Earth, Sea and Sky

A lot has happened since leaving lovely Rotorua. I took the shortest bus journey so far to Taupo, a small town on the shores of Lake Taupo – the largest lake in New Zealand.

I checked into my hostel and had a lazy evening in. On such a long trip, I don’t want to be rushing out to do something constantly, it’s nice to have a chilled evening in to plan occasionally.

The next day I decided to walk to the Huka Falls, a beautiful waterfall which is quite famous in the area. The walk wasn’t too long and took me past a hot spring where people were bathing. It was a sunny day so I enjoyed the walk.

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The Huka Falls

I arrived at the falls after about an hour. They are not your conventional running off the a cliff kind of waterfall. There is an area where the river narrows significantly to go through a steep gorge through which the water flows violently and with an icy blue and white colouring. The colour, I think, it what first attracted people to the falls.

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The river just downstream of Anatiatia Dam

From the falls, there us a longer walk on to a dam called Anatiatia. I didn’t have any other plans for the day and I thought the long walk might prepare me for the Tongarirro crossing I was going to be doing in a couple of days. The walk was nice, it followed the river down to the dam. It was a very hot walk as there weren’t many trees lining the path. By the time I reached the dam, I had finished my water. The dam was pretty and serene.

I was given some water by a couple who were sitting in their car, then I headed back to Taupo. The walk seemed much longer on the way back and my legs were very tired by the time I got back to the hostel. I had a very lazy evening after this.

The next day I got up feeling very apprehensive. The reason for this was, after a lot of indecisiveness, I had booked a skydive the day before. The morning dragged on (my skydive was at 1pm ish) so I read a book to distract myself and soon it was time to go. I was picked up by the obnoxious yellow stretch hummer and rode to the airport with the seven other nervous passengers (who were all German – there are a lot of German backpackers in New Zealand). We arrived at the airport and checked in, we were given our flight suits and our harnesses, then we sat down to await our fate.

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About to do this!

Before long it was time to get in the plane. I met my tandem jumpmaster Elad who took some photos with me before we got in the plane. I was first out! I sat by door and looked down as the ground got further and further away. At this point I decided I was an idiot for booking it, but there was no going back. Elad strapped me securely to him and we waited until we reached the height to jump. He opened the door and we moved into position to jump. I closed my eyes and he chucked us both from the plane! I screamed as loudly as I could, the opened my eyes.

At this point I realised that free fall is really cool! After the initial acceleration, you barely feel like you are falling and the view and adrenaline rush are both incredible. It was almost calm at the point, when I looked around and thought – this is amazing! The lake sparkled below, the mountains hazy in the distance, the curve of the earth more obvious than normal. Wow.

All too soon the parachute was opened, the view was still excellent, but the harness suddenly felt tight. Elad loosened the harness and gave me the steering handles for the parachute. He took some more pictures and I marvelled at the view. We spiralled down towards the ground. This bit felt similar to paragliding, but less comfortable. We landed in a sitting position and I laughed, the effects if the adrenaline rushing through me. That was insane!

After all the apprehension, I was so glad I did it and the feeling after I landed was incredible! I would recommend skydiving to anyone (unless you have extreme vertigo) – you won’t regret it!

After an afternoon lounging in the sun letting the effects of the skydive mellow, I went out to buy some Lembas (many many snacks) for my journey through Mordor (Tongariro crossing). I was a bit concerned, as on my extended Huka falls walk, I had got a large blister on my heel.
It was a very early start to get to Tongariro – the bus picked me (and two american girls) up from the hostel at 5:50am! The bus took us to the start of the trail and we began walking. I tried to pace myself as my legs were still hurting a bit from the other walk. The first bit of the walk is fairly flat and goes through a moist marshy volcanic field.

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Through the marshes…

After maybe four kilometers of this, there is a nice waterfall called Soda Springs, then you come to the stairs. There are a lot of stairs. This bit was the hardest section of the walk – so many stairs! But the view at the top was worth the pain. At the top of the stairs is the large flat crater, shielded by the mountains. There are great views of Tongariro and Ngauruhoe (Mt Doom). You can climb Ngauruhoe from this point, but it is crazy steep and crazy dangerous!

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Up the stairs… (There is no tunnel for Shelob to hide in though)

After the crater there is a short, steep uphill climb to the highest point of the main walk. At the top I caught up with the girls from my hostel and we walked the rest of the way together. You can go along the ridge to the top of Tongariro, but we weren’t sure we had time to get back to our bus, so we continued on.

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Looking exceedingly fashionable at the halfway point

There is a very steep downhill with a lot of sand and scree descending to the Emerald Lakes – three small and beautiful green pools. I almost made it to the bottom without slipping, but took a minor tumble on one of the less steep parts (I am fine though).

From there the path led on round to the large blue lake which is so beautiful and desolate with only scrubby grass and small alpine flowers surrounding it. The descent from the mountain is a long path. To start with the view is stunning, looking back out over lake Taupo. It was sunny where we were but you could see clouds out in the distance – long white clouds!

The path is draped like spaghetti over the hillside, running through a lovely alpine landscape. I found myself thinking a direct zipline or slide would be preferable to return to the carpark, but this was mostly because my feet were hurting! After a long while, around an hour and a half, the path descends into trees with a little river running alongside. Then, another hour later, you end up in the carpark having completed the Tongariro Crossing! I was so happy to have walked through “Mordor” and the landscape up there was just stunning!

The next day, my tired legs dragged me back to the bus stop to go to the coastal town of Napier. I had a lazy evening in my pretty little hostel resting my tired legs and reading.

The next day was the only rainy day Napier has had in months (and also the only day I had there). I put off going out as long as I could and eventually went and got coffee at the lovely Six Sisters Cafe. I then headed to the bank and set up a New Zealand bank account. This was a lot more fun than expected as Nikki, the lady who helped me set up my account, gave me a lesson in New Zealand history while she was inputting the data into the computer.

The rain had subsided, so I went to say hello to the sea. The beach was made of small round grey stones, so it was very atmospheric out there. I wandered around for a while, then returned to the hostel for dinner. After dinner I had a little wander and saw some of the famous art deco buildings before heading home for bed.

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This blog took me a while to post, so there will be anpther one along shortly about my time in Wellington!

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