North Island part 1

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Oceania » New Zealand » North Island » Taupo
September 28th 2008
Published: September 28th 2008
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Hello again, its time for your next installment of our eventful life!

Whilst in Kaikoura we went for a walk around the town, looking in all the souvenir shops, and around the coast where we saw our second lot of seals. This time there were loads of seal pups as well which were coming quite close to us. The drive from Kaikoura to Blenheim was one of the best so far, the sun was shining and we were driving right next to the sea with the waves crashing against the rocky coast. Just outside of Kaikoura Nick noticed a couple of seals lying on the rocks so we stopped only to notice the rocks were absolutely covered in seals and pups, they were literally everywhere! It was amazing to see so many in one place. Blenheim itself didn’t have much to offer so we ended up going to the cinema to watch The Mummy 3. The next day we headed up to the North Coast toward Picton as we had to catch the ferry to the North Island, we were pleased to find the weather was absolutely beautiful on the North coast and we ended up wearing shorts and flip flops again for the first time in 6 weeks, it was lovely! Picton was a really nice town and we walked around the harbour which was surrounded by Marlborough Sounds (big green hills) which looked stunning in the sun next to the blue sea. Whilst in Picton we were informed that Malaysian Airlines had cancelled our flight home so that we missed a connecting Virgin flight to London, we weren’t too happy about this but its all sorted out now and we get to spend a night in Mumbai which adds another stamp to our passports and means we get to try real Indian food. The next day we caught the ferry to Wellington, I’m not really sure what we were expecting but the ferry was really nice. We started out on the deck in the sun but once the ferry was out of the harbour the wind got really strong so we moved inside to one of the TV lounges. The ferry also had numerous restaurants, bars, recliner lounges, a play park and 2 cinema screens. The 3hr journey went really quickly and before we knew it we were getting lost on the roads of Wellington. Eventually we found our way to a campsite 20km from Wellington which was cheap and basic.
We’re still not too sure on what we thought of Wellington, it was a big city with lots of cars and people. It also had the most traffic lights I have ever seen in my life which got extremely annoying when you wanted to cross a street! We walked along the harbour front to Te Papa, the national museum, which was really interactive and by far the best museum we’d visited so far. We also walked up a very steep hill to the Botanical Gardens, which I’m sure are lovely at the right time of year, but unfortunately there really wasn’t much for us to see there.
Heading north we stopped overnight in Palmerston North before heading on to Taupo, passing Tongariro National Park which is home to Mt Ruapehu, the North Islands highest mountain which is also a volcano. After a 300km drive we finally reached Lake Taupo, Australasia’s largest lake which is the size of Singapore! It was created by a massive volcanic eruption a few thousand years ago. Although the weather was horrible when we arrived we immediately enquired about skydiving and the lady said the weather was meant to be clearing up the next day and we could book in the morning if we wanted to. So the next morning, after waking up to a cloudless sky, Nick went to book a skydive and came back to tell me we’d be picked up in just over an hour!! We went to the small airport, filled in a form and were weighed before choosing whether we wanted to do a 12,000ft or 15,000ft skydive. We chose to do 12,000ft for $219 (£85) each which gave a 45second freefall where as 15,000ft was $319 (£125) and gave a 60second freefall. We also decided not to get a freefall video done either as it was $139 or $179 with photos. We later bought a DVD of us getting ready, us in the plane and us landing for only $20!! We thought we’d be given some sort of introduction or instruction session but after a few minutes we were told to put on a jumpsuit and were given our tandem buddies (mine was a German called Albert and Nicks was a Welsh guy called Ian). Our buddies then helped us put on our harnesses, hats, goggles and gloves before leading us over to the plane. Albert and I were the last to get in the plane which meant we would be first out, that meant I had no choice but to jump or no one else could get out! The plane was a lot smaller than I’d expected and I was literally sat on Albert’s lap for the 20minute flight up to 12,000ft. The space was so small I started to wonder how Albert could check he’d clipped me to him with the 4 metal clips on my harness, not a good thought at 12,000ft! When a green light came on we opened the door and I swung my legs around and out of the door, holding onto my harness tightly and waiting for Albert to push us out. The wind was hitting my legs with quite a lot of force and it made them pretty cold. Then before I knew it we’d jumped! It was really disorientating at first but as we stopped spinning I started to take in the view… well as much as I could whilst trying not to think about the fact I was falling