Published: March 3rd 2007February 10th 2007
On our second morning in Rotorua, we woke to sunshine and blue skies. Didn't really have any plans for the day, little did we know that by the end we'd have fallen out the sky at 200km an hour!! Gill went to investigate skydive options and availability and before we knew it we were booked in for our skydive and on our way to Taupo!!We arrived at the airfield a bit early and since they had room on the next jump we pretty much got kitted up and on the plane straight away. Gill had decided to jump from 12,000ft but I went for the full 15,000ft (it meant I got 15 seconds more freefall). My instructor was a chilled out kiwi called Glenn who it turned out had worked with the Red Devils in Netheravon when I did my last jump!Once we reached 12,000ft, it was time for Gill to be on her way and by the look on her face just before she left the plane I had a sneaking suspicion she may not ever speak to me again. Then we climbed another 3,000ft and it was my turn - can honestly say I was really nervous, just v.excited.
This was post-skydive as you can tell from the huge grins on our faces.
The views on the way down, over Lake Taupo, were absolutely breath taking. As well as taking in the scenery, we did plenty of twists and turns and I got a chance to steer us for a bit. I loved every minute of it and would happily have jumped straight back in the plane to do it all over again :) My admiration went to Gill though, I know it wasn't an easy decision for her agree to do it and I was very proud of her.
Both of us were on an adrenaline high when we reached terra firma but I somehow managed to drive Bessie to a local geothermal park, The Craters of the Moon. This was possibly one of my favourite things in the Rotorua area. It may not have had such spectacular geysers etc but the landscape was stunning and so different from a lot of the other things we'd seen.
Napier is the art deco town of nz so we whiled away an hour or two checking out the buildings and enjoying coffees in a cute little cafe but then we had to check out one of the stranger attractions we'd come across
- Opossum world; Opossums are not native and were brought over from Australia in the 1800's for fur and food but when it went out off fashion some clever people decided to release them all not considering the fact that over in nz they wouldn't have any predators. So now the place is over run with them and they are destroying lots of vegetation. I have lost count of the number of possums I've seen as roadkill here but they do actively hunt them as well and this was what this museum was all about with a gift shop full of possum fur garments. Bit of a turnaround from my job in Sydney where we were treating possums and nursing them back to health!
We headed back to Taupo to spend a little more time checking it out. We did a cruise on Lake Taupo (which is almost the same size as Singapore!) and got to see some maori rock carvings. We also went on a bit on tour of tje nearby sites in Bessie; included int he tour were Huka Falls, The Honey Hive (which told us all we'd ever need to know about honey, bees and mead),
the Aratiatia dam (whose gates open four times daily turning a small river into a surging torrent).
Waitomo was one of the places I was really looking forward to throughout my trip and after we'd seen the glow worms at Rotorua, I couldn't wait. We stayed in a nearby town called Otorohanga and our campsite was right next to a Kiwi sanctuary; on our first night there we heard a kiwi calling after dark :) We set off early for Waitomo so we could check out the museum before our cave tour and learn a bit more about the surrounding area and the glow worms. Did you know, glow worms aren't actually worms! They are in fact the pupae of a gnat like insect. So there's your useless fact for the day. (I won't bore you with details of bio-luminescence and how they glow!!). Then it was time for Pete, our extremely enthusiastic guide, to take us on a tour of the local caves. Once inside the first one, our eyes slowly adjusted to reveal a myriad of tiny twinkling green lights on the ceiling of the cave. Once we'd oooohed and aaaahed for a while we headed into
another cave to look at it in the light and check out lots of stalactites and stalagmites plus the remains of an extinct new zealand bird, the moa.
As cities go, Auckland doesn't rate that highly on my list. In some ways it seems to be trying to imitate Sydney; the most glaring similarity was their harbour bridge - almost identical design but a lot smaller and you are able to climb it!!Gill and I were keen to see what Auckland had to offer but were also up for taking things at a slower pace. We checked out the museum, browsed in the markets and shops and drank quite a few cups of coffee whilst sitting in the sunshine. We decided to end our trip with something special and spent our last evening having dinner in 'The Observatory' restaurant at the top of the sky tower; it was a seafood buffet and the food was sensational - after months of living on variations of pasta for dinner and living a slightly trampish existence, I felt like a princess for a few hours :) It was the perfect ending to an awesome two week tour of the North Island.
There are more photos below