Where We Be
|Dart River Jetboat -- Kinloch, New Zealand
|We jetboated right through Isengard!
Our plans to lounge the day away at lovely Kinloch Lodge
changed suddenly when the sun popped out. On the spur of
the moment, we decided to do the jetboat ride up the Dart
River. This was a bit of a splurge, but it was a four-hour
jetboat tour up and down one of the prettiest stretches of
scenery in New Zealand, and we’d heard such good things
about it that we couldn’t resist. It turned out to be a blast.
Jetboats are perfect for navigating up shallow, gravelly
rivers like the Dart. They are also incredibly fast! As our
driver from Dart River Safaris turned hard-left and hard-right,
the two teenage girls behind us screamed with delight. Our
driver was a daredevil and loved to cut as close as humanly
possible to boulders, trees, sandbars, and any other
obstacles he could find.
New Zealand rivers are largely untamed; there are no dams,
no human development, and the rivers form pebbled “braids”
or channels that are alternately full of water or dry depending
on the weather conditions. The jetboat driver makes split-
second decisions about which braid of the river to go up.
When our driver raised his fist in the air, it meant “hold on
tight” because we were going over a particularly shallow
stretch of the Dart. If it was too shallow, we could come to a
very sudden halt and be thrown forward. We could hear the
gravel scouring the bottom of the boat as we passed over
several ultra-shallow sections (e.g., one or two inches of
water). At other times, he'd raise his hand and make a circling
motion. This also meant “hold on tight” because he was about
to do a “360”—a complete spin of the jetboat at high speed.
This has to be experienced to be believed. Water goes flying
in a sheet, the passengers often get doused, and the whole
world spins once around and you end up facing in the same
direction you started. On one of these spins, Robin’s favorite
red Nike cap blew off her head, never to be seen again.
The scenic splendor of the Dart River is something special in
its own right. It runs a glacially cold blue-green through a
spectacular valley with beech-covered mountains on either
side. The Misty Mountains of Lord of the Rings fame form the
backdrop. Many movie scenes were filmed right here. Our
driver pointed out where the Dark Riders chased the hobbits
through the forest, and we passed right through Isengard.
“I want to be a jetboat pilot when I grow up!” I told the jetboat
driver as he dropped us off and I shook his hand goodbye.
|I love this image of Robin beaming with excitement after a head-spinning 360-degree turn
|Does our jetboat driver look a bit like Sean Penn?
|We entered this magical section of forest near the Dart River
|Kinloch Lodge offered a bit of luxury between tramps
|The towns of Kinloch, Glenorchy, and Queenstown all border lovely Lake Wakatipu
|Ahhhh! Lake Wakatipu at sunset
|Fantastic scenery along the Dart -- and without the hard hiking!
|Our daredevil jetboat driver strides ashore
|Sunset with driftwood along the shore of Lake Wakatipu
|New Zealand green-lipped mussels -- yum!