have a big group and you rent out the entire lodge that is the way to go, but if you are traveling solo or with just another person camping or just a day trip out here would suffice.

Off the Grid at Blue Duck Station

Another Stray exclusive stop was Blue Duck Station. It is described as an “outdoor enthusiast’s playground.” It is a private farm with zero cell service so we were literally off the grid for two nights with an abundance of nature around us. Blue Duck’s mission is to “conserve its endangered wildlife, increase the health of native bush and rivers, and preserve the history of the area, while educating visitors about the endangered New Zealand blue duck, other native species, and local history.” Everything they do from the farming to education supports their mission. It is a family run business and the owner came by our campfire the first night to chat.

Our first night we had the option of having a farm to table meal in the main cafe. Goat curry was on the menu. Afterwards, we all hung out by the campfire for hours and eventually moved inside when it started drizzling a bit and spent the rest of the evening playing card games, ping pong, etc. .

We were not lucky with the weather, and our full day at the Station was rainy from early in the morning through mid-afternoon. This prevented some activities like the jet boating to take place, but it was nice to have some down time. In the afternoon the rain stopped just in time for my group to go horse trekking. I was so disappointed in my experience at Rainbow Beach I had told myself I wouldn’t go commercial horse riding again. I was seriously contemplating for a long time whether or not if I should go at Blue Duck. I finally decided to give it a go thinking that since it was a farm it would be a better experience.

I’m so happy I went! The horses were beautiful and the majority of the horses on the farm are rescues. They are also very healthy, happy, and well taken care of. They roam and live outside freely, except for the occasional rides, and even then never working more than 3-4 days a week. After all the rain the conditions were muddy and it was a totally different kind of terrain than I’ve ridden in years. There were also only five of us riding and the guide, it was a great size for the group.

After the ride, I went for a walk on the property to see a waterfall. Upon returning we heard that the Tongariro Alpine Crossing was on for the next day and we would be leaving at 5:45am. It was an early, chill night.

Accommodations

We were sleeping in adorable cabins with two bunks in each (sleeping up to four people). The cabins were built within the last year so they were in great condition. I’ve been getting really lucky with my sleeping arrangements and have been on the bottom bunk…score! Hope this doesn’t jinx it. The bathrooms were in the main campsite building, but it was only a minute walk. There was also a huge kitchen, game room with ping pong table, dining area, and a library/reading room.