Finishing off my time in Rotarua with a quick 9 holes of dodgy golf (+27 – nice), I went down to Taupo, a small town next to Lake Taupo in the center of the North Island. The activity of choice here is a tandem skydive, which as you don’t need much training (due to the instructor jumping and landing with you) comes in at a resaonable cost. However, due to the assisted landing there was a weight limit for the jump. Lets just say I was a few pies away from it…
So, to occupy my time, I spotted a flyer for mountainboarding – which for the uninitiated is like snowboading down grass slopes on a large skateboard with foot straps. This was to both tune my skills for future snowboarding, and also to try a potential new hobby. After three hours I had fallen hard on my butt twice, which three days later is now a purple and black circle about 6 inches wide – similar to a previous boarding injury for those who were privleged to see that !
So with an aching butt I slept the few hours before embraking on the Tongariro crossing – a 17km walk through Tongariro national park – supposedly one of the best day walks in NZ. This was a lot of endurance and pain, but very scenic and very beautiful. We walked from rocky lands into snow-filled craters and finally back through golden grasslands and lush green forest. Then we got picked up at the end of the trail and taken to the Skotel in Tongariro National Park – our next night stop.
Here, in this lush park of grassland and mountains, I have discovered the cheapest snowboarding I have seen ! As it is Spring and the season is almost over, I have been able to get a Spring season pass for less than a 5-day pass normally is ($200NZ) and equipment hire is around about $50/day. So I think I will stay out the rest of the snow (1-2 weeks) here, unless I get bored of the mountains before then ! Having a real blast doing this – but I did manage to dislocate my thumb today. It popped back in again, but it stings a little now. Ow.
Today, I bit the bullet, and checked… my bank account !!!
I have finally dipped under 1000 quid, which is still a goodly chunk of cash, but the first warning that money is not being replensihed by any form of employment, and that I might have to, in the near future… GET A JOB !!! Noooooooooooo
Anyhow, after a spot of white water rafting, I’ve headed into Rotorua, a town based over a thermal area. What this means is lots of nice mineral spas around, and that air occasionally smells utterly rancid with the sulpher ! Just like the Yellowstone park thermal areas, infact…
Whilst here I’ve had a go at zorbing, jetboating and “the swoop” – all good fun, especially the zorb, which they add a bucket or two of water inside to make it just like a giant washing machine 🙂
Note the new photo album – eXtreme activites. Many of the activities over here offer you 30-40 photos on a CD for less than printing pics, so this album holds all these pictures. I have normally pulled out 2 or 3 of the pics for the main album, so treat this album as “further viewing”. Mainly worth flicking through to see some of the stupid facial expressions !
The next day I headed into Hahei in the Coromandel region. Here I chilled out for a day, tried some snorkelling (but couldn’t see much) and read loads more books. The next morning I got to go sea kyacking and see some of the islands, caves and tunnels around the Hahei bay – this also featured a beach stop where out guide Ross made one of the best lattes I’ve had in years right on the beach. Top stuff.
The bus then headed onto Maketu – our Mauri cultural stop. Here we had a lunch featuring Mauri style food (cooked underground, similar to the Fijians) and saw Marui cultural dancing. Finally, the boys and girls where split and we each learned a dance – for the girls it was the Poi spinning dance – for the boys it was the Huka. This is, of course, the ritual dance the All Blacks perform before each match – which we then had to perform (shirtless, of course) infront of the girls. Was much more fun and less embarassing than I’d imagined, but alas I didn’t get any photos of the event.
Finally – photos are all up to date now ! Links are available in the side panel, as always.
Well, my surfing didn’t get much better, so I decided to leave it until warmer climates (Oz) and head onto Waitomo Caves. These are a network of 300+ caves with lots of gloworms and cool adventure options.
I decided to leave the Stray bus behind again to do a full day adventure – in the morning I confronted my fear of heights and did a 100m absail into “the lost world” cave. This was followed by some exploring, including the obligatory gloworm viewing, and then a 30m ladder climb out of the caves. The ladder climb was actually more scary than the absail, every moment feeling your wet hands get weaker and legs more tired as you progress further form the hrad rock floor… Ok, your on a safety harness, but it still shit me up a bit.
In the afternoon I went on to do a more adrenalin packed and much wetter trip. Clad in a figure hugging wetsuit and bright red helmet, I absaild down waterfalls, crawled through water filled passages and squeezed my immense bulk through some stupidly tight passages. After over an hour of this, we then stopped following the water down, and instead follwed it up throgh some harnessed rock climbing, som e more ladders (not so big this time) and generally hoisted our way exhaustedly out of the caverns. This part of the days trip was just amazing, and they have a waterproof camera with them, so I have photos of me in the alluring getup descirbed above !
First stop on my New Zealand tour is Raglan. Here they have a surf school (and a bunch of other outdoors-y stuff to do). I took a two hour surf lesson, and almost stood up once in the entire session ! Decided to keep on the hobby until I can stand for more than 0.5 seconds, so I am going to hang around for 2 days until the next bus comes around and take a couple more sessions.
Boys from Reading (who surf) beware, for my l33t surfing skills will soon 0wn you ! Maybe.
BUNGEEEEEEE was pretty scary but all good fun in the end. Being the heaviest, they hooked up the livestock strength uber-bungee and made me go first, which was even scarier, but meant I got to laugh at everyone else afterwards.
I have just returned from a 3-day tour of the Northlands. This invovled a trip up the coast to the Bay of Islands, stopping for some horse riding. My mount was a greedy, independant spirited beast called Barbie, who was so annoyingly similar to me in those respects that we seemed to get on in the end. Infact, where it not for her equine species, we could of had something special… ah well
Next day we took a tour to the very top of New Zeland, Cape Regina, took in some sights, and went Dune boarding (throwing yourself down sand dunes on a boogie board). At this point our tour bus broke down, which gave us four extra hours to Dune Board in (yea) until a rescue bus could be sent out. Then end of the tour was a nighttime drive down 90 mile beach at high tide (rather than the low tide we were supposed to do it in) which made for some wave dodging and fast riding down there. All in all, a lot better than it was billed !!!
Still, we got an apology note and a free trip on the “Duck” bus/boat the next day to make up for the bits of the tour we missed. So today we headed out on the duck, drove past a golf course and then down the ramp into the bay. At this point we heard a loud cracking noise as the engine hit the base of the ramp and broke off, leaving us stranded in the water. Being much closer to home, the rescue was a much quicker affair, but needless to say the guy who owned the company was very VERY apologetic this time (we all thought it was hilarious). As they knew we were due to rejoin our tour bus back to Auckland today, they gave us half of our money back for that day trip in the end, which was fair.
Back in Auckland now – but leaving straight away to explore the rest of the North Island. Lost my camera lead, so photos are probably a couple of weeks away until I get to the next major town (Wellington).
Made it to Auckland ! I’ll write more when I’ve actually done something – so stop reading and get on with your jobs…
Ok – so far Auckland has been a little dull for a major town, but has given me time to plan my full-on trip around NZ. On Monday I depart for a 3-day tour of the Bay of Islands (the top bit), and then I head back through Auckland for a 17 day+ tour of the North and South Islands. The “+” part meaning I can jump off at stops of spend extra days there if they look good fun.
So, left with a weekend to kill, I have signed up for the Auckland bridge bungee jump – to take place in just over an hour… Don’t feel too scared to be honest, but that’s probably as I’m not standing on the edge of the 43m drop yet !