Hi all, (particularly mum and dad smith) sorry this has been a while in coming.
After travelling over to the North Island we headed quickly for Tongariro National Park, much of which was the scenery for Lord of the Rings Mordor. It didn't look much like Mordor when we were there as it was covered in snow as we headed out for our trek up to the summit of Mount Tongariro, passing 'Mount Doom' on our way! We did the trek on Rhys' birthday and couldn't believe our luck when we had clear blue skies. However half way through the day (just as we began the climb to the summit) cloud descended and we were engulfed in high winds and a snow storm. Not fun. We did make ot to the top which was good but there were no views and we both admitted when we came down we both could have cried due to cold! Not exactly the fun day I'd hoped for for Rhys' birthday!
We then headed North to Roturua, capital of geothermal activity and spent a couple of stinky filled days (due to sulphur, we ourselves did not smell) there, where we visited 'Hell's Gate' Thermal reserve with the southern hemisphere's largest thermal waterfall, before soaking in some thermal baths ourselves to relax ourselves for the evening's Maori cultural performance. It was a brilliant evening and we learned so much about the Maori culture which is still so important in New Zealand. We were shown songs, weapons, games and of course the world famous Haka! It was great, and we had a delicious dinner of 'hangi' traditionally cooked food over hot rocks in the ground. Delicious!
We then headed slightly further back down south towards Taupo where we did our skydive! It took a few times as it kept getting pushed back due to weather! But eventually we could do it. I almost changed my mind when we were actually in the plane especially as my jump instructor kept telling me my harness was broken! In the end though he was very nice and convinced me that it was a great idea to jump out of a plane with him at 15,000ft. The videos and pictures show I'm not entirely convinced as I look petrified, whereas Rhys looks so happy and fearless his eyes went all squinty and chinese looking. We both survived and it was a really fabulous experience especially seeing as we had such a great day for it!
Then on the West coast at Waitomo caves we went blackwater rafting! Not loads of rafting involved although there was some waterfall climbing which was great if not a little daunting! We saw glow worms and floated along in the huge caverns in our tubes and even had to jump off a few waterfalls with our bums in the holes down into some pools below. very scary! I managed to fall out and lose a boot on some of the smallest rapids in the world but luckily wasn't charged for the loss! It was quite a surreal experience but we both loved it!
Rhys also managed to fit a small surf in on the world famous Raglan beach although I decided not to brave the water this time, bit too cold for my liking! So we found me a beach where it was possible to dig your very own thermal bath in the sand. Unfortunately we didn't find quite the right place, the result of which was us running around on the beach in the puring rain waving our spade and digging random holes!
We then headed up to Hamilton where we saw my friend Sarah from home which was lvoely and saw Wales vs the All Blacks, unfortunately we didn't see them win but the vibe was great and Rhys got a certain amount of respct from the All Blacks fans for brandishing his leek with such fierce welsh pride. And an added bonus was the Welsh try was scored right in front of us!
We then had a great couple of days in Sydney where Rhys' friend Helen and her boyfriend Boz were great hosts to us and showed us all the sights of Sydney-the opera house, botanical gardens, harbour bridge and Luna Park (a fair although we didn't go on any rides. just had candyfloss!) We also met up with my old uni housemate Alice which was lovely. Rhys and I are both consumed with jealousy over Helen and Boz's flat which is a 40second walk to a beautiful beach very close to Manley. We had an amazing time and now it's off to Borneo to meet up with the rest of the Richards' clan.
Big love, H & R xxxx