10.10.2012 - 11.10.2012 15 °C
Wednesday 10th October
Woken up with such a sore throat today. Cocodamol and hot drinks should sort it out though. Cloud and drizzle at the moment…good thing I’m wearing shorts and flip flops. We went for a long walk through the Tangoriro National Park. It’s part of where I skydived over yesterday, so it’s great to see it from the ground as well as the sky. The views from the peaks are awesome, but standing behind a waterfall looking out was breathtaking. Two hours of walking later, lunchtime. We get to stop off at cafes a lot, as well as supermarkets, and all the hostels have good kitchens (and laundry rooms) so we get to cook and clean on a daily basis to help save money and stay clean.
Back onto the coach, and we are off to see the waterfall where Dobby was eating fish (another Lord of the Rings reference).
And off to River Valley. We are told about this “experience” on the coach there – to what they call the ‘orgy pit’. Effectively its 32 people sleeping in one massive room. Eight beds all touching in a row, eight beds above, and then repeated the other side of the partition. Good thing I now know everyone on the coach, and there were only about 20 of us sleeping in there so plenty of room. As this adventure centre was in the middle of a valley, plus the middle of nowhere, there wasn’t any reception! Knowing I couldn’t be in contact with the ‘outside world’ for over 24 hours was initially a bit of a weird thing, but then became strangely nice. No checking of phones, facebook or emails – just enjoying the country.
After finding a bed not too close to anyone else, we all crossed the river on a makeshift pulley, and head up to the top of a ridiculously high hill. Just as we were about to reach the summit, we came across a sign: Do not go any further. People hunt here. Danger. Time to turn around then. What took about 45 minutes to climb, took 10 minutes to get back down. Very thin, winding paths with loose mud and pebbles all the way down…still exciting going down as much as it was climbing. Dinner and Jenga rounded off an exhausting day. Rafting tomorrow!!!
So, today’s the day. White water rafting on a grade 5 river (the highest rating there is). Six of us were met by the four guides, and off we set in 2 tops, wet suit, jacket and 2 sets of boots. The water was 9 degrees! We were told the water was relatively warm compared to the winter?! After a fun safety talk with demonstrations from Spencer (the guide) and Anna (26 yr old teacher from the west country) on how to fall out of the boat and how to get back in, we were off. 12 rapids….argh! They started off nice and gentle, with small blips and minimal white water, everything seemed to be going well. We then hit a rock sideways just where I was sitting. I knew I was able to stay in the raft with my sense of balance. However, both guides in our boat leapt towards me thinking I was about to fall out, me being none the wiser and thinking they’d both just fallen into the boat. Cue everyone having a laugh at my expense. In between the rapids, we all had a good chat, talking about ‘tramp stamps’ and war faces. After a few bigger rapids, we then came to the Jump Rock. Unfortunately the name is in the title. “The jump isn’t compulsory but you have to do it”. BRILLIANT! Up we climb to the top of a 7m rock. As Anna goes to jump, the guide shouts “Not from there!”, watches her scared face as she flies off the edge of the rock. He was joking, and thankfully everyone took it in good jest. I was next to go but bottled, letting Amy (28 yr old teacher from the West Country) go in front of me. How could I sky dive but then be scared of a 7m jump?! So I literally ran off the edge. 7m of screaming later, my hands slapped the water flat. Ohhhhh that stung!! My hands felt like they had been hit by 1000 needles each, and I was being told to swim through the 9 degree water back to the dinghy. Yeah right! Back in the boat, we carry on down the river, each rapid getting bigger, longer and more dangerous. Final one, and we are done. It’s then that we get told we have two instructors in the boat, as Spencer was being tested for his licence, and the other instructor was the assessor. Brilliant! Thankfully he passed with flying colours, and he says we will go in his scrap book as his “graduating team!”. Last thing to finish of the trip – to flip to boat! We paddled towards a rocky outcrop, and bundled to the left, and flipped it over. Again, water was freezing (I’d forgotten about that in the excitement of flipping the boat) and I popped up in the space bubble between the raft seats so everything was eerie and red. I had to pop out to the outside of the boat, holding onto the rope edge, and then float feet first down the river whilst Spencer flipped the boat back over. Then to get back into the boat. Those reading this will know how unglamorous this can be. Thing is, on the rapids, you couldn’t even kick. You literally were hauled into the boat by the shoulder straps of your lifejacket, and pulled in, landing like a fish out of water, kicking your legs a little but not actually making much progress as you are stuck on top of someone, wearing heavy clothing, and squidged between two rubber seating parts. As I said, not very glamorous! Warm shower, lunch and back onto the coach. I would love to have stayed there for a while. They had the option of accommodation, three meals a day, internet and one activity a week free in return for a few hours of barwork/reception duty a week. Lovely people, stunning surroundings, no outgoings. Unfortunately I have a flight booked out to Sydney. This is why people say your plans never stay the same as you thought.
Off to Wellington, the windy capital. As part of the standard tour, you spend just one night here. However, there is so much to see that most of the coach are staying four nights until the next coach comes through. Unfortunately that means saying goodbye to most of the people I’ve met so far. As we came into Wellington, we were told the main thing to do was Te Papa museum, so that’s what Megan (over from US on work trip but extending it for two weeks to see NZ) and I did as soon as we arrived. Four floors of New Zealand history. It was great, So many different things in the museum, from geography, animals, culture, history and buildings. They even had the Colossal Squid. Absolutely disgusting! Like something from independence day. This 495kg squid, with eyes the size of footballs, lying in a tank of preservation fluid. Only one of it’s kind in a museum though, and very spectacular.
Tomorrow is a 7.15am on the coach start, ferry over the south island, then onto Picton. Going to be quite a busy day again. I’d love to go to bed right now (it’s 10pm) but have to go say goodbye to everyone. Hopefully I will see most of them in Australia once they are finished in NZ.
So I went to say goodbye to everyone and came across Ladies Night in the hostel bar. Ladies had free drinks from 8-10pm, so missed those. I turn up to lady boys, including three of our mates. Not the most pleasant of sights really, but hilarious. They had to act like women for 30 seconds to “Girls just wanna have fun”. Apparently girls shake their bottoms a lot and shove their fake boobs in people’s faces?! Tess from Manchester (aka Liam) won – two free nights at the hostel and $100 (£50) bar tab. That’s about 20 pints by hostel prices. Lucky thing! Saying goodbye wasn’t great as it’s been lovely meeting these new people. Lots are heading over to Sydney at some point though, and all slowly becoming ”facebook friends”. So off to the South Island with Megan (USA), Anna and Mette (Denmark), Deborah and Laura (France), plus a whole new coach load of people. Fingers crossed we meet some equally nice people.