New zealand, from what we have seen so far, is exactly like the UK, except the people are nicer, the cities and towns are cleaner and newer (albeit a hell of a lot smaller), the scenery is indescribable, and you can pretty much do any sort of extreme activity you want - from zorbing to skiing to parasailing rock climbing to sitting on your ass roasting in geothermal springs. All in all it seems to be a much more new and improved UK, with the added bonus of the fascinating maori culture thrown in for free. :D
With this in mind, it was white water rafting day. Our last day in Rotorua we were picked up from our hostel by the water rafting people. Full of the typical good humour and jest that all 'extreme activites' reps seemed to be, the driver greeted us with words of how we would all die and drown in the river. With this we arrived and got into.... 'ridiculous costume 1':
- swimming trunks first
- an oversized blue and red fleecey top
- a full body wet suit pulled uncomfortabley over the top of the already too big fleece
- a waterproof plastic mac that hung loosely over the wetsuit
- finished nicely off with a mahoosive life jacket
Once we had zipped, clipped, buttoned and velcro'ed on this flattering little costume, we were taken down to the river and shown the boat. There were 5 people in each boat. We were taught how to oar, how to sit, and what to do when we approached rapids and waterfalls. With this, we got in the boat, shouted a maori good luck chant and off we went :D The first few rapids were relatively tame, enough to row through. The water was freezing, as was the rain that fell. We tackled rapids and small waterfalls ducking, weaving and nearly falling out a good few many times - luckily no one on our boat did. As we pulled up to the 7 metre waterfall (biggest waterfall in the world to water raft off), our instructor took us aside and gave us a quick talk on how to deal with it. With this, he let go of the rock and we rowed towards the drop. About a metre from it, instructor man shouted 'down' and we tucked our oars in, and fell off our seats into the small ditches in the boat, holding ourselves in. The boat tipped off the edge, went vertical and landed bow first in the white water. After flooding and half plunging underwater, it soon righted itself.
We rowed away from the waterfall in time to see the other group tackle it. It was only watching them, that we realised how high it was, how delicate the boat was and how easy it would be the tip over. After praising ourselves for a few more minutes, we attempted the last few rapids, got some more photos taken and that was that. It was 45 mins in all and even though i couldnt feel my hands, it was absouletly fantastic. Obviously would have been a little better in summer when the river would be around 20c, but who is too complain :D With a mini adrenaline high, we were taken back to base were we commenced stripping off layer after layer after layer of waterproof fleecey life jacketness, bought the photos and that was that. - white water rafting crossed off the 'things to do before i die list'.
An hour and a half of driving (and sleeping) we arrived in Taupo. Sat around one of the biggest lakes in Australasia, Taupo is a fantastic place to spend those long hot summer holidays. Unfortauntely june is winter in NZ so it is cold, but with blue clear skies you can still see the snow topped mountains surrounding the lake. Taupo is also another home of extreme sports. It is the place where i would be falling out of a plane.... We got picked up to go to the Taupo Tandem skydiving school. We signed our life away on various forms and waited for the weather to clear. We waited and waited and eventually left to do another activity. We would return to it 2moz and luckily we did as the weather when we DID do it, was perfectly clear. Fecking cold, but we were assured this only helps to improve visibility - o well. So instead of skydiving we went jet boating instead. This is a boat powered by, well a jet, that shoots water at high speed out of its back. Im not sure how fast the boat went down the river, but fast enough to be one of the best jet boat rides in the world.
We arrived at the boating station and put on 'costume number 2':
- a big fleece to cover any clothes we were wearing
- a long black waterproof plastic jacket that went down to the knee and looked like something they wear in an abattoir
- another oversized life jacket tightened far beyond the tightness actually necessary
The boat would speed up and down the river, bouncing along the rapids, weaving in between rocks, trees and narrow canyons, doing 180 and 360 degree spins, throwing up water all around us. Wasnt as adrenaline filled as we thought it would be, but it was still a good way to pass the time. Definately something to try and something to remember. It only lasted 45 mins though which was a bit of a disappointment - as was us only being able to cover a short length across the river before it became to rough to go any further :(
Today it was time for the biggy - skydiving. Part of me was hoping the weather would be too bad to do it, but the other part was just wanting to get up there and fall out that dam plane. Luckily (or unluckily) it was the latter. Conditions were perfect for jumping. e were booked for a 10am and visibility was perfect from coast to coast - especially at 15,000 feet. We got into 'costume number 3':
- a large red and blue jumpsuit
- a series of chains, metal rings, and straps
- a plastic and leather hat designed to stop you banging your head and the cold of the wind
- plastic glasses that resembled those cooling specs you put over your head when you have a headache
After a worryingly short briefing where we were told how to fall out, where to put our hands and feet, and how we SHOULDNT panic, we were introduced to our tandem masters. I would happily do this over bungee jumping for the simple reason you dont have to open the plane doors and think 'shit im going to have to do jump this now...1....2....wait wait...no start again.....1......2....'. Because you are tied to someone who thinks nothing of throwing themselves out of a plane, whether you like it or not, once you are in the sky you are going OUT of that plane - sooner rather than later. Thus there is no reason to panic...!?! After havign some general abnter with our tandem people, we were led off to the plane - an almost ramshackle looking piece of yellow machiney that we all managed to cram into. FUll to the gills of yellow and red jumpsuits, cables, wires, clips and tubes, the plane left the runway and took off into the perfectly clear blue skies. Next time i touched ground would be after i would jump from a plane - i was NOT happy!!