Champagne and Waterfalls

Traveling has its benefits, but also its setbacks (e.g., limited internet access). While I polish up some posts about my latest destinations, here’s one dedicated to one of my favorite activities so far:

When I first heard about the Rere Rock Slide, my immediate thought was of a giant hillside covered in boulders (the American idea of a rockslide). In fact, the name is actually about as literal as it gets: it’s a huge natural stone slide, formed by the Wharekopae River as it works its way through the hills near Ngatapa (about 30 minutes outside of Gisborne). Winding its way lazily through the hills, the water suddenly finds itself flowing over a wide flat incline before it carries on its merry way 60 meters later. It’s a lovely spot on it own, with the water flowing lazily underneath a canopy of trees, but of course creative locals found a better use for this anomaly. Instead, they decided to see what happened if they tried to ride down the rapids on boogie boards.

The rock slide is a not-so-well-kept local secret, and people flock from all over the country to take a ride. (Seriously – it was voted one of the country’s “101 Must-Do’s” by New Zealand’s Automobile Association!) This means that it’s almost always full of people when the weather is even remotely warm. This was the case on the two occasions that I went – once with fellow HelpXer Julia, and another with fellow Workawayers DJ and Corey. None of us were properly equipped, but the Kiwi reputation for hospitality is well-earned: the crowds of people we met offered to let us use their tire inner tubes, boogie boards, and inflatable mattresses without even needing to ask first! It was lucky too, since the rock underneath you is pitted and jagged – not such a nice surprise for tender tummies!

Photos and videos tend to make the rock slide look a lot less exciting than it is – it’s much steeper and faster (and colder!) than it appears on film! – but here are a few nonetheless.

The Wharekopae River

The rock slide

Going doooooowwwwwnnnnn

Post-slide – I actually managed to stay on the tube!

DJ and I raced each other down the slide, but unfortunately he won (even though I was ahead at first!). In the video he’s the one shooting down on the boogie board… and I’m the slow one on the big black tire inner tube that hits the water afterwards. Ha!

Nearby, the Rere Falls are also a neat local attraction. The Falls are just your basic waterfall (when the water is high enough you can even walk underneath it!), but just picnicking nearby provides a scenic view and a nice way to spend an afternoon…

Rere Falls

Julia and lots of falling water

My favourite local attraction though (next to the Rock Slide) was the Champagne Pools. That isn’t their official name (I don’t think they even have one!), but it’s certainly an appropriate one. Only a kilometer or so above the Rock Slide, the Wharekopae River managed to make three perfectly-round holes in the bedrock, where the water pours down into the depths and bubbles back up to the surface like champagne. The best way to experience them is by climbing up the steeps walls of the valley upriver, ‘bombing’ into the deep end, and then shimmying your way across the moss-slick river bed to dive into the pools from your stomach. They’re a bit freaky to dive into at first – they’re so deep you can’t see the bottom! – but once you work up the courage it’s exhilarating to swim around in your own personal natural champagne flute! We all took turns jumping, but I managed to kill my digital camera in the process, so the photos and videos below are all courtesy of DJ and Corey:

DJ dipping his feet in some natural bubbly


Thanks for preserving some of my favourite Gisborne memories, guys!


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