I’m in Auckland at the moment and today is my last day in the country. I’m getting everything ready for tomorrow when I fly out to Hawaii! But I’ve realised that in all the hectic activity here I haven’t written an update for two weeks and so much has happened in that time. So here goes… (I warn you, it’s a long one)
Last time I left you I was in Wellington about to travel up to Taupo. It wasn’t a particularly interesting or long drive up but we did stop on the way to see Mount Doom and Mordor. Both are probably the most recognisable scenes from the movie which you can still see here in New Zealand. On the bus the clipboard for activities came round, on of which was skydiving.
Now, I’d been considering it since Jon and the girls came back telling me I had to do it and Taupo is the cheapest place in NZ if not the world to do it at $179 or 72 pounds. So I signed up. Having though about it for so long, the idea didn’t really scare me and once we got there I was really excited. This particular company has their own plane, built specifically for skydiving which means it can carry 17 people with the jumpers sitting aside two long benches (very cosily) in the back. There is also a roll up door which is completely clear and so gives maximum effect as you take off and start the climb. We had to wait around for quite a while before our jump time. I was with two other girls from the Kiwi bus and Jon had come along to watch, although he was absolutely itching to go again. While waiting we got to watch other groups jump. There was also another skydiving company next door and at one point both planes had jumped so we could look up and see over 20pairs of people falling through the sky. It was an incredibly weird thing to see, it felt like it was raining people. So my turn came and they got us all suited up in what was of course a wonderfully flattering outfit, consisting of a red jump suit with a big life raft strapped in a bag around our waists, the harness (tied nice and tight of course) and to top it off a lovely brown leather cap type hat with goggles attached. So, feeling suitably stupid, we met our jump masters and had very important information fired at us much too quickly then were lead towards the waiting plane. As part of the jump cost you get a free ground DVD which basically includes footage from on the ground, in the plane and when you land. For an added $150 you could get a cameraman to jump with you and film you on the way down but I decided not to do that. Partly due to the cost but mostly because I didn’t want to have to worry about what kind of faces I made on the way down.
So all the while we were getting ready there was someone flashing a camera in our faces and expecting some sort of response. We were all squished very tightly in the plane, facing the back with our jumpmasters strapped onto the back of our harnesses. Once again cameras were waved much too closely in front of our faces and people tried not to look as thought they were about to vomit. My jumpmaster asked me if I wanted to do anything special going out the plane and I’m not sure what my response was but I know it was squeaky. We were jumping from 12,000ft and each of the jumpmasters wore an altimeter on their wrist so we could see how fast we were climbing but also more vitally so they know when to open the chute. I was first showed the altitude at 500ft and already that looked too far to be jumping from. It wasn’t until we got to 10,000ft when they did all the final preparations that my stomach flipped. And then they opened the door.
Sharp intakes of breath followed and a small scream from the girl next to me. I was third to jump and I did momentarily toy with the idea of putting my feet against the wall and refusing to go any further but it all happened so quickly and before I knew it I was spinning in the air seeing the plane, then the ground, then the plane again until we settled into falling face down. He’d told me before that when he tapped my shoulders I had to let go of the shoulder straps and stretch my arms out. He eventually had to tap me three times then pull my arms out as I was so unaware of him. The feeling of falling is indescribable. I was most aware of the wind just rushing at me and how cold my fingers were. From where we jumped I could see over Lake Taupo and across to mount doom with the sun setting behind the mountains. I’d like to say magical but it sounds too tacky. We fell for around 45seconds until 5,000ft when he pulled the chute. Suddenly everything was quiet as we started floating gracefully down towards the ground and I was able to really take in the astounding view. Before I knew it I was back on the ground and didn’t stop bouncing for ages afterwards. It really was the most amazing experience and if anyone gets a chance I’d definitely tell you to do it. The huge advantage of a skydive over a bungy jump is that someone else is in charge of pushing you, with a bungy you have to jump yourself.
The rest of our time in Taupo wasn’t particularly exciting (in comparison anyway) but we did take full advantage of the hostel hot tub and watched the Kill Bill volume 1 and 2 that Jon had bought in China for $1 each. Our next stop on the bus was Rotorua.
