First things first, thought you might be interested in the route we are taking round NZ so follow this link (we are doing the 'Rangi' route): http://www.kiwiexperience.com/rangi-nz-pass.aspx#map
Now on with the tour... we left Auckland for Mercury Bay with our bus driver "Nancy Boy" and a group of people we would be spending a fiar amount of time with over the next few weeks. On route we stopped off at a beach that sat right on top of a natural hot spring. This hot water would make its way close to the top of the sandy beach and so we dug holes along the beach, allowed sea water to mix with the spring water and had ourselves a nice warm bath on the beach!! Mercury Bay itself was a bit of a let down - not too much to see or do but the hostel was really good and we got a free upgrade to a double room - great news!
Along the way to our next stop, at Rotorua, we stopped off at the Karanganake Scenic Reserve to have a walk along the river and through the old gold mine shafts - with some pretty spectacular scenery and dodgy rope bridges! We also saw the town where they are about to film the new movie The Hobbit and where the Shire was filmed for the Lord of The Rings movies. As is getting to normal for this trip it rained all day, so the first job we had to do when we arrived in Rotorua was to find soem cheap waterproofs.
That evening we went to a Maori Culture Feast - and it really was! They performed traditional dances and songs including the Haka, they also had a village set up and dressed in traditional Maori clothes/body art. The Hangi (Maori feast) was an all you can eat buffet, needless to say we made the most it!
On the journey to Waitomo we stopped off at the Glow Worm caves to do some 'Blackwater Rafting' - basically sitting in rubber rings going along rapids & jumping off small waterfalls in a cave system. To introduce ourselves to the group we had to say our name, where we were from and what our favourite film was... Natalie took this opporunity to announce that Clueless was here favourite film. Oh dear. The following silence whilst sat in the dark cave was deafening and slightly awkward! A brilliant start to the afternoon! The rafting itself was pretty good fun - Natalie again made herself popular as she was the only one to fall out of her raft during the whole 3 hour trip!
Sat back on the bus after this small adrenaline rush - we decided for a bigger thrill - to sky dive in Taupo. After we decided this Nat spent the whole time asking various questions about the safety of skydiving, the process it would involve and what our chances of death would be. Clearly she was looking forward to the experience!
The waiting wasn't helped by high winds which delayed earlier dives so that we were now wondering whether we would have to wait an extra night before it was our turn. Thankfully (?) we were able to get on the last flight of the day... the pictures tell this part of our story better then we can. We both really enjoyed it although the flight up was interesting due to the strong winds, but once we were out it was worth it! We have lots more pictures and DVDs to show you when we get home! (But don't worry I won't make you watch it as many times as Fiona has!)