New Zealand - North Island (Part 2)
We planned ahead to stay 3 days here. This town looked really cool when we researched it before leaving as it has a lot geothermal activity. This meant that there were boiling hot pools dotted around the place and you could even see steam coming out of drains sometimes all over the town! This was really cool but it meant that the whole place smelt of eggs because of the sulphur- we got used to it quickly though!
We all went to experience a Maori culture evening on the first night which was absolutely amazing! Maoris were the first individuals that inhabited New Zealand so the night was to show you some of their way of life and rituals and also to have a huge feast with them. We were picked up by one of the Maori guides who over the 30 minute bus journey there greeted us with common greetings and sayings in about 60 different languages - it was seriously impressive! When we arrived we were told that we needed to pick a chief for our 'tribe' that would need to meet with the Maori chiefs and accept a peace offering from them. There were certain criteria the chief had to meet - they had to be male and tall (Ed was getting worried here) but we were then told that the chief would also have to be a rugby player (Kiwis love their rugby- Ed was now off the hook!) Once our chief was picked (tall, German, rugby player) we entered the village and were given a talk on the evening ahead. We were warned that members of the tribe were going to perform a welcome ritual and it was very important not to laugh during this as it would be a sign of disrespect. When they came out the pulling strange faces and making load tribal noises I had to watch them through my camera lense so that I didn't laugh! They performed the haka and were pretty scary at some points! We then entered their village which was in the forest and had little wooden huts everywhere. They talked to us about their tattoos and markings and what they meant and demonstrated some of the training the males had to do- very interesting! They also picked some males to teach the haka too- Ed was one of them so I enjoyed this a lot (obviously filmed it). The best bit was by far the food though- it was prepared in their traditional way of cooking the meat and potatoes with the hot stones underground. It tasted incredible! On the way home our guide impressed us with his talents again by singing the national anthem of about 40 counties! The night was definitely one of our favourites and we thought it was great that New Zealand is so proud of it's heritage and teaches it to travellers whenever it can.
The next day we checked in to a different hostel down the road which was um... awful. It was called cactus jacks and was themed to be like a Mexican ranch. There was a load of loud people there playing music all the time who sounded like they were living there. The walls were so thin and we woke up to construction work being done right outside our room!
We did however have a really nice Valentine's day. We decided to go to the Polynesian spa which was lots of natural hot spring pools that overlooked Rotorua lake. This was such a treat and we spent the day relaxing. We then finished off the day with going out for a curry with lots of wine so we were both happy! :)
Overall we enjoyed our time in Rotorua, lots of history and culture, but weren't actually keen on the town. We couldn't decide exactly why but just didn't like the overall feeling of the place..
Next stop was the beautiful Taupo. As we drove down in to the town our driver told us that Taupo lake was actually a volcano that had erupted years ago. The town ran along the huge lake and was a really pretty place. It was about 11am and our driver said he was going to pass round the forms for the people who wanted to do a sky dive here.
Ed - Skydive
As this as been something that I have always wanted to do, it meant that I signed up only to find out that I was placed in the first group and would be being picked up to do this at around 2pm the same day. Not much time for preparations then!!
We were picked up in a limo and driven to the skydive centre where we were given the safety briefing and kitted up. I then found myself standing in an aeroplane hangar wearing blue overalls, a skull cap, and had an oxygen mask tied to my back! My instructor came over and tied up the harness and starting having a chat, I had paid for the video so after a very awkward interview before boarding the plane,we climbed in and shuffled to the back. The plane was a small bi-plane with a seat for the pilot and then 2 long benches running down the plan towards a door at the back. Everyone climbed on and shuffled up the benches towards the pilot until the plane was full, as I had climbed on first, I was the furthest back and the last to jump!
