Saturday 24 January 2009 - Sunday 8 February 2009 25 °C
Taupo was very busy due to the A1 race meeting being held there…asked Dad if he wanted to go..it was a no! that would have been a bit of a busmans holiday!!
We drove down the road to Rotorua, famous for its geothermal activity and visited the Wai-O-Tapu thermal wonderland! We arrived early to catch the daily eruption of the Lady Knox Geyser. It was a packed house, I couldn’t believe how many people were there! With a little help from some natural soap she was off, bubbling up and growing higher and higher. The Geyser was originally discovered by prisoners working in the area and cleaning their clothes with laundry powder in the hot spring prompting an eruption, that must have been a bit of a surprise!!
Had a walk around the rest of the area marveling at the various bubbling, steam venting pools and craters. The most impressive was the Champagne Pool giving off a massive cloud of very warm vapor. At some points you couldn’t see further than a metre in front of you!
It was back down the road to Taupo…one of the sky dive capitals in the world so I thought…well why not?! We arrived at Freefall and I was soon being kitted out with a jumpsuit, goggles and hat…not very attractive! A package was strapped around my waist and I inquired as to what it was…’a lifejacket!’ hmm interesting I thought…I’d much prefer a parachute instead though!! Thankfully the parachute soon arrived strapped safely to the back of my jump master Chris! The lifejacket was just a precaution as we were jumping over Lake Taupo. With scarily little instruction…‘be a banana’ (the shape you have to hold mid air) we were off and in the plane along with 5 other jumpers, their dive masters and various video cameras attached to the heads of free fallers to capture the shenanigans! We dropped three people off at 12,000ft, definitely a funny feeling to have the occupancy of the plane halved without having touched the ground! As the cabin was unpressurised it was oxygen all round for the final part of the ascent. Then the time came to jump! 15,000ft! The first few seconds of just falling through the air were the best,j just tumbling down. Then a little parachute is released and you level out…obviously still dropping rapidly towards the ground though! The freefall lasts 60 seconds but it felt like 10! After striking some poses for my camerawoman Michelle it was soon time to wave her goodbye as Chris deployed the main parachute and we drifted to the ground enjoying the brilliant views over Lake Taupo! It was very exhilarating but not scary like I thought it would be as you feel very safe with a big professional strapped to your back! Watched the video back on the ground which was very funny. It was back down the road to Rotorua to stay for a couple of nights. Not sure I could live in Rotorua though because there is quite a strong sulphur smell! The holiday park had some thermal pools which were really relaxing and one day Dad and I ventured down to the thermally heated Lake Rotorua for a swim, however the water is quite shallow so it was more of a dip!! Our first activity in Rotorua was to visit the hospital! When we were watching my skydive video back Mum twisted her hand getting up and it was painful and swollen. The verdict from the doctor was a ruptured ligament and Mum was plastered up on one side of her arm from fingers to elbow! Good job we had done all the outdoor pursuits in the South Island!
That afternoon we visited the Rotorua Museum which was formerly a spa where the rich and famous came to ‘take the cure’ and bath in the warm water and splosh around in the mud!
One evening we visited the Mitai Maori Village for an evening of Maori song and dance and a hangi, a traditional meal cooked in an earth oven. We elected our ‘chief’ who would represent out ‘tribe’ in the welcome ceremony and would have to respond to the challenge and do the hongi, the pressing of noses which is the traditional Maori greeting.
The performance was really good and the Maori chief was really engaging when explaining all about the haka and the Maori tatooing, Moko. The haka was very impressive and the poi dances performed by the women were hypnotic!! The hangi was very tasty, basically a smoky roast dinner! Very yummy!
Our next destination was the Bay of Islands in the far north. Like it says on the tin….a picturesque bay of islands! We went on a day boat trip around the islands, as we pulled out of the harbour the heavens opened! Oh dear! Oh well we were on the boat so may as well make the most of it, dolphin spotting as we went, we saw lots swimming along with the boat. We headed out into the rougher water to visit the Hole in the Rock a big hole the whole boat could fit through!…however it was so rough Mum and I felt rather ill so couldn’t have cared less if there was a hole in the earth at that point! Once we got back into the shelter of the islands we felt much better and thankfully felt fine by lunch time where we stopped at a gorgeous little island to relax in the sunshine which had appeared!
We relaxed for the next few days, enjoying the weather, one morning Dad and I hired a kayak to paddle up the estuary to a waterfall. He was up to his old tricks of not paddling and taking photos instead!! The area was gearing up for Waitangi Day the anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi the founding document of New Zealand when the Queen assumed sovereignty. Lots of tribes were arriving with their waka (canoes) and at out campsite they were practicing their moves for the race- on dry land!
We visited another Maori show which told the story of the Treaty of Waitangi and was actually performed in the historic meeting house on the Treaty Grounds. It was a brilliant performance, very different to the Mitai show, they took it a lot more seriously! The Maori dancing and songs were really spectacular.
Heading back down to Auckland we stopped off in Whangerei to visit Chris and Richard who I met in Cambodia, they cooked us a lovely meal and it was great to catch up!
The final stop on our grand tour of New Zealand was Auckland meaning Mum and Dad had come a full circle as they flew into Auckland originally. Dropped off Harry the Horsebox, he had done us proud getting up all the hills/mountains in NZ...there are quite a few!
Spent our last few days sightseeing around Auckland. We went down to the harbour and saw all the pacific cup racing boats. Took the ferry over to Devonport and climbed up Mt Victoria for a gorgeous view over the harbour and the boat racing. On our final night we went for dinner at the top of the Sky Tower, the view over the city was brilliant and all lit up at night it looked very pretty. The food was gorgeous too, fresh seafood, sushi and the best desert selection you’ve ever seen…of course we gave them all a thorough try!
The next day it was time to say goodbye to Mum and Dad. We had a wonderful five weeks seeing all New Zealand had to offer, its been very action packed, I think I’ll spend the first week in Chile just having a rest!