It was so nice to have a lie in this morning without having to worry about buses to catch or tours to get to, after a full on week. We packed up the van rather begrudgingly (as Dan said, why is check out at 10am in caravan parks? It's not like they have to clean the site once we've left???) and headed into town in search for a birthday present for Young Stuart, who Dan reminded frequently is a whole year older than him now (no, I don't think they will ever grow out of it!)
We met the Archers at Roch n Ropes, New Zealands answer to Go Ape. We'd seen the course when we first drove through Taupo two days earlier and didn't think much of it. It was an assault course of telegraph poles with wires and planked bridges etc, with no zip slides. This was the first error we made.
The four of us were strapped into our harnesses and taken outside, just after the rain had stopped. It was bitterly cold so I gave Tracy my lovely warm hoody while I had my windproof jacket, which did the trick. Glenn, the instructor taught us how to belay for each other and we all had a little practise on the ground. Most of us knew what we were doing, although Tracy, easily confused by Glenn, made hard work of it, which was hilarious!
Off we went, with Stu going first (look how kind we were letting the birthday boy go first!) The first obstacle, after climbing the telegraph pole (which itself was bloody hard work after completing a 20 kilometre hike the day before! Not the best idea we've ever had!) was to walk along a wire rope, steadying yourself with the help of another steel rope running parallel to the first one at elbow height. Much harder than it looks, especially when the wind picks up suddenly when it is your turn! When we had reached the other side instead of zip lining it down to the ground (like Go Ape) we had to walk backwards into the middle of the rope, lean back and be lowered down by our belayer. You really learn to trust in this game!!!
We all managed that quite easily and by now Glenn had become bored with us and left us in his assistant's capable hands, a nice guy called Andy. The next challenge was very similar, except we had a wire either side at elbow height so you walked forward, not sideways. This was much easier and we all sailed through no worries.
Next we had to cross a rickety bridge, without anything to hold on to, just pure balance. The boys went first and crossed successfully. I think I went before Tracy and stormed across, I just found momentum and went with it! It impressed the boys anyway!
Next we were split into pairs as we were taking too long as a foursome to complete the circuit so it was the girls and the boys. Th girls had to walk across a telegraph pole (a horizontal one obviously) with nothing to use as support. I went first but froze after a couple of steps as the wind picked up. Andy had to talk me into moving and once I started again I picked up a steady momentum and kept it through to the other side. Walking backwards was interesting though.
Over on the boys side they had to climb the telegraph pole as per usual but when they reached the top they had to stand up on top of it, again, with nothing to hold on to, and then (if that wasn't bad enough) they had to jump to catch a trapeze, which was suspended in mid air. Dan froze and didn't think he could stand up on the pole but managed it in the end and successfully jumped, catching the trapeze. Stu and Tracy successfully navigated the log / trapeze and then we swapped over. This time the boys stormed the log without any problems at all. Tracy went first on the trapeze and struggled to jump but did eventually and caught it. I went into automatic pilot mode and managed to some how stand up on the pole but just as I jumped into mid air I took my eyes off the trapeze and stared at where I would land in a heap on the floor instead and missed it. Oh well, I tried! However, Andy had other ideas and he convinced me to have another go because he believed I could catch the trapeze! What?? What did I do to deserve that?? So off I went again, this time I fumbled the first jump and didn't move but on my second attempt I lunged forward without taking my eyes off the target and succeeded! Huzzah!!
We had almost finished, there was just one last task, the swing! Stu and I climbed the telegraph pole together and stood on the platform. Stu was strapped in and he went to swing first. He was given a countdown of three and then he had to make a small side hop off the platform and freefall a short way before the rope pulled tight and swung him up the other side. As we hadn't seen anyone else do it Stu's nerves got the better of him and it took a good couple of minutes before he jumped. This put the frighteners on me, if Stu struggled to do this when he hasn't been fazed at all by anything prior to this I had problems! Glenn strapped me in and I got very scared and said I couldn't jump. So he decided to take the hard approach and told me his four year old daughter and a 71 year old Scottish lady had jumped and that I needed to (and these were his actual words!) "Man up and take a viagra". Not the kind of this to say to me so I burst into tears and he unstrapped me.
Dan climbed up and methodically just jumped because he knew if he over-thought the whole thing he would bottle it too. This gave me a confidence boost, if my husband could do it then I could. Tracy started climbing and I informed Glenn I wanted to jump. He told me he wouldn't strap me in again unless I was certain because he had to take the weight of the rope and it was bloody heavy! I promised him I wouldn't crumble and once Tracy was on the platform I moved over to the side and waited to be told to go. He counted me down and I jumped. I free fell for what seemed hours before the rope pulled tight, too tight and the harness dug into my legs. I can't say I enjoyed any of it because the build up was not pleasant and I felt bullied in to it but I was glad I did it. Tracy came down last, and although she had done it before she found this time much harder and also nearly faltered.
Pub time!! We drove back into Taupo and found somewhere to park the vehicles for the night. We had decided to stay in the same hostel as the Archer's as there wasn't a camp site in town and we calculated that a two way taxi fare coupled with the camp site fee would have been the same as the hostel so the four of us checked into adjoining rooms and headed straight across the road into the Irish bar. There we stayed for a couple of hours until Stu got a surprise call from Wendy and Jason, whom we met in Hawaii, to say they had just arrived in Taupo! So now we were six!
After another quick drink we all went to get changed for the evening and Dan and I waked down to the Lake side to watch the sun set behind the hills. After an overcast morning the clouds had broken considerably and we had a nice afternoon. The sunset was gorgeous but ironically there were too few clouds for it to be an excellent one, but we were happy.
Quick showers later and we were back in the pub. We agreed on a curry for tea (oh yes!) and we found an Indian just down the street from where we were, that had a table available. It was one of the nicest meals and definitely the best curry we have had since we left home and it was a thoroughly enjoyable couple of hours. After we had eaten Stu went to the toilet and when he returned we all surprised him by standing up and singing happy birthday at full volume to him. By the time we finished half the restaurant had joined in and everyone cheered. Someone called out "Speech" and Stu, like the pro he is, raised his glass and said "Thank you for coming" to the whole room and everyone roared with laughter. it was a priceless moment!
Back to the Irish pub we went, where a live band was performing a mixture of songs, including some Foo Fighters and Metallica so we were all very happy. Andy met us and joined us for a drink and we also ran into two men we had met and bonded with when walking yesterday so Dan and I had a chat with them as well.
We soon got bored of that pub so we made our way down the street. In one bar a drunken guy started chatting to me so I told him I was married to try and subtlely ask him to leave me alone. Stu had just crossed the room to join me as everyone else was at the bar and the drunken man shook his hand and said congratulations! We laughed really hard, again, and Stu just went a long with it and some how ended up with a pitcher of beer!
It was a quality night, only marred slightly at about 2am when Tracy realised we would part ways in the morning but we didn't let it affect the mood and we continued to party until we rolled out of the bar at 3am and crossed the road to a hot dog van before staggering into the hostel. Mr and Mrs Archer, you know how to party in style! Thank you for a memorable weekend!