at 200km/h!! The wind was rushing up my nose and down my throat and the chin strap from my hat kept flapping against my neck; it was such a strange feeling. The 45 second freefall lasted a lot longer than I’d expected and I started to wonder whether something had gone wrong, but the next thing I knew we were pulled up by the parachute….it was a relief! Just as I was starting to relax Albert gave me the handles to steer the parachute for a bit which was really fun. Then just as I think I’m safe Albert starts loosening all the straps holding us together, apparently they don’t warn you about that bit! He then took the handles back and started spinning us round in circles which I can’t say I enjoyed. Soon enough 8 minutes parachuting had gone by and we were getting ready to land; my landing was perfect. I’d seen Nick a couple of times on the way down so knew he wasn’t far behind me and as I was being unclipped down he came and skidded along the floor on his bum, covering me with his parachute as he did so! We both really enjoyed it and would definitely go again in the future. We stayed in Taupo for a couple of days and visited Huka Falls before moving on to Rotorua about 1hr north.
Rotorua is one of the main centres for geothermal activity in New Zealand and is by far the smelliest place we have ever visited due to all the sulphurous steam. On our way to Rotorua town we stopped off at Wai-O-Tapu which is the best geothermal park in the area, it was quite pricey at $27 each but it was something we wanted to do. At 10.15 we went to the Lady Knox geyser which has 2 chambers, 1 with water at 90˚c and 1 with water at 140˚c when soap was added it caused the geyser to erupt. It took a while to get going but once it did the water sprayed really high and there was loads of sulphur smelling steam. We then visited the mud pools which were extremely hot and bubbling/ spurting mud everywhere. They also smelt pretty bad but the mud itself was really nice and soft, very good for the skin I expect and we have since seen it being sold in souvenir shops. We then went back to the main park area where there were loads of massive craters filled with boiling water and covered in different colours from the minerals in the earth. There were also massive pools of water with coloured surfaces and a massive boardwalk across one which was really cool. We walked through a series of huge eruption craters formed 700yrs ago. A couple of our favourite sights were the devils bath which was a neon green coloured lake and the champagne pool which was filled with minerals such as gold, silver, mercury, sulphur, arsenic and more which coloured the edges of the pool, there was also loads of steam coming off it as the surface temperature was 74˚c. We really wanted to go to a Maori cultural show but when we found out they were $92 we had to think twice, luckily we did have a bit of a cultural experience at our campsite when we found it had a hangi A hangi is an oven in the ground which is heated by the steam rising from the geothermal areas, we decided to cook ourselves some sweet and sour chicken in the traditional manner. It took 3hrs to cook but the meat was so succulent and just fell off the bone, definitely worth while if you’ve got the time.
After a couple of days in Rotorua we headed to Mount Maunganui in the Bay of Plenty. This area of NZ is only really good if the weather is nice, which luckily it was when we arrived so we were able to go for a walk along the beach and up the hill at the end. Toward the top we ran into a man who started warning us of America dropping the bomb, the end of the world (except if you’re in NZ) and aliens talking to him. Nick thanked him for letting us know but said we wanted to get walking….strange, I think Nick attracts them though! We eventually made it to the top and the view down along the coast was beautiful, we could also just manage to see White Island which is an active volcano. We decided to take a different path down the hill and ended up on a steep overgrown path which I’m quite sure isn’t used anymore, it finished halfway round the hill. We were quite glad to end up there though as the walk around the bottom next to the shingle beach and sea was really relaxing, with the sun shining down through the trees hanging over the path…beautiful!
As the weather was set to be nice for a few days we made our way up round the Coromandel Peninsula which is mainly a series of beach villages for NZ holiday makers in the summer. We had some really nice weather and really nice campsites though, I even managed to find a couple of dried up starfish on the beach which I was pretty chuffed about! It was a bit too cold to go in the sea though so we didn’t think it was worth spending too long here. The roads in the area were also really nice to drive on as they were feet away from the sea, something you’d never see in England!
We’re currently going around the Northern tip of NZ with only a week and a half left with the camper. Last night we visited the circus which was really fun, and we got to have candy floss…YUM! The show wasn’t the best but did have acrobats, clowns and magicians which was cool. Next are the beaches and good weather (fingers crossed) right at the top of the Northern tip which we’re looking forward to before flying over to Australia in 2 weeks time.


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