What an exciting day! Well for one of us anyway. Kate has just got back from doing a 12,000ft skydive! Unfortunately it is my turn to write the blog and I fear I wont be able to describe it well enough so I will get Kate to write a short post script once I have finished filling you in on our recent events.
Since our last blog we have crammed in so much and have now completed our journey in the South island. We left you in Milford where we shivered ourselves to sleep before rising early to drive up to launching point for our cruise around Milford Sound. A ‘sound’ is a river valley which has flooded following a rise in sea levels. The sounds in Southen New Zealand are not sounds at all but Fjords, however, they were named before people realised that there was difference between a sound and a Fjord. A Fjord for those who are wondering is a valley which was created by a glacier and has flooded due to a rise in sea levels. A subtle but important difference! Anyway, the scenery was spectacular and the rain even held off for us whilst we were on the boat.
Following the cruise we drove to Queenstown where we met up with our friends Stuart and Zoë who have recently moved out here. Whilst in Queenstown we walked up to a place called the skyline viewing platform with amazing views over the surrounding area. Whilst up there we had a go on the luges which are gravity powered go karts. I won, fairly and squarely but Kate was upset and called for a stewards enquiry due to some alleged illegal contact in the corners! (rubbish!-K)
We then drove up to the Fox Glacier and stayed in an amazing free campsite by a place called Gilespies beach. We went there on the promise of spectacular views of the glacier however it was overcast and foggy and we couldn’t see a thing. Just in time for sunset our luck changed and the skies cleared and we had a great view which we were able to take some amazing photos of. The next morning we drove to the Franz Joseph glacier and walked up to the face which was fairly easy going so the next day we decided to go on a proper hike up to a viewing spot half way up one of the sides of the glacier. The walk was really hard going and treacherous in places but well worth it when we got to the top. When we arrived back at the van we were both shattered.
The next few days were spent in Nelson (top of the South island) with friends of my parents who fed and watered us very well. It was so nice to have a bed and walls and our meals cooked for us! We spent one of our days on a cycle ride to a nearby beach where we treated ourselves to fish and chips (again) and we also took a walk in the Abel Tasman national Park on another day which was stunning but we didn’t have the weather to see it in its best light. Next time……..
We had to drop our van off back in Christchurch so we spent the next few days making our way back there stopping off at Kaikora where we saw lots of seals. We also stopped off at Hanmer which has a geothermally heated spa.
For the next leg of our journey between Christchurch and Auckland we arranged to do a campervan relocation, which is where you drive a van back to its home for a rental company. You only pay a fraction of the cost of what it would cost you to rent the van. We picked up our new van which is brand new and very spacious and well fitted out. Very luxurious!
We drove up to Wellington and stayed at Kate’s great Uncle Johns house. He moved out here in 1953 as a 22 year old and Kate hadn’t seem him since she was 6 years old. We spent the day with him and he drove us round the sights of Wellington, filling us in about Kate’s family history and even cooked us a lovely dinner. Amazing considering he is 80 next year. From Wellington we drove up to Taupo which is where Kate will take over…..
Ok, now is my time to tell you about my decision to go skydiving! I had thought about it when planning the trip and always thought that if I ever did it it would be in New Zealand and I was told that Taupo was the place to do it. I thought that we would be going to Taupo next week on our tour of the North Island so when Alex said that he thought it would be best to go there on our way to Auckland yesterday, I panicked a bit and tried to give reasons as to why we should go the long way round to Auckland. He wasn’t buying any of it and told me I was clutching at straws so I knew I had to make my decision about the sky diving there and then. In a way, it was a blessing as I only had an evening to think about it! I made my decision to do it last night and rang up and booked it! This morning, I woke up early unable to sleep and read a magazine that mum and dad had sent me which helped take my mind off what was going to happen in a couple of hours!
When we got to the skydive centre I had to fill in some forms and decide which package to go for. They give you some great schpiel (sp?) about why 15,000 feet was the best one as the ‘freefall goes on forever’, but that was enough to make me decide 12,000 feet was enough for me!
I got kitted up and shown a DVD by a guy who enjoyed making jokes about the parachutes not working etc which didn’t help! The other people in my group were all doing the same jump as me and it was all their first time too so we all did a bit of nervous chatter and laughter! I then met my tandem buddy, Biskit (?!) and he went through it all with me. I bid farewell to Alex who refused to accompany me in this adventure on account of his hatred of flying, resulting in us being 3 ½ kilometres apart -the most we’d been apart for 5 ½ months. Once on the plane it took 20 minutes to get up to 12,000 feet, with my tandem guy telling me every time we’d gone up another 1,000 feet, I just wanted to get up there! There was a man that was training to be an instructor and he jumped out at 5,000 feet and my instructor had to tell me to look as I was facing the other way worried my face was about to get blown off as we were right at the front!
Once we’d reached 12,000feet we got ready at the top and I didn’t look down beforehand (luckily!)and once we were out it was amazing! The views, altitude and speed were immense! I had a personal cameraman with us and he was filming me during the freefall but when I tried to smile I couldn’t as the wind had full control of my face! We watched the DVD when we got down and Alex commented on how my cheeks were ‘flapping about like Dumbo’s ears ‘(lovely husband!). After about 30 seconds of freefall the parachute went up and so did we very quickly! Then suddenly we slowed down dramatically and I could properly take in the beautiful views of Lake Taupo and have a nice chat with Biskit about the weather! We had beautiful clear blue skies, and no wind. It really was the best way to see New Zealand’s breathtaking scenery!. Once we were on the ground (and I was able to use my legs!) we had a final picture and watched the DVD, all of us couldn’t believe what we had just done and I still cant!
……and now we are in Rotorua, enjoying an evening in our luxury accommodation before we give it back tomorrow. On the way here we stopped off at Kerosene Creek which is a geothermally heated stream which goes over a small waterfall creating a small pool which is as hot as a bath, very strange!