Published: May 23rd 2009May 23rd 2009
Craters of the Moon
I spent my Wednesday in Taupo going for a long walk to a geothermal area called Craters of the Moon and then back through the forest to the Huka Falls again. The weather was decent enough with little rain, and the long walk showed me a lot of what New Zealand is. Vast forests covering valleys and rolling hills, along with small powerful rivers roaring on by. Thursday was the day I left Taupo, but before I caught my bus I heard something calling my name. There was a golf challenge on the lake which is run by a local guy who undoubtedly makes ridiculous money off the scheme. He charges money for people to take shots at a small island green about 120 yards out into the lake. The green is no bigger than 15 feet by 15 feet and has 3 holes on it. Get it one of the 2 bigger holes and you win a helicopter ride or free skydive. Get it in the actual sized golf hole and win $5000. Going in to it I knew there was very little chance to actually get it in. I envisioned even the perfect shot high and soft would hit
Forest and River
the green and bounce off. I was proven right on my 3rd shot. On and actual golf green it would have stuck, but this one being made of wood and turf it bounced off. I shot about 15 balls at the island with 2 hitting, and the rest landing very close. Unlike my typical short game when I golf, I was on target both in distance and line. No $5000 though.
In the afternoon I caught my bus which took me an hour north to Rotorua. I found my hostel and checked in. The guy at reception hooked me up with some brochures of things to do in Rotorua. I expected it to just be a quiet 2 days, in which I would see the town and lake. Then he mentioned something that got me thinking. New Zealand is well known as an adventure country. Sky Diving, Bungy Jumping or pretty much anything you can think of. I hadn't planned on doing anything of the like until he put an idea in my mind. He mentioned a local small company that ran white water rafting tours. He also mentioned that they had a run which took the raft over
Lake Taupo...Perfect timing for 2 birds apparently
the world's highest commercially rafted waterfall. Now, whitewater rafting was something that always interested me, but I had my doubts. With my typical bad luck, I'd be the guy who falls out and gets trapped under water by a tree. After about 30 minutes of thinking about it in my room I went back to reception and booked the trip. I figured why not. I've never rafted before, so why not make my first time on the highest waterfall you can do it on. So I booked it and began thinking about the waterfall. It was going to be a 7 meter or 21 foot drop. I don't care who you are...That's far.
I woke up Friday and caught the shuttle to rafting. I met my rafting partners for the trip, 2 people from Scotland and 3 from Arizona. The morning was cold, about one degree, and the guide told us it was the coldest they'd ever had to do the trip. The river was cold to begin with, and now even colder. The people from Arizona were struggling to say the least. After gearing up and getting a full 10 minute briefing on techniques and worst case scenarios,
Impossible Golf Challenge
we were off to the river. We dropped our raft in and met our saftey kayaker who would come along with us. We started off with rapids and small waterfalls as everyone got accustomed to paddling and taking instructions from our guide. About 30 minutes into the trip we got to the waterfall. We stopped for one last reminder for safety purposes and then set off. The guides shouts of paddle! paddle! were followed by hold on! as we all tucked down low into the raft and went over. It's common for the raft to overturn on the waterfall, but we found a good line and made it down. The entire raft plunged into the river below nose first and continued until the entire raft was under water, before coming back up. I bought a cd with pictures that document the entire plunge, and it truly is crazy to see. After the waterfall it was more rapids and smaller waterfalls. The guide played games where he had the girls ride on the front of the raft through rapids. Then at a quite spot he asked for a volunteer to jump overboard. Not being a huge fan of water, and especially
Rotorua National Museum
fast flowing rivers I figured it was a good chance to throw caution to the wind. Before he could finish asking someone to jump over, I was in the water. It was probably the coldest experience ever. Then as a dare the guide and kayaker told me to climb on the back of the kayak and try to ride it through the next set of rapids. I figured I had come a long way, so I struggled onto the back of his kayak and rode on my stomach through the rapids. We made it to the bottom and I swam to the raft and got pulled back in. We then made our way through the rest of the run to the finish spot.
The trip was something that I really was unsure of when I first booked it. I didn't know what to expect, and going big for my first time definitely made me think. But as I was doing it, and after as well, I couldn't help but feel like I had made a great choice. I'd say about 3 minutes into the trip down river I was thinking that I wanted to do it again sometime. I
Stinky Lake Rotorua
still feel the same way about it and can't wait until I can go rafting again somewhere. I also felt completely thrilled with the fact that in some way I probably overcame a bit of a fear by doing it. Instead of talking myself into not doing it, I just did it. It was random and it was awesome.
For the rest of Friday I checked out the town and it's smelly sulphur lake. Definitely a stinker. It's common to be able to be anywhere in town and just smell sulphur as you walk down the street. Bah. Not the kindest odor to be surrounded by. I spent Friday night talking to a couple from the Netherlands who have been travelling for a year and a half. They are in their early 30s and decided to stop everything and travel for 2 years before they settle down. It was a choice of house and kids or travel one more time and they picked travel. Smart move. They travelled the entire length of Africa covering 18 countries, only using local transport (trucks, buses, donkeys) and then made their way to South America. They have 6 months left and about 10
It's official...birds CANNOT smell...
more countries in their sights. They've seen LOTS. It made me want to travel even more.
Today I caught a bus to Auckland, where I now sit in a hotel at the airport. I have a flight tomorrow morning to Niue. I'm sure most people have never heard of it. Even people hear have never heard of it. It's a small island nation of 1500 people. I will spend a week there, because there is only one flight a week. I cross the international date line as well, so I leave Auckland Sunday morning and arrive in Niue on Saturday afternoon. I go from being 18 hours ahead of home time to 5 hours behind home time. And it's only a 3 hour flight away. To say it's confusing is an understatement. I am about to go to bed on Saturday night and tomorrow night I will go to bed on Saturday night.
A travel agent here that I had to talk to about accomodation in Niue told me that the fact that I am from Canada and am going to Niue will "cause quite a stir" on the small island. There aren't a lot of people that travel there, and definitely not from far away. People ask me why I chose to go there. I tell them it was a random choice...Their response..."Awesome"....