Taupo was only a short 2 hour bus ride from Napier. As I arrived in Taupo I had a voice in my head questioning, "Should I do it." The past few days I for some reason got the crazy idea that I might consider skydiving. In my entire life, Skydiving has been something that I always told myself I would never do. But something since arriving in New Zealand made me give it a bit more of a thought. Which is strange because I have been surrounded by these sorts of adventure activities many times during my travels previously. Mainly Switzerland and all throughout Australia. I think it was just hearing people describe their experience and myself really makin the most of new zealands adventure activities. Well I hit a moment where I thought if I am considering doing it so much, just do it. This was the place to do it too. Taupo is known as the skydive capital of the world statistically since more than 30,000 jumps are made each year here. It is also because it is one of the few skydive places with such a diverse surrounding, with the area surrounded by snow capped mountains, glacier valleys, forests and New Zealands largest lake, Lake Taupo, a lake bigger than the size of Singapore. By 11am I was booked to jump out of a plane at 2pm. The next 4 hours I spent walking around town, surprisingly feeling pretty relaxed. Too be honest, I felt relaxed the entire time, until the plane door opened and it was time to jump out.
I got picked up from my hostel and taken to the nearby airport. After a quick intro I met my jump partner, Steve, an American from Chicago. I was a bit upset that I didnt get an authentic kiwi but Steve ended up being great, he was also the most experienced of the rest of the crew. Not even sure if there were any kiwi guides. Steve is just one of the thousands of foreigners that have come over to New Zealand to capitalize on the THRIVING New Zealand tourism industry. Anyhow, after I was all suited up it was time to get in the plane, which happened to be bright pink.
For those of you that haven't skydived, you are sitting backwards in the plane, thus making it easier to jump out when the time comes. Doing a take off looking the opposite way of the planes direction felt a bit weird but was actually pretty nice. I didn't know how my body was gonna take the flight being not such a great flyer but held up quite nice...for now. Steve and I were going to be 2nd to jump, which I was quite satisfied. Better than being 1st out, and a lot better than being last out. As we reached our altitude level of 12,000 ft it was go time. They opened up the door/gate and it was time to make it happen. After the first guy jumped it was a matter of 5 seconds till I was hanging my legs out the plane not knowing what the hell was happening. WHen I think back on it it is almost just a blur, everything just happened all so quick. I think Steve gave a quick 3-2-1 countdown and it was time. As I leaped out the plane I remember the first 2 words out of my mouth were HOLY SHIT. I don't think I could even finish the "S" word, not because I tried to refrain from swearing, but for the fact that my mind just couldnt fully function and take in what the hell was currently happening. The first few seconds right off the plane were by far the most intense. I think the whole concept of jumping out of a plane catches up to you and you know your too late to rethink things. After those first few seconds it was quite enjoyable flying down at speeds around 120 miles per hour. I was trying my best to take in the views around me and look good for the camera that steve had. (the 5 minute video of my jump is a great one, cant wait to show people.) In order to give me a full look around on the fall Steve threw in some spins, much that I didn't like and I recall trying to wave my arms to try and stop the spins mid air but it was a useless effort, not like I knew how to do anything in the air, Steve was all in control. After about this 20-30 seconds free fall it was time to open up the parachute, my facial expression as the chute opens is absolutely classic. Traveling down at such speeds and suddenly being halted by a chute transfers out an enormous amount of momentum, erasing the entire face of any sort of previous facial expression. Well the hard part was done, all we had to do was guide ourselves into the landing zone. And as I previously expected this was the worst part of the jump. Something about being suspended up in the air and gliding around with a parachute made me feeling nauseous and dizzy. I ended up getting super motion sick on the way down. Halfway down Steve miraculously pulled out a bag from who knows where just in case I had to throw up He was just in time and probably save himself from receiving any in the face via wind spray. As you can imagine this was not to enjoyable to me. However I did yell at Steve when he stopped filming me, I told him to keep the camera on me, it was all part of the experience and I was paying heaps of money for him to operate a camera. Haha. I had my face deep in the bag all the way till landing, which was very soft and easy. No matter how sick I was I was still amped on all that had just happened and still managed to give a thumbs up to the camera and thank Steve.
Even after ground, my sickness seemed to keep on going. To spare you further grotesque graphical images, lets just say I washed out every single ounce in my system. I'de like to note that this is an ideal example to the differences of my New Zealand and Australia trips. Australia, my worse sickness was inflicted by an alcoholic strawberry shot on a pub crawl, and in New Zealand, the sickness was inflicted by jumping out of a plane. Both low points of legendary memorable moments. Back at the Skydive center I was all about trying to feel better, whatever it meant. I didn't bother conversing with any of my fellow jumpers or even watching my video or photos. It was unfortunate but it happens to about 30% of jumpers. Something to claim tho was that the man at the desk said I was the worst out of everyone hes seen sick. Sweet As. I may have physced myself out since Ive heard other people get sick and already knew I get pretty motion sick but I think its worthy to note that even though I did know the possibility of getting sick, it still didn't stop me from skydiving.
I'm not one to prove anything to anyone but myself. What I proved by jumping from 12,000 feet out of a plane I don't know but the fact of the matter is I did it.
Will I skydive again, probably not. Do I regret doing it, absolutely not. How would I describe the feeling of jumping out of a plane? Indescribable.
