Old mother Torrent, her merciless flow, her fresh clean waters. The way she glistens in the sunlight on a hot summer’s day. Churning, trickling, cascading, whirling, and bubbling. I can dream each step, each handhold as if walking in my sleep. It is no joke, I, like my fellow guides, could walk through Torrent River backwards, blindfolded, possibly even upside down and still find my way. I know it like the back of my hand, knowing just where to step, what to clip, when to jump.
As a company we are open 7 months of the year, the season starting in October with the start of Spring and continuing until the leaves change colour at the end of April. Each month on average there are 35 trips into Torrent River, with at least one or two guides working. So that’s a total of 1,400 hours guiding just in the canyon, not to mention the time spent on the boat ride through the beautiful azure waters of the Astrolabe, or the hike up through the native Beech Forest of the inner Abel Tasman National Park. Divide that canyon-time between each of us, and I calculate that we spend 234 hours over the season in Torrent. That equates to almost 10 days of continuous jumping, sliding, ziplining and abseiling (not including time for eating, sleeping, drinking).
Many have asked the question “Do you ever get bored?” My answer each time is “No”. It’s not the canyon that keeps me coming back, it is the people. Those gems who make each day interesting. People from all walks of life and wow do they have some stories to tell! Thinking back, it’s not the blue skies or the crazy flips that we landed; but the characters that we remember…
I remember Jess, the lass who represented New Zealand in Rio at Soccer, and came canyoning to have a break from her sister and Mum’s chilled-out beach holiday! She kicked ass in the canyon, I don’t think she needed anything else that day for her training regime.
We had an amazing crew from Abel Tasman SkyDive who jumped, flipped and zipped their way down our Torrent River on their day off. They have to log over 300 jumps before being able to skydive with customers – now that is commitment! Although I think our guide Lee has definitely done over 300 trips in Torrent in his time with ATC.
Then there was Becky who campaigned for years to revoke teachers’ unions in her state so that the standard of teaching improved. She had to be escorted by Police to work… A little bit different to our commute to work on the AquaTaxi!
Oh, and I remember the lass Paula who wanted to be president of the United Nations, and invented our first ever canyon song! She’d never done anything like canyoning before and loved it! Who knows, the teamwork that she learnt in Torrent may set her up in good stead.
Greg was a chap from New Brunswick, Canada. He walked from Nelson to our door in Motueka one morning to book himself on a trip the following day. Throughout his trip into Torrent River he dove, front flipped, back flipped and not-even-invented-yet flipped off every jump possible as many times as he could. This guy’s love for life and adventure was amazing.
There was Reto who joined us on our epic Waterfall Creek trip. Reto has been fire-breathing since he was a teenager. Apparently the trick is all in the breathing, rather him than me.
Local guy Billy who’s been meditating since he was a kid and does 10-day silent meditations – far out! With the amount us guides chat, I reckon it would be a massive challenge!
There was Claudia who was committed to master the 6m jump, after 15mins of psyching herself up she felt she couldn’t do it, so she jumped from a lower ledge instead. Looking back over her shoulder and seeing the jump from below she knew she had it in her, so went back for another go. Another 10 minutes of head-games and she cracked it. She flew off that 6m jump – and was ecstatic – what an achievement!!!
And the Schönwetter family from Germany, they were all super tall and sharing a caravan… 5 full grown people in a caravan around New Zealand – good effort.
Then the Bennett lads from Timaru, I think it was pure peer pressure from the boys that made Dad jump from the 8m!!!
What I love about Torrent River is that you can really challenge everyone. We had one lovely couple who came along, John was a keen climber and abseiling was routine for him. For his girlfriend Jess it was a different story. After the first jump I saw tears in her eyes. But as we made our way down through Torrent River I saw Jess’s confidence grow, and by the time we made it to Cleopatra’s pool she was grinning from ear to ear. And what about the challenge for John, you may wonder?! Well, we got him doing backflips by the end of the day. This was just the start of their challenges…they had sold up everything that they owned to start travelling and were going to try to work as they went, what an awesome way to live, eh?
We have to check the tide before any trip, and I’m not going to lie sometimes our hearts sinks a little when we know we’re going to be dragging 14 people across the Torrent Bay Estuary. It’s so beautiful and the customers love it, but it’s definitely a work-out for us guides. But when Jody started singing “what is love…baby don’t hurt me, don’t hurt me…” that day in January, it totally made my day. We all sang along and it made that thigh-burn fade away!
So that is just a handful of the people that I can remember, if you ask a different guide you’ll hear another bunch of stories…Another snapshot of some of the beauties that come into Torrent River with us. And tomorrow will bring another day, with more stories, more personal achievements and more exhausted grins by the end.
*names changed in an effort not to embarrass, flatter or mock anyone…but you may know who you are!
By Rosie Hadfield