A tricky part of traveling with family is finding activities that suit fitness and fear levels of all shapes and sizes. I, for instance, think of myself as moderately fit and willing to take risks. My mom, for comparison, would be the complete opposite.
So, we all agreed and booked in for a good ol’ funyak down New Zealand’s Dart River and through Mount Aspiring National Park. I believe Funyak is just a alternative way of saying kayak, but it’s not in the Merriam-Webster dictionary so we can’t be sure.
The day starts in Glenorchy with the allocation of gear and a jet boat ride that is unforgiving to anyone with big cheeks and a beanie (me). The jet boat glides on barely-there water and through thin corridors. My mom’s head was tucked into my dad’s shoulder the entire ride – it was frightening. But the jaw dropping views (the snow topped mountains! the clear blue water! the birdlife! the waterfalls! the forest!) were a great distraction.
The jet boat’s job is to take you upstream into Mount Aspiring National Park, the setting for that indie film called Lord of the Rings. At first we were bummed about the rainy weather but it added to the drama of the national Park. Plus, it made acting like a hobbit way more believable.
You know how they say biking is a better way to explore over cars. Well, funyaks are better than both! They let you enjoy hidden side streams, waterfalls, rock pools and dramatic chasms on a whole other level. I’m making it sound nice and breezy but you can’t always make the funyak do what you want. The water is, usually, knee-deep though so you can jump out and drag it back to safety, or your guides will fetch you. We were guilty on both accounts!
The Dart River trail is great because it’s tricky enough so that you work hard but easy enough so that if you’re paired up with someone who knows what they’re doing, you don’t have to do much. Exhibit A: I partnered with my mom who alleviated herself from any paddling duties and we still somehow made it to the end.