Two tourists who set out for a peaceful afternoon of drifting down the Waikato River came perilously close to being swept over Huka Falls after they missed the take-out point on the river.
Ryless Abadou from France and Adam Rudkin from the United Kingdom had entered the river just below the Control Gates Bridge near Taupō township intending to do the popular 3.3km river float down the Waikato River to Hipapatua/Reid's Farm reserve.
But the pair floated past the takeout point unaware and it was not until they hit a set of rapids near Huka Lodge where the river flow rapidly increases, that they realised they were in danger.
"Originally we were supposed to get out at Reid's Farm but we just passed it," Mr Rudkin said. "To be honest, I thought it was a bit further ahead...then we went over a rapid and I thought 'oh sh*t'.
However they are not the only visitors to make that mistake - Taupō Police revealed after the incident that last night three other visitors, two from Wellington and one from Qatar, were actually swept over Huka Falls on inflatables but survived to tell the tale.
Police were called to Huka Falls shortly after 2pm today following a report from somebody at Huka Lodge that two people were being swept towards the falls on an inflatable.
Mr Abadou managed to get hold of a tree and pull himself to the river bank but the branch Mr Rudkin was holding snapped and he was carried by the current further down the river before he managed to grab onto another one.
"It took me 10 minutes to get out of the water and then I was stood on the cliff waiting for the police to come."
Once on the bank Mr Rudkin then found himself unable to move as he was surrounded by blackberry. Police staff with slashers arrived and cut a path to free him, with one officer literally pulling the man over the brambles to get him out.
He was escorted back to the carpark at Huka Falls where he was reunited with his friend.
Senior Constable Barry Shepherd of Taupō Police said in last night's incident, the trio, two men and a woman only realised they had missed the takeout and were in serious trouble when they got to the rapids by Huka Lodge, upstream of the falls. Somebody at Huka Lodge raised the alarm and police hastened to the scene to find the trio had already gone over the falls. At the bottom, they had gone under the water, but popped up again, much to their great relief.
"We said [to them] what were they thinking? and they said [they thought] 'holy sh*t' when they went over the falls. One of them said he thought it was the end," Mr Shepherd said.
"Two managed to get onto the bank at the edge of the white water and the other one was a bit further down and was met by police."
Mr Shepherd said the message was that while floating down the Waikato River was a fun summer activity, it was important not to miss the take out point because Huka Falls was not far below it.
"And if you don't know where it [the takeout point is}, find out."
Taupō District Council chief executive Gareth Green said he had visited the takeout point at Hipapatua/Reid's Farm and was surprised to find there were no signs advising that it was dangerous to continue past that point.
He said the council would look at putting a sign with a map of the river float route on it at the put-in point below Control Gates Bridge, a sign at the Otumuheke Stream at Spa Park about three-quarters of the way along the route, and a sign at the takeout point at Reid's Farm to advise people where they had to get off the river.