Back on a road we had already taken, we relived the original views that took our breathe away in our first major drive here, as Devine as ever, only in reverse.
Next stop Taupo, where plans that had been hatched at home some 5 months ago were going to come to fruition.
Arriving in the pissing rain, the town was anything but as glum as the weather. A golf challenge perched on the side of lake taupo welcomed you, with a macdonalds nearby complete with airplane as part of the restaurant and an array of shops and bars completing the town.
Huka falls was a short drive from our camp site. The tumbling and crashing power of the vociferous water tumbled beneath us as we hovered on the bridge above. The turquoise river stretched away into the distance, another beauty of nature, so simply humbling.
We then headed to Craters of The Moon. Hot springs under the ground cause steam to bellow from holes in the earths surface creating steam stacks from bubbling mud pools. My jaw bungeed to the floor when the cantankerous old gate keepers informed us that we would have to pay for access to this natural wonder. Begrudgingly lining their pockets with our $16, we set off coat less as an ominous cloud slid overhead. As the rain started down we had to speed around the attraction, albeit not regrettably as the repetitious nature became a tad tedious.
The following day, the gods blessed us with a short blue parting in the grey sky, and we headed off to reduce that ol’ bucket list by one.
Arriving at Skydive Taupo, nerves were still on edge as we signed up, carefull to not commit ourselves should we decide to bottle it. Watching the set up video, my excitement flourished but the apprehensive look on Holly’s face only grew.
Before we knew it, there was no turning back and we were standing in the back of the aircraft hanger, donning our nifty blue suits for the jump.
The nerves fired through me, less like innocent butterflies and more like hideous jolts of lightening.
The tandem dive instructor had a brief chat about what would happen and how the whole thing would transpire before commencing record the whole experience for DVD. Strangely, thinking about my first theatrical performance helped to take my mind off the impending stunt, in my attempt not to cock up for tv.
Aboard the flight, peering back at a terrified holly, her nerves seemingly transferred to me.
I was psyching myself up, screaming “You’re fucking doing it, you’re fucking doing it!” over and over in my head, repeating the simple phrase over to distract myself from the ascension. I didn’t think about fear in terms of consequence, like my parachute failing and me plummeting to the earth, but just felt a fear in my veins, my body aware of the situation it was soon to be thrown into.
I shuffled forward strapped to my skydive instructor. I was to go first.
He pulled a cord and the side door of the aircraft slid upwards and opened, the cold air gushed in the from whipping atmosphere outside.
“Ok, move” was his instruction to go to the door. I slid over, my feet dangling out the side of the plane, only air between me and the ground. There was not time to even think about being scared at the point, my head was bolted back, my vice like hands gripping the parachute straps as he slipped us out.
As my vision rolled from the blue heavens of space above me to catch the horizon then the connecting ground. I couldn’t hold back a, let’s say, manly scream as the rollercoaster feeling started, quickly transforming to the total fear of “WHAT THE FUCK AM I DOING”, before as quickly turning to a rush of excitement, adrenalin rallying through my veins, and a relief only matched by the wonder around me.
The free fall abruptly ended when the parachute is dispatched, thankfully without error. The world then slows down again, you feel like floating as your brain tries to comprehend the diminishing distance beneath. The longer the decent goes on, the longer you wish your had in this heroic suspension in mid air.
As we touched down to earth, right onto my arse, my stupefied grin would become a permanent fixture for the rest of the day.
We relived out moment over and over, watching our DVDs at the hanger and then again at the camp site.
While sitting on the edge of the lake, we ate our lunch still in absolute shock at what we had accomplished already that day.
The local hot spring was near by and we headed out to relax in a naturally heated river.
With time running out, we were in no position to rest on our laurels or the previous days splendour, and we were once again on the road.
The next planned stop was not too far. Rotorua, which smelled like farts because of the sulphuric air, was penciled in for our next overnight stay. Upon arrival we decided to bypass this place and head straight for Hot Water Beach.
We were now at our penultimate stop, the sun shining and feeling the warmth for what seemed the first time in our trip here. The spare bed sheet was out for a spot of sunbathing with some fish, chips and butties. The fleeting visits and monumental road trips were catching up to us and about 3000km of driving in less than 3 weeks had us zonked. A portly old black Labrador approached us and we became friends. He joined us on our bed sheet for some relaxing in the glow of the sun, welcoming any attention we happily dished out.
We were up for a bright and early start the following day, and headed down to the beach in the morning. It was surreal to see this side of New Zealand. After the many lush hills and the greenery of the country, we were now faced with a gorgeous beach and a clear blue sea pebbled with huge limestone rocks that had the resemblance of a South East Asian beach paradise.
We enjoyed some sunbathing a go on a tree swing and a frolic in the sea. In totally characteristic fashion, I tried to splash holly with a bit of the icy salt water and inadvertently also ended up throwing sand in her eye. Mr Smooth strikes again.
Once I was forgiven we headed off for a hike to Cathedral Cove, about 45 minutes over the hills. As we glided over in out flip flops, more and more people passed us dressed in full mountaineering gear with packs laden with supplies. Our towels and sun cream were all we had.
The cove was a spectacular sight, carved away from years and years of the cold ocean battering at the rock. This was another tremendous beauty marred by the over population of tourists. Nevertheless, we still enjoyed our relaxation on the small hideaway before heading back over the arduous walk.
We picked up the hire of a shovel and headed down to Hot Water Beach where we would be digging our own hot pool.
We carved through the mass of people, looking for a spot for our hot tub, a kid trying to direct us through a boiling pool, almost scolding us. Little tinker.
It was quite an extraordinary to have the warm water, filter up through the sand and hug our feet. Nature, once again, had the ability to ignite the wonder in us both.
There was a short drive to Auckland where our amazing trip in this extraordinary land would come to an end.
We had enough time back at our starting line to reflect on the most amazing few weeks of our lives. Again shopping and eating ensued, but mostly reminiscing of this magical land.With every place we have moved on from, we feel a sense of incompletion, that there is still part of every land we can and need to discover. Of all the places on the already long list of where we have visited, for me, New Zealand lies at the summit.