It was around 6 as I got back to my hostel. I headed straight for bed as lying down seemed to be the only thing that was keeping me alive. I woke up around 9 and had to make way to the supermarket to stock up for my hike the next day, it was a terrible supermarket experience. I forced fed myself some food in the night to try to get something in me before bed, luckily it all seemed to stay down.
Day 2 : Sunday February 28, 2010 - The Tongariro Alpine Crossing
Today I tramped the widely claimed "New Zealand's Best One Day Hike", The Tongariro Alpine Crossing.
My shuttle bus to the park arrived at my hostel at 540am, so I woke up around quarter to 5. I was still feeling pretty shitty from the day before and did not know how my body was going to handle a 20 kilometer hike. I questioned every bit of it but carried on. Half-awake/sick I frantically prepared my food for the hike and brewed up my vitamin c powder drink. The ride to the start of the track took about 1.5 hours and dosed off a bit on the way.
A little after 7 I started the tramp and the sun was just rising over the nearby mountains. The problem with NZ's best one day hike is the heaps of other people it attracts. With such beautiful scenery around you, the last thing you want is other people near you and getting in your way. I found myself always trying to distance myself from the hoards and never had too big of a problem. The beginning of the track was the worse but threw on my music for that section of the tramp. Usually it would be rare to find yourself ahead or behind within a 100 meter radius, but when I did, it was a perfect time for a piss break as I was drinkin heaps of water to try to revive my body from the previous days wear down.
The path led thru some vast crater valleys and up onto the crater ridges. The path weaved thru two massive volcanic mountains, Mount Tongariro and Mount Ngauruhoe, with Mount Ruapehu in the distant background. The entire Tongariro National Park was a huge filming spot for Lord of The Rings, including Mordor as Mt. Ruapehu and Mt. Doom as Mt. Ngauruhoe. The entire surroundings around the hike were all very picturesque, even if it was just a mount of volcanic rocks or a massive barren crater floor plain.
One of the many highlights of my hike was my side trip to the summit of Mount Tongariro. In the beginning, up at around 1600 meters, the clouds were all around me and visibility was very low. I eventually was at a point where I was seeing over the clouds, felt pretty crazy. Almost like flying in an airplane. I enjoyed my lunch at the summit waiting for the clouds to pass. The clouds never fully burnt out but still occasionally provided exceptional views of the directly opposite Mt. Nguaruhoe. Mount Nguaruhoe was definitely the most beautiful of the big 3 active volcanoes. Mostly because it was cone shapes, single vented and the only one that actually resembled a volcano. I caught myself always saying to myself how sick of a view it was. I took so many photos of it I started to feel like I was the reason that one band made that great song "I think I'm Turning Japanese"
From the summit of Mount Tongariro, I made my way back onto the main track along the Red Crater ridge. I found out where the name red crater came from. The red tint in the rock looked almost painted on.
From there the track made a steep descent down to nearby lakes and hot pools. This part of the track might have been my favorite. Not only was it steep but it was all loose rock/gravel. As I saw heaps of stupid tourists around me fall on their asses, I conquered the big downhill with great footing tactics, confidence, and the ability to know when to just slide with the rocks beneath your feet. Once you got the hang of it it almost felt like a sport you could call Rock Sliding. Yea so the steep hill filtered out to three major pools/lakes, all with a different tint of turquoise blue.
From the path moved onward thru another barren valley and led to the big "Blue Lake" I stopped there and enjoyed my great cadbury Picnic candy bar and downed more water.
From here not much left here on the track rather than more beautiful views, the occasional sulfur smell, and some hot springs. The end of the tramp brought me thru the rainforest, which I found pretty great having just been next to giant volcanoes an hour or 2 before. The hike showcased all climates and environments, possibly the reason it is such a raved hike. The final few kilometers in the rainforest was a great cool down and the perfect way to end one hell of a hike.
The 23 kilometer hike took me alot quicker than expected, a little under than 8 hours. It wasn't very strenuous at all and the parts that were were early in the morning when I was still feeling a bit sick. Devil's staircase in the early part of the hike was definitly the most tiring. Step after step after step.
I've had some pretty legendary day hikes here and don't know if I would put anyone in front of the other, they have all been stellar, and this one was no exception. I would definitely put it up there as one of my top 5 hikes ever, accompanying Half Dome in Yosemite and Cinque Terre in Italy.
Day 3 : Monday March 1, 2010
From the previous 2 days of skydiving and doing the popular hike, I was feeling pretty accomplished, got a bit lazy with sightseeing as I felt nothing would probably match or come close to the previous days excitements. Spent the day cruising around town, souvenir browsing.
At 130 I did have one last adventure activity in Taupo, The Huka Falls Jet. An expensive yet highly entertaining jet boat ride that led you right up to the roaring Huka Falls. The jet boat was developed by a kiwi and can operate in as little as 1 meter of water. We were flying right on the edge of the river banks, edging trees and rock cliffs. The signature 360 spin was a big part of the boat ride. It was a bit of a performance for the tourists on top of the falls looking down on us. We put on a good show for sure.
It was a great boat ride, definitely got some thrills out it.
Cheating the system, taking a photo of the photo they wanted me to pay 20 dollars for. Ha
After I took another walk around town, hit some golf balls into the lake, cruised past the Taupo Bungy site and enjoyed a kebab.
This post was too long and apologize. tired of typing, not liking my sentence structure and not much more to report anyhow.
Taupo as you can see was an action packed 3 days.