30/11/06 - I didn't want to leave Honeysuckle House this morning! I had had the best night's sleep for ages! The drive to Picton was lovely, weather was quite nice, hopefully it will stay that way for the 3 hour journey on the ferry to Wellington! Got to Picton early, around 11.45am, so had some lunch at a nice cafe, then went to check in at the vehicle gate for the Interislander ferry. This process was sooooo easy, drove on fine, up a few ramps, then parked up and walked up to an upper deck. It was like a cruise ship! Lots of different decks, cafes, restaurants, lounges with reclining chairs and even a cinema! I got a great reclining seat right next to the window. The weather stayed good and the journey was a good one, with magnificent views. I was joined by a very lovely little girl called Olivia, who made me her new best friend and she gave me smiley stickers and put them on my handbag. She was really sweet, but boy! once she fell asleep could she snore!! I went and stretched my legs about an hour later and had a nosey around the ship, before I knew it they were calling us drivers back to our car decks! I was first in line to drive off our deck and it went very smoothly and I even managed to drive out of the dock the right way and made it to Rowena's Lodge, where I was staying for the next 2 nights. A very basic and quite shabby place, but what can you expect for 10 quid a night! Very clean though and friendly staff. Checked in and then wandered down to the town centre and had a mooch around. Phoned Gail (Julie's sister) later on. I rang twice actually, the first time I chatted to Gracie (Gail's daughter) as Gail wasn't back from work yet and Greg had gone to walk the dog. We had a lovely little chat and I spoke to Gail later when I rang back. It was soooo nice to chat to her too, they are all excited to see me and I am excited to see them too! Gail told me that the news had just announced that there would be a coup in Fiji tomorrow, I've made up my mind not to go to Fiji, no matter what the Foreign Office say, it does't feel right to me, never mind, I'll go another time.
1/12/06 - Pinch, punch first day of the month and no returns!! I can't believe that in 19 days time I will be on the flight home!! I went down to STA Travel first thing to change my flights, to be told I would have to do this direct with Air New Zealand, so he showed me where they were (only down the road) so I went to that office instead. Apparently, they were very busy, as lots of travellers were coming in to change flights, no-one wants to go to Fiji! I waited my turn and in the end a guy named Alex helped me. There would have been a fee, but because of the Fiji crisis he waived it! I got flights changed very quickly and I was out, all done and dusted, within 15 minutes, result! I felt very happy that everything was sorted, I would now be staying longer in NZ and Gail had said last night that I could stay with them as long as I wanted, super! I then went to have a look around the Te Papa Museum (Museum of NZ), which was really interesting and I got to experience a simulated earthquake. I then headed for the cinema, as I fancied seeing what the 'Borat' film was like. Well, Sacha Baron Cohen, isn't he having the last laugh, all the way to the bank! Fair play! It was funny, I laughed out loud quite a few times, I just don't know where he gets his nerve from to do some of the things he did?! A good afternoon's entertainment!
2/12/06 - Checked out and left Wellington around 8.30am and headed north for a long days drive up to Taupo. On the way the scenery was beautiful, but not as dramatic as the South Island. I made it to Taupo around 3pm. The roads were diverted into the centre and I discovered it was because of their annual Santa Parade. I found where I was staying easily and it was only a short walk into the centre, so I checked in, then made my way into town to watch the parade. It was quite strange watching floats of christmas themes going past in the sunshine, it didn't quite fit! Everyone was in good spirits and it seemed that their was a nice community feel, everyone seemed to know each other. The children were having a fab time! I had a look around once the parade had passed and looked up some info. in the I-Site Office (tourist info.) I decided I wanted to do a skydive, people I had met along the way had said if I was going to do one, then over Lake Taupo was the place to do it. I was feeling quite nervous at the prospect, but I knew that if I didn't book it, I wouldn't do it. Therefore, I chickened out in that office and just took the leaflets with me! I went and grabbed some lunch, then decided to get myself together and drive up the road to the airport (I had seen the signs on the way in) and actually go and talk to someone at the skydive company. I went and got the car and drove there keeping myself focused! My heart was racing a little as I walked into the office and I met a lovely girl at the desk. She was fab and talked me through it and said how it was a life changing experience. I booked myself in for the following morning at 10.30am! I left the office feeling pleased and excited, but wondering if I would chicken out or not! But on the whole it felt right. I then decided to go and visit Huka Falls. Tracey had told me about them, so I checked the map and it wasn't far at all. Huka Falls are sooooo beautiful, got some nice piccies, then decided to go and see what the Huka Jet was all about. Got there (just down the road) and on the spur of the moment booked myself on it. It's a jet boat and it does 360 degree turns, it was just fab, I kept thinking I was going to fall out! Our driver, Pete, was very good fun and he managed to drive the boat quite far into the falls, we got quite wet, but it didn't matter. Someone took photos before we started and when we returned and I bought them afterwards in the office. Well, what a day, lots of adrenaline rush, here's to tomorrow and the SKYDIVE!