On the way we stopped at Waitopo which some guy from when I was working at Pier One had told me I had to go to and we got to see the bubbling mud pools which look really disgusting but inviting at the same time. But you can’t touch them as they are much too hot. We went onto Rotorua known as the geothermal centre of NZ where steam rises from the ground all over the city and there is a wonderful smell of rotten eggs everywhere from the sulphur in the air. We stayed at a really nice hostel here which had been recommended by a guy from Taupo who said it was the best hostel he’d come across in 13 months of travelling. The best bit was that there were absolutely no bunk beds! In the three nights we were there we watched two of the Lord of The rings movies! I guess being in NZ it was about time really. The next day we took a day trip out to Waitomo where the caves are. We opted for the dry caving over the black water rafting options, but it was still really good and the glow worms in the caves were amazing to see in the complete dark. Although they seem slightly less magical when you find out that the glowing stuff is in fact excrement. But it’s pretty all the same.
We’d booked a white water rafting activity for the next day and that was so much fun. Once again we had to be suited up in a ridiculous outfit, this time complete with dog paw print fleece over a wet suit.
It was a pretty tough river to raft with some parts up to grade 5. The peak of the whole thing is a 7m waterfall. In a 4m raft.
After Rotorua our next stop was Auckland, the last stop on our kiwi passes. On the journey through we stopped at a place called Mata Mata which was the site for Hobbiton. The have a sign in the middle of the street saying Welcome to Hobbiton. Possibly the most photographed sign in New Zealand. And then on to Auckland, city of sails. With money running short we didn’t find there to be loads to do in Auckland but generally amused ourselves by being in a city again and having a few days to relax and do not a lot. We did get to go up the sky tower on Jon’s last night which was really good as it was virtually empty and the views over Auckland at night were really good. We then went to the cafe and Jon bought me a slice of chocolate cake, as it was his last night and we sat at the top of the tower enjoying the view and talking for hours. The next day Jon left for Fiji which was sad and then within an hour I’d run into 3 different groups from my first day on the kiwi bus so all nine of us went out for a drink that night. It was playboy mansion theme in the bar that night so I got free bunny ears!
As I had to be up at 6:30 for the bus I was catching to the bay of Islands I went up to bed at 1 but didn’t get there til 2 as a phone call to my mum out in the corridor turned into a congregation of 5 people I’d never met before then. One of them coincidentally lives about 20mins from Jon.
The next three days I spent in the bay of islands, I’d had enough of Auckland for a while but also didn’t want to sit around on my own without Jon there doing nothing. So once again I boarded a big green kiwi bus and headed north. We stayed at a place called Paihia which was a really sweet little town. I met two girls also travelling alone on the bus, both from England but they’d just gotten to NZ and so were just starting their tour. We went on a boat tour out to the hole in the rock and all managed to damage ourselves as the boat went so fast over the waves that it came down with a real crash which did our backs no good. I was told that if you were to describe the boat in terms of litres, a family car has an average of 2 while this had 38. I learned what has become my favourite of the Mauri legends over here. They believe that they came over to NZ from an island called Hawaiiki and that they were guided by a woman. On the hole in the rock island out in the sea there can be seen a very definite profile of a woman’s face. When western explorers first came and heard this story they applied their modern mapping techniques and found that the face points directly towards the islands of Hawaiiki.
That night I went to the bar with the girls and the two guys from our room and I suddenly realised I was sitting there with people I’d only just met but it really didn’t feel like it. Travelling never ceases to amaze me. On the second day there we took a day trip up to Cape Reinga, supposedly the most northern point in NZ but which is actually 15km south of North Cape. There’s a sign which told me I was 19, 271km from London. I think that’s about the furthest in the world you can be away from London. We also got to see wood from trees which had been preserved in Swamps for 45,000 years called ancient kauri. it was a really good few days and the girls I met are staying in Auckland as long as I am so last night we went out to the cinema (to see In good Company which was really good) and tonight for my last night we’re all going out for a drink. From this point on I can’t drink and everything gets twice as expensive. Even so, I’m really looking forward to Hawaii!
If you got this far, thanks so much for reading. I hope everyone’s well and I’ll send another email from Hawaii.
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