Wellington, Lake Taupo, Hot Water Beach, Rotorua, Raglan and Auckland
18.02.2010 - 28.02.2010
Apologies that this entry is a little delayed, I've been on some lovely Fijian islands where little internet was available.
On arriving in Wellington we pick our luggage up from the carousel (like flying!) and wait for Luke, my old work mate, who's about as Kiwi as they come. We stay with him for two days. He has a flat that looks out onto a remarkably undeveloped bay. It's an incredible view to wake up to. We head out for drinks and finally see a busy New Zealand. There's people here! The bar we go to and feels like Shoreditch, we're even treated to a bizarre cabaret act there.
Luke is in his last week of his Graphic Design masters, so it's slightly bad timing on our part. It works out well though as for his final project he has 600 magnets that need cutting out. We're more than willing to help, he's giving us somewhere to stay afterall. It feels odd being back in a university and doing work. Quite refreshing after 5 months of travelling actually.
We stay with Bob and Emma my old friends from London for the following two nights. They came here while travelling too and have settled in Wellington. In many ways it's understandable, Wellington is a really nice city, plenty seems to be going on and yet it's still a small manageable size. I'm not sure if I could ever get used to being so far from home though, in distance or time difference.
It's Alex's birthday while we're in Welly. I give her money to do a skydive that I've gathered from some of her home friends. So we'll have to do one now! We treat ourselves to our first roast dinner of the whole trip and Bob and Emma provide chocolate cake.
We get a relocation car from Wellington that is free, provided we get it up to Auckland in 2 days. After a day of driving we're in Lake Taupo, New Zealand's largest lake and the skydiving capital of the world. The next morning it's cloudy. If it is too cloudy skydives won't happen. While wondering whether we'll be able to do it or not we discover we have a flat tyre. Bad news. Luckily for us we choose to have flat tyre in a town and even luckier, our hostel is metres away from a number of tyre companies. This really is lucky considering how rural most of New Zealand is. It doesn't need replacing, just repairing, so costs $30. That's about 14 pounds. I don't know much about cars, but I can't imagine tyre repair ever being that cheap in the UK.
Tyre sorted we book the skydive for 3pm, still unsure on whether it will happen at all. When 3pm does eventually arrive we're assured the skydive can take place and the nerves kick in! We're kitted out in jumpsuits, meet our tandem skydiving partners (the guys you're strapped to who know what they're doing - I've got Mikey) and are tightly packed into a small plane. We fly for about half an hour. Some people are jumping at 12,000 feet. A shutter on the side of the plane slides open and they all hurtle out. By now I'm actually quite excited. We reach 15,000 feet and I'm up first. A nervous smile to the camera, then Mikey launches us out. My eyes instinctively shut, but I quickly open them, realise what's happening and scream! There's 60 seconds of free falling when I'm travelling at something like 200km/h. The rush of wind is crazy, I'm sure my face looks fairly ridiculous, but you'll never know as I didn't fork out the extra for someone to film me! Just as we hit a cloud Mikey pulls open a parachute and we're floating. It's quite relaxed after the initial speed. Now I can take in Lake Taupo and the surrounding volcanic mountains (including Lord of the Ring's Mt Doom). I can even wave Alex who's floating downward near me. It's about 6 minutes to get down to the ground, feels like far less. I land on my bum and it's all over, but I'm buzzing from it for hours.
After we head all the way up to Auckland to hand in the relocation car the next morning. We grab another hire car and do a wee tour of the North Island. We head to the Coramandel Peninsular, where the remarkable Hot Water Beach is. Thanks to geothermal activity, whenever there is low tide, you can dig yourself a hole and it will fill up with hot water, creating your own little hot tub. We go there for low tide, which is around 9pm, so it's pretty dark. It's a great atmosphere though, with people sitting around chatting in the warm waters. It really is hot though, you have to be careful, mixing in a bit of cold sea water helps!
We head down to Rotorua, famed too for its geothermal activty. It's got plenty and a rather pongy smell to go along with it. In parks around the town there are cordoned off steaming bits, smoking water and bubbling mud. Its quite odd, feels like something prehistoric. After Rotorua we treat ourselves to one night by the beach at Raglan, a surfer town. We're lucky to coincide our visit with a surf contest, so get to watch the pros.
The New Zealand trip is finished with a night in Auckland. Here, we meet my very old friend Erin. Erin came over to the UK when she was 11 and stayed around 3 years, living opposite me some of that time. She's now back in NZ, from Wellington but studying in Auckland. It's great to see her as it's been a while, but we agree that neither of us has changed really. She takes Alex and me to the lantern festival, a very busy little festival that comes alive when it gets dark and a whole host of imaginative lanterns light up. It's a lovely way to end our New Zealand visit, surrounded by more people than we've seen in the rest of the trip combined, but proving to us that Auckland is better than the reputation it holds.