Hamster Balls and Parachutes (10/28/09)
Classes are over, essays handed in & only one more exam to go before I’m officially finished with uni in Wellington. To celebrate the end of classes, another road trip was in order. Myself and four other Americans took the long drive north, visiting Taupo, the Coromandel & and Bay of Islands. Unfortunately, there just isn’t enough time to visit everything worth visiting in the North Island, but we made the best of our five days.
In Taupo we were able to see some of the natural hot springs that exist there and could even go swimming in a hot water stream. Definitely hotter than any hot tub I’ve ever been in. Taupo is also minutes away from Huka falls which dump 270 square metres of water every minute. The air being mixed with the water here causes it to have a shockingly bright blue colour. A short drive further north brought us to Rotorua.
Rotorua might smell like rotten eggs, but that’s solely due to the sulfur emitted by the many thermal pools surrounding it. The number one attraction for me in Rotorua was the Zorb. Zorbing is basically climbing into a hamster ball that is eleven feet in diameter with a small amount of water and rolling down a hill. I know that it sounds (and frankly looks) ridiculous, but it was an amazing amount of fun and something I’ve wanted to do since I arrived in New Zealand.
Next was a drive to the Coromandel peninsula, famous for its beaches and natural beauty. We rented a cabin which was located an hours drive along a gravel road from the nearest town. Our secluded piece of paradise overlooked the Pacific from its jungle location. The cabin had no electricity, water provided from rainfall and a propane powered refrigerator. Being away from modernity is not something too foreign to me, but it was great to get away from the world for a couple of days. The beach was only a short walk through the jungle and we spent a couple hours there the next day, just soaking in some New Zealand sun and climbing on the rocks.
Our next stop was the Bay of Islands, about a 4 hour drive north of Auckland. We were supposed to have a house booked for this locale as well, but due to some miscommunication we found ourselves homeless. As it was Labour day weekend, all backpackers were booked for the weekend, but we were luckily able to book the last vacation cabin at a Holiday Park in Paihia. The next day, I completed another goal for New Zealand: skydiving.
For anyone who knows me, you know of my fear of heights and my hatred of roller coasters. Let me tell you that 12,000 feet is no small height. Luckily, with tandem skydiving, someone actually pushes you out of the plane, so once you’re in the plane, you’re also jumping out of it. It doesn’t really feel like you’re falling at all. It feels as if you’re floating and a really strong wind is blowing at you. After falling 200 kilometres an hour for about 40 seconds, the parachute was deployed and I floated for almost five minutes, through some scattered clouds, to the ground. This was a rush that outdid bungee jumping by a mile. Best single experience in New Zealand so far.
After a boat ride with the girls while they went parasailing and catching some more rays on the beach, we had dinner with way too much food. We had chicken and beef already to make on the grill, complete with fresh made guacamole and asparagus. But our luck struck again when the owner of the cabin had a plethora of fresh caught snapper and offered us 6 fresh fillets to make on the grill. So we had a surf ‘n’ double turf for dinner and full to bursting, we headed to bed.
The drive from Pahia to Wellington along the West Coast of Northland is 13 1/2 hours with no stops. This made for a long day in the car. Luckily, everyone showered.
The north of this country is absolutely beautiful and I wish I had more time (and money…) to explore it. But the adventures will be confined to Wellington now, and I can’t complain about that.
Till next time,