Taupo & River Valley, New Zealand

After walking around the beautiful redwood forest we hit the road again and arrived in Taupo in the early afternoon. We made a short pit stop at the Huka Falls which were beautiful. 

 

We soon arrived in the town and our driver, Diesel, dropped us off at our Hostel, Urban Retreat which was by far the nicest place we’ve stayed at so far. Brie, Hanna, Rose and Claire had already been in Taupo for a couple of days and were sitting out in the hostel garden waiting for us – it was a little welcome party which was so nice! 

It was absolutely beautiful weather out and the girl from the hostel said that if we wanted to do a skydive we should do it today as the weather was perfect and wasn’t forecast to stick. She then said that if we wanted to do it we had to book in the next 15 minutes…This was probably the best way for this sort of decision to be made – we didn’t really have time to think about it and 15 minutes later we were in the limo (!) on our way to the Skydive Taupo base! Argh!

  

When we arrived at the base we were taken through the dive procedure, shown health and safety videos and were all kitted up. We had the option of either a 12,000ft jump or 15,000ft – I went for the 15,000ft as it gave you slightly longer in the air. I met my dive instructor, Ricky, who was hilarious and made the whole thing slightly (slightly!) less scary. Before I knew it we were in the air and on our way to 15,000ft (after watching a couple of the girls jump at 12,000ft). Anyone who was doing the higher jump had to wear oxygen masks.

  

I was the last jumper so watched everyone else go before me – the plane jolted every time someone jumped out which was not the best feeling! Before I knew it Ricky was shuffling me down the plane and I was hanging out the plane’s door. You have to put your head back on the instructors shoulder and wrap your legs under the plane like a banana. I’m surprised that I managed to follow any simple instruction at this point.

  
 Soon Ricky threw us out the plane and we were free falling at 200km/hour. I expected to feel like we were floating, but no, you feel everything and definitely feel like you’re falling… To your death. It was incredible but absolutely terrifying; I was screaming the entire time. 

   
    
 
Soon Ricky pulled the parachute and we jolted up and began floating. It was so beautiful looking out over Lake Taupo. Ricky let me steer the parachute which I was rubbish at – he then started pulling at one side so we spiralled down. That was perhaps the scariest part! 

   
 
Before I knew it we were approaching the landing strip and I was told to lift my legs up. As you can see by my face I didn’t love this part! Miriam’s story of her dad breaking his legs on landing had scarred me.

    

The whole experience was completely amazing. I would do it again in a heartbeat. I have a video of the entire jump which if you’re all lucky I will share when I’m back home.
That evening Brie, Sheila, Hanna and I were going out on the sailing boat The Barbary, so the skydive people kindly dropped me off at the jetty. The boat trip was for two and a half hours and was BYOB. The skipper also loaded the boat up with pizza which was amazing. We sailed around Lake Taupo, drank, ate and listened to music. It was so much fun. We also stopped off and admired the Maori carvings in the rock which were beautiful.

   
    
 
  
That evening we went back to the hostel and had a couple of drinks in the Hostel bar. My first gin and tonics of the trip!

  

The next morning, after waking up at 4am the Tongariro crossing (an 8 hour walk across the volcanoes) was unfortunately cancelled due to strong winds and the chance that the Volcano (Mount Doom from Lord of the Rings) was about to erupt (!) I managed to go back to sleep but the rest of the girls watched movies in the hostel’s film room. 
At about half 10 we all went to a cafe called Replete and had the most delicious brunch out in the sun with many, many coffees. 

  

We then went on a hike which took about 3 hours. We watched the bungee jumpers and then headed to the hot springs for a quick dip. It was such a lovely afternoon.

    
  
That evening the hostel had a $8 chilli and drink deal which we took full advantage of – any excuse not to cook in the hostel kitchens. We had a few drinks that evening as normal on the hostel floor.
The next morning we woke up early and got our stuff packed ready for the bus. Annoyingly I was on standby so was a little unsure as to whether I would be able to board the bus. Lucky I was fine and Diesel let me on – phew! 

We headed to the Tongariro National Park where we would all be embarking on a 6km walk – I did not realise when I signed up for travelling NZ how much walking I would be doing! We stopped first at the town of Whakapapa (pronounced f*ckapapa) and had a look around the visitor centre. Whakapapa is situated right in between the active volcanos which is a little terrifying if you think about it too much. Apparently they have the equivalent of air raid alarms if anything does show signals of eruption.

    

The weather wasn’t fantastic that day but we hoped it would clear up during the walk. We couldn’t be more wrong – we got absolutely soaked. So soaked that you literally could ring water from my trousers. 

      
The walk however was beautiful; we saw the Tamaki falls and ‘Gollum’s Pool’ from Lord of the Rings where the phrase ‘my precious’ became famous.

        
After lots of moaning (mostly from me) we got back on the bus and shivered most of the way down to River Valley Lodge. The drive took about two hours but Diesel kept us entertained with stories about the area, games of eye spy and the geographical reasons for the area’s hilly gradient (something to do with the to do with the ripple effect from the tectonic plates).

We arrived in River Valley in the evening and hiked our bags down the steep incline towards the lodge. Our day in River Valley felt like an absolute holiday; the lodge was right at the bottom of the valley, was like a little log cabin and had no wifi or mobile phone signal. When we arrived we either had the choice of a 32 people dorm room; or a 6 people dorm – we swiftly went for the 6!

  
We were fed up with the most amazing roast dinner which was hands down the best thing I’ve eaten on the trip so far. 

  
That evening turned into probably the booziest of the trip so far – particularly for Claire, one of the girls in our room, so that made the end of the night interesting…

              

The next morning we woke up in a bit of a daze. The lodge had bottomless coffee which was a dream. I sat outside in the sun enjoying the scenery which was lovely. 

  

Brie and I then went and tried out the pulley bridge across the river. As always, I screamed the whole way across!   

 
 
      

 Our bus was leaving at around 1pm but before we left we had the most amazing lunch of proper home cooked food – Brie and I went for the enchiladas which were delicious!

  

Stuffed, we headed back up the hill towards the bus ready for our next stop – New Zealand’s capital city, Wellington. 

  

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