3/12/06 - I DID IT!!!! I JUMPED OUT OF A PLANE AT 12,000 FEET!!!!!!! It was a tandem skydive, incase anyone was wondering, I was strapped to someone else, Mike infact! IT WAS MINDBLOWING!!!!!!!!! Definitely a life changing experience! I woke up and felt fine about it all. I checked out and drove down to the airport. They were pleased to see me, as they had wondered whether I would turn up or not, apparently plenty of people book then don't arrive! It was all handled in a nice gentle manner, everyone was very kind and caring. I was paying for a DVD of it all, so the first thing I did was choose the music, then we watched a promo video, then we all got kitted out with our jumpsuits, hat, goggles, gloves and of course the all important harness and also making sure Mike had the parachute!!! Mike took some footage before we boarded the plane, then we jumped in and started our flight. I was obviously going first as we were last in the plane sitting on the floor right next to the door. Wow, I'm sat here typing this and my heart is starting to pound at the memory of it all! Mike was also checking on a guy who was going to do his first solo jump, so I felt in good hands, as Mike was obviously a very experienced sky diver. I thought we were high enough to now go for it, but Mike showed me the dial and we were only at 6,000 ft, only half way, aaaaagh! Actually, all the way through I felt fine, a bit nervous, but I also felt quite calm at the same time, I can't explain it really. Finally, Mike signalled for me to sit on his lap (it was all signals at this stage, as you can't hear anything!) and he buckled us together, then he lifted the door up I swung my legs out as he had told to me to, making sure they tucked under the belly of the plane, I put my head back into his chest and before I knew it we were out!!! WOW WOW WOW!!!! That's all I could keep saying (you can see it on the DVD, it's sooooo funny, as the wind is distorting my face too, I think my nostrils looked like Kenneth Williams!) They had warned us that we wouldn't remember the first 10 seconds, as the body goes into sensory overload and just takes over in a kind of survival instinct, I wasn't sure what to expect, it was soooooooo weird! My eyes involuntarily closed and I just felt as if my stomach was in a washing machine at breakneck speed! Eventually I managed to open my eyes and WOW, we were freefalling, the view was just breathtaking, I could see the curve of the earth on the horizon (only briefly) and I still can't put into words how magnificent it felt. Before I knew it Mike patted me on the shoulder (signal to bring my arms back in, as he was going to open the all important 'chute!). The force of the 'chute taking over felt a bit weird and the harness moved up into my crotch, but Mike quickly said to raise my legs slightly and he adjusted the harness so it was more comfortable. We then glided down very gracefully taking in all the views. There was Lake Taupo, the mountains, volcanoes, countryside, it was all soooooooo beautiful! About 4 minutes later I was lifting my legs up for our landing, which was quite smooth. WOW! Mike had videoed the whole thing with the camera strapped to his wrist and there was a photographer on the ground taking shots of us coming down. I felt so high and so chuffed that I had achieved it! I could have gone right back up there and then and done it all again! I would recommend it to everyone! As I was taking everything off, Mike called me over, he had the DVD done already!! It is fab, a great momento! I said my thanks and goodbyes and drove out with such a smile on my face, which didn't disappear all day! I treated myself to a lovely lunch sitting next to the lake, then started the drive further north to Rotorua. I had treated myself to a B&B, which looked lovely on the internet, so I was looking forward to some luxury. I found Ferntree Cottage fine and Pam and John, my hosts, were just lovely. We chatted and had a cup of tea, they showed me my room, which was just fab. I had my own entrance, I didn't have to go through the house and the bed looked right onto the garden, hence it was called 'The Garden Room', I had a little lounge area and the bathroom was just lovely. They had left me some complimentary marshmallows and I had all sorts of flavoured teas and coffee to chose from. Pam and John aren't the owners, they are on holiday in the UK, they were looking after it for them. They were such a nice couple and I was on such a high I had to tell them what I had done that morning. They couldn't believe it and they sat and watched the DVD with me. It was soooo good to watch it again! They then left me to it and I had a doze. Later on I went out to get some fish and chips, came back and ate them watching the film 'Catch Me If You Can' with Leo DiCaprio. I went to bed that night feeling very satisfied.
4/12/06 - Had a lovely breakfast with Pam and John at 9.30am, pottered for a bit, then made my way into town where I had booked a body wrap at the Polynesian Spa. On the way I stopped off at a park with lots of natural mud pools, all bubbling away and stinking of rotten eggs! It's fascinating to think about how hot the earth still is. Got to the spa and went into the thermal pools first for about an hour, then I was called through for my treatment. It was a lovely place, the robes they provided were soft and cuddly. I had a full mud body wrap and whilst I was wrapped up I had a scalp massage too, aaah heaven! Then I was left for about 45 minutes and I dozed off to some nice relaxing music. After the treatment I went and lay down in their lounge area and dozed off on a lovely big settee and I also drank quite a few glasses of iced tea. I was soooo relaxed, it was lovely. I drove back to Ferntree Cottage to rest up a while before having dinner with Pam and John (they had invited me at breakfast to eat with them, which I thought was very nice) We had a super evening, lots of conversation and laughter, I was sad at the thought of leaving tomorrow morning.
5/12/06 - But leave I must, we had breakfast together around 8.45am, then I set off to Auckland. On the way I stopped in Matamata and booked myself onto the tour of 'Hobbiton'. For those of you who don't know, this is the Hobbit town in Lord of the Rings. The tour was fantastic. I got piccies of me in Bilbo Baggins house and also hugging the Party Tree! The houses are nothing like they were in the film. As soon as filming ended they started to demolish eveything, but the weather turned nasty and they couldn't get the diggers up the hill, so the top half of 'Hobbiton' is still there, but stripped of all scenery, etc. It took a while for the farmer who owns the land to get permission to do tours, as New Line Cinema and Peter Jackson were so protective that nothing got out until all 3 films had been released and quite rightly so. But now, they conduct tours in a very caring fashion and they have to consult New Line Cinema on anything they wish to do, like they have asked if they can construct one house back to how it looked, they are still waiting for an outcome. I thoroughly enjoyed it and our guide Eric was superb. I'm glad I did it. I then got back to the car and carried on my journey to Auckland.