Published: June 18th 2006March 21st 2006
A curious thing happened while flying from Honolulu on a 8 hour flight to New Zealand. I departed on a Friday night & landed on a Sunday morning! Saturday March 4th did not exist for me, all because I passed the International date line from East to West!
New Zealand is such a beautiful place to be. The scenery in the country is not unlike Ireland, with green fields, and lots of cows and sheep. The towns, cities & people are very ‘English’. I had a week on both the North & South Island, and managed to fit in a fairly comprehensive kiwi experience. The ‘Kiwi Experience’ tours involve traveling with a group of backpackers from location to location with day trips thrown in, and an attached social life second to none. I think the drivers need to be certifiably ‘mad’ as a mandatory requirement for employment.
I started off in the capital Aukland, similar to Dublin with a population of 1.2 M, likewise the countries population is 4 Million.
The ‘Bay of Islands’ was my first destination with the Kiwi tour. I got the opportunity to take a boat trip and go swimming with dolphins and whaooo..., was that ever a success. I was the fastest swimmer on the boat, and so the dolphins had lots of time for me. I saw them consistently mate right in front of me (with nothing left to the imagination!). Apparently dolphins are the only other mammal who mate for the sheer pleasure of it (all others need to be in heat). They could see my heart beat and look at all my organs each time they swam underneath me while sending out a ‘ticking’ noise which gives them an ultrasound image of my body (just like a babies ultrasound in the hospital!) Incredible experience, and definitely one of the highlights of the trip so far.
On a 1300 Hp power boat trip to see some sacred Maori Caves, the weather turned severe in the Pacific accompanied by 4-5 meter waves, the captain called off the trip half way, but it was so exciting. I seemed to have overcome many of my fears including that of death, the higher the waves got, the more we became airborne and the more the adrenaline flowed. Some of the passengers were half scared to death!
Another trip involved driving a specially adjusted coach up along the surf of '90 Mile Beech' to get the Nothern tip (Cape Reinga), passing wild horses in the Dunes, to reach the highest dunes at the tip. Here we got to sand-board down some that were 70 metres high. Some of the heavier people zipped accross the stream at the base and came within inches of hitting the bus . Most of the group had plenty of burn marks where feet, legs & arms were used for brakes.
The area around Rotorua is covered in geothermal parks, having the skinniest earths crust on the planet. One of the parks was entitled ‘Hells Gate” by none less that G.B.Shaw on a visit in 1900. It looks like the surface of a different planet, with boiling mud, geysers, steam holes and the whiff of sulpher in the air. Not far from the park was an adventure park where I got to try ‘Zorbing’ - an inflated ball 4 meter in diameter with a 2 meter diameter ball in the centre. This is where you get in with few litres of water and get rolled down a hill!. Its like being inside a washing machine.
NZ has a great attitude to adventure sports, anything goes. In
Ireland every such venture would be crushed by insurance companies before they even get off the ground. Here any bridge that could have bungee rope hanging of it has been capitalized on.
Another dream I got to achieve was to go White Water Rafting. It was on grade 5 river, with the worlds highest commercially rafted waterfall (7meters), and we managed to stay in the boat!!
The south island was very beautiful! Lots of film locations for ‘Lord of the Rings’. Queenstown is a village of 5000 people with 25,000 guest beds. It’s the adventure capital of NZ. Every type of adrenaline rush is available. I bungeed off ‘The Ledge’ jump, where you are tied to a center harness rather than tied at the feet, which enables you to run off the platform! It’s a mad experience. I’ll e-mail a web link where you can watch the video…its gas J
Another great rush was ‘the canyon swing’, the biggest swing in the world. Basically, they tie you to a rope and drop you 200 ft from the edge of a canyon, the rope’s fulcrum is suspended over the center of the canyon, and you free fall for ages and then swing in a 200 meter arch out over the river. Such a buzz J!! Everyone should try it at least once. There are many way to be dropped over, I went over on my back (‘The Elvis cut-away’), but an Aussie gal opted to lean back and forth on her chair until the point of no return. I can still hear her scream, not to mention the echo’s rolling down the canyon. Mad!
I am now in Sydney. I got here Paddies day, and the Irish pubs where heaving, worse than Dublin! So easy to meet other Irish by just wearing my green tee-shirt. On the weekend I participated in a self development program; ‘Embracing Change’. Called for some very deep soul searching. Good experience.
Melbourne next week, and then some very different cultures in Asia for the month of April.
Well G’day from Sydney folks,