"you will see us waving from such great heights"

Trip Start Dec 14, 2004
Trip End May 25, 2005

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Flag of New Zealand  ,
Wednesday, December 29, 2004

We last left off in Taupo, where we were ready to head off to the River Valley Lodge. Monday morning we boarded the bus to Taihape (Tie-happy), with our English friend, Rachel #2. After trying to find a quick remedy for some bus-induced nausea (Jodie and I are quickly discovering that there are relentless curving roads all over NZ we need to start taking dramamine for our bus rides... not a fun feeling otherwise) we were picked up by the River Valley shuttle, and a man who called himself "fat dad" (aka Brian). It happened to be a gorgeous day, the first real one we've seen, though the third straight without rain. Our half hour drive to the lodge curved through what is known as "Hill Country." On such a beautiful day it was a mesmerizing drive-- the sky was a perfect blue, the clouds were cottonballish, and the lucious green hills rolled lazily into each other, spotted with sheep, cows and various other animals. (NZ fact: Did you know that there are currently 80 million sheep in this country? That makes the ratio of sheep to people 20:1.)

We arrived at the lodge, which is neatly tucked into a valley with the river rushing mightily in front of it, and the owner, JJ, took us to our room- the "staff room." We were quickly overcome with a feeling of arriving at summer camp... it's funny how cabins with rafters and gravel roads can bring back familiar feelings in a place you have actually never been.

After taking a quick walk around the area, we started work! Rachel, Jodie and I quickly learned the ins and outs of the kitchen and became acquainted with the other staff. (Although, I must note that we are not actually known as staff... the people who come here to work short stints in return for some freebies are actually known as "slaves." No joke- the way the word is used so freely is kind of disturbing and strange, but we know they don't mean to offend.) Most of our kitchen duties entail a lot of dishes, which really isn't so bad. At the end of the day, we are able to change into comfortable, clean clothes, and return to the main lodge for a drink with the guests. It's actually quite nice.

Yesterday we woke up to another gorgeous day (actually turned into tank top weather during midday), and after working breakfast we got a chance to laze around outside a bit. One of the other "slaves" had mentioned something about a bungy place nearby that was great, plus you get a "slave" discount. Well... my curiousity piqued, and before we knew it, we were finishing our lunch shift and hopping into a car with Ron, one of the owners of Gravity Canyon.

As we set off for our spotaneous adventure, Ron gave us all of the details about where we were headed. He was very informative and we were definitely excited to arrive to a beautiful canyon site (although the drive made our stomachs feel like we wanted to reconsider any kind of adventure). We watched a couple of people bungy from the 80 meter bridge (that's 260 feet for those of you non-metric system people), and we also watched people fly through the canyon on the "Flying Fox." I was told that the Flying Fox was a good warmup for the bungy, so I made Jodie go with me (and Ron also was giving us a great deal). What is the Flying Fox, you might ask? It begins 180 meters above the canyon where they strap you in laying on your stomach, so you are hanging from a wire, kind of like an airplane. Then, without having to do anything at all, the operators sent you flying through the canyon, at a speed up to 160 kph. The other end of the wire is connected to the opposite wall of the canyon, and as you begin to soar back up (after being only 7 meters above ground), the pull of gravity stops you, and you start to go backwards. (We were very thankful for gravity at that moment!) You go back and forth on the wire for a few minutes, and then a little device latches onto the wire and pushes you back to where you began, backwards. I know this all sounds kind of crazy and scary, but it was actually really fun. We were hysterically laughing with tears in our eyes before we flew-the two girls who were operating the thing didn't really know what to do with us. (There will be pictures of this soon.)

A note before you read on from Jodie:
To the people I am related to: Don't worry. I didn't do it.
To Rachel's Family: Also don't worry. She was great.

Once I regained my balance (but certainly not my sanity), I decided to attempt the thing I had actually come to do. The bungy. I got strapped in and walked out to the middle of the bridge with an 11 year old girl, Caroline. (It was her Christmas present, very cute.) After we both spent a few minutes freaking out and asking all the silly questions we could, they made me go first. I thought I would just be able to go out there and jump- others had made it look so easy. Plus we had just received a small earful from the guy who was up there... someone had just taken about 15 minutes to jump before us, and that's always the worst... he told us to decide that we wanted to do it and then stop thinking about it altogether, just go. I had to put my toes over the wood platform, put my arms out, and on the count of 3... so my left foot inched over, and my right foot wouldn't budge. This continued only for a minute or two, and then I jumped! Yay! I did it! The first couple of seconds were pretty scary- I think I forgot that I was attached to a cord... but then it caught, and bouncing back up was definitely the most fun. I still can't believe I jumped... it was great. Jodie got it all on video... we'll see if we can find a place to post that for you.

So that was yesterday's excitement... it was curtailed when we returned to some dishes that had been left undone from lunch, and a roast beef dinner. The dinner clean up is definitely the worst part of this job, especially when it's beef, ugh... scroll down for Jodie's thoughts on that one. Let's just say we were very happy to take hot showers around 10 pm, put on our pj's and have a glass of wine. Ahh, Reisling.

Today is a slow day at the lodge, we have been relieved of lunch and dinner duties because there are no guests coming, which seems strange. We are awaiting the morning when we are told they have space for us on the rafting trip. It's a grade 5 trip, and it's supposed to be one of the best half-day trips in the world.

We are trying to keep up with the horrific news of what has happened northeast of us. The power of nature is incredibly scary... we will continue to keep up with what is going on. As of now our travel plans stand, but if we need to make changes, we certainly will. We know it is important to follow our own intution, and we will do just that.

The River Valley Lodge will be our home for the next 5 days or so... the nomad's life isn't so bad.
Much love
Rach and Jode

PPS from Jodie: So... it's kinda like being at camp. And you all know how much I like that (feel free to take that comment with as much sarcasm, or lack thereof, based on the last time you were actually at Eisner- J) And I'm pretty happy that we're staying put for a week- not to mention that it feels good to be working (and not selling shoes). Though, I have to say- after years of avoiding the nasty part of Toranut (kitchen duty) at camp, or at Hillel, I found myself emptying the pig bin last night- and just laughing at the irony of it all. Dinner was roast beef, and the bin was filled to the brim with hardened beef grease. Disgusting. Some of it slopped over as I tried emptying it, onto my foot. Yuck. Absolutely disgusting. But aside from the pig bin, I feel quite at home... I was in charge of roast beef portion control last night- brought me right back to those Shabbats at Hillel, the only difference being the lack of kashrut here. Perhaps I've found my calling... serving meat.

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