The plane took off and starting its ascent towards the 15,000 ft that I had booked to jump from. After 12000ft, a green light came on and then the door at the back of the plane slid up as 4 people that had chosen to jump from a mere 12,000 ft! As the first guy shuffled to the edge the instructor let go of the door and he was sucked out of the plane in an instant, I then watched the same thing happen to the other 3. The door then closed again and we started rising to 15,000 ft so the rest of us could jump. At this point we needed to use our oxygen masks to deal with the higher altitude. Once the door had opened again and everyone in front of me had jumped, I was shuffled down the bench strapped to the instructor behind me, I put my legs out over the edge of the plane and dangled there whilst he counted down from 3!
We rolled forward out of the plane and flipped in the air a few times, which meant I also saw the underside if the plane as it flew off which as you can see in the photos made me realise that there was probably no turning back at this point!!! And then we were falling, the rush of air passing me as we fell at 200kph for a full minute, through clouds slowly watching more of the ground come into view before the shute opened and we slowed. At this point I could see all across Taupo lake with the mountains in the background and despite being still 5,000 ft in the air, I could make objects out again! On the descent, he let me hold the handles controlling the shute so that I could swing it left and right and spiral it towards the ground! We then glided into the ground and skidded to a halt! The best thing I have ever done without a doubt and a video to show everyone what it was like and how thoroughly stunned I was by the whole experience!
Alex - Tongariro alpine crossing
Whilst I was sat in the hostel wondering if my boyfriend was going to return, I signed up to do the tongariro crossing the next day. The crossing is a mere 25km and voted one of the best one day hikes in the world! I like a good walk but had never attempted anything on this scale so I thought I'd give it a try!
I had to leave our hostel at 5am and had a 2 hour bus journey to the start of the trail. It was just about getting light when we arrived and I started the hike at 7am with a nice Chinese guy I had met that morning called wei xing. One of the options on the hike was to climb mount Ngauruhoe which is mount doom to all of the lord of the rings fans and stands at a massive 7,516 ft! We were given a guide to explain the different parts of the walk which also advised you of their difficulty level. I had wanted to give this a try before coming but was 90% sure I wasn't going to attempt it after I had spoken to a very young and fit Danish guy the evening before who said it was seriously tough and that no girls had even attempted it when he went the day before! Sure enough the guide confirmed that this wasn't for the faint hearted and said to only attempt if you found the part of the walk before (accurately named the 'devil's staircase'). Wei xing said that he was determined to do it and said I should too. To delay, I said that I would see how the beginning of the walk went and decide later. As we were walking and chatting I found out that he had done all of the ten tours/duke of Edinburgh hikes in England so I didn't think climbing mount doom was a good idea to do with him...
The first part of the walk was surreal- it was still early so there was fog all around and it almost felt like walking on a different planet with all of the craters and black coal like rocks everywhere!
So after 2 hours walk we got to the bottom of mount doom. I couldn't actually tell how high it was because the top was completely covered in cloud, probably a good thing. Because we got there early (we had until 4.30pm to complete the hike or would miss our bus home) I decided to see how I got on, all the time thinking I would change my mind after the first part and head on with the others who were clever enough to decide to miss it out! It took me an hour and 40 mins to climb and was so tough but I DID IT! Music helped a lot to get me up there and I even got up about an hour faster than wei xing who ended up having to hitch hike back as he missed the bus! The views were incredible and so worth the effort. I didn't realise that mount doom was actually a volcano so there was a huge crater in the center which was pretty cool. I realised later that I had a false sense of security at this point because the climb down was awful! It took 1 hour and was probably the most dangerous thing I had ever done. You had to be careful because the people higher than you kept shouting 'rocks!' As you could create mini landslides as the surface was so unstable. I remember getting down and thinking thank god my mum and auntie hadn't seen that- they would have killed me! But I felt amazing at this point like I could do anything and couldn't wait to tell Ed! After the climb I still had had about 5 hours of hiking to do and my legs were already gone! There was a couple more tough parts of the walk but we got to see the emerald lakes which were breathtaking and the huge red crater. Overall my favourite experience of new Zealand and I makes sure I tell everyone not to miss it!
Next posts to come soon!
Love Alex & Ed xxx