Trip Start Jan 23, 2012
49Trip End Jun 09, 2012
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First stop in Rotorua was the world famous, and longest luge track in the world! Since luging at Sentosa (Singapore), we made a point to visit this particular track! True to form, the track was incredible - set on top of a local mountain, we had to ride a gondola to the top, before jumping in the karts. There were also three tracks to choose from - scenic, intermediate and advanced - with the longest over 3 kilometres in length, taking a good 5 minutes to complete!
We paid up our 25NZD (about 12 pounds) and promptly raced around the various tracks for the next 90 minutes. Put simply, the tracks were awesome - some would even say dangerous! For example, the advanced track had jumps, hairpin turns, and even a sharp turn on the edge of a cliff, so if you failed to turn, you'd probably seriously injure yourself. Great fun, and worth every penny!
That evening, we headed to a local Maori Village, called Tamaki Village. There, we spent the evening with a local Maori Tribe, learning the way of life before Europeans settled here - and learnt their various crafts, cooking methods (including cooking in underground pits), fighting techniques, and even dances. In fact, the night started with a confrontational dance, and our group had to elect a chief to face off with the local Maori Chief! The evening ended with a Maori buffet banquet, comprising of meat and vegetables cooked underground using traditional techniques (tamgi) - absolutely lovely! Tired and with our bellies full, we went straight to bed after!
The following day, we made the relatively short journey down to Taupo, the adrenaline capital of north New Zealand. The previous day, Sophie told me (Neill) that she'd planned to do a skydive
On our arrival, the weather was pretty bad with low cloud cover and light rain, meaning all flights were off. However, after a spot of lunch, the weather miraculously cleared and soon enough, two buses arrived to pick all the victims up. 15 minutes later, we were at the airfield, weighed and fitted for our skydive suits. A safety briefing followed shortly after, and were were then introduced to our tandem partners for the jump.
Soon enough, we were led to our light aircraft with our tandem partners, cameramen (and camerawomen), and took off. As soon as the plane left the tarmac, it pulled up sharply meaning the ascent to 15,000 feet took little more than 10 minutes to reach. At approximately 10,000 feet, we were given oxygen. The last 1,000 feet seemed to take forever, but at 15,000 feet, the door was opened, and one by one (Neill first, then Sophie) we shuffled along the bench, right to the edge of the plane with our legs hanging out below. Looking out to the abyss below, we sat on the edge of the open door...and then threw ourselves out!
Click here to see the video. Our jumps start at 10:50 and 12:09
Put simply, the jump was incredible - absolutely incredible, mindblowing, overwhelming - pick any word you can imagine...word's can't describe how crazy it was. We both had just over 60 seconds of freefall, dropping a whole 11,000 feet before the parachute opened, and a further 5 minutes before landing back at Taupo airport. The views were incredible, especially with Lake Rotorua just below us. If you converted what we'd spent into Great Britain Pounds-per-minute, this was probably the most expensive thing we've ever done or bought...but it was worth every penny!
That night, still high on adrenaline, we headed to the local bar, Mulligans, to have a shot at the pub quiz, and to consume a few beverages. Needless to say we didn't do too well, and left at about midnight!
The following day the weather took a turn for the worse, meaning we spent much of the day indoors, dashing out to shops inbetween showers! We managed to visit Lake Rotorua, a huge lake in the center of town, and home to one of the world's few supervolcanoes...if this thing erupted, it would result in a nuclear winter across the entire globe for the next three years...nice!
The following day, we left at approximately 9.30am and headed to River Valley, a lodge seemingly in the middle of nowhere, but specialising in activities such as horse riding and white water rafting. Having spent a fortune in Taupo, we elected against doing any of these activities, and spent the evening in the cosy lodge sipping beer and wine in front of the beautiful log fire
The following morning, we headed to Wellington. As a number of the bus were white water rafting in the morning, we didn't leave until 1.30, meaning we didn't arrive in the capital until gone 7pm. Not wanting to waste an opportunity, and with less than 12 hours in the city, we headed straight out to explore. Over the next few hours, we took in the main streets, including Courtenay place, which is packed with tons of cool bars, pubs, restaurants and fast food outlets. A really cool street and our particular favourite pub was the Bengal Polo Club. We also managed to swing by Te Papa, the national museum which is packed full of fun activities which teach you all about New Zealand's history. Sadly, the museum was closed so we had to make do with watching a few promotional videos from the outside!
After heading back to the hostel for a quick bite to eat, we headed straight back out, and this time headed to Cuba Street, which is lined with tons of independant shops, cafes, bars and restaurants. It had a real Brighton Lanes feel about the place, and we decided this was the place to hang out for a few hours. So we popped into a local pub where I tasted another New Zealand beer, Tui, while Soph went for a Bulmers.
Sadly, this was all we managed to see of Wellington - but from what a couple of locals told us, there wasn't much to see, so after a few more hours, we headed back to the hostel to grab some beauty sleep, before our early start the next morning.