After smelly Rotorua we went to the powerful Huka Falls (which looks like mouthwash it's so blue) and then hit Taupo, where I had my very first skydive! It was absolutely UNREAL! We had a scenic flight up to 15,000 feet above the huge Lake Taupo (which is the same size as Singapore!) strapped snuggly to my instructor and more excited than nervous. Once the oxygen mask was on the nerves kicked in a little, but on watching all my fellow passengers tumble out of the plane before me there was nothing but cold hard adrenaline! 1... 2... 3 and WAHOOO HOLY S**T! We twirled out of the plane and I think I forgot to breathe as we hurtled towards the earth, disorientated at first until I figured out what was blue sky and what was water, then just blown away by the feeling of freefalling through clouds and sunlit sky. Once the parachute opened I could actually stop swearing and start taking in the incredible views, even steering the parachute by myself :D
That night we went on the Taupo Bar Crawl, winning a half price voucher for a boat trip by being super fast to roll a coconut from hips to chin between Anna and I, with only minor bruises incurred. Other challenges taken on by the revellers included Kareoke, Balloon Popping and a Wet T-shirt competition, and a good night was had by all! The next day Anna and I went on our boat trip to see some Mauri carvings which was nice and chilled, with only one chorus of 'I'm on a Boat' quitely sang.
Our bus then headed into the Tongariro National Park, where much of Lord Of The Rings was filmed. Movie buffs might reecognise Mount Doom (or Mount Ngauruhoe as it's Mauri name reads) which dominates the landscape there. We also visited Gollum's Pool; since then I've watched all three LOTR movies and now feel cool being able to point out spots I recognise from NZ's stunning landscape. Other fun facts- apparently Kiwi Director Peter Jackson used New Zealand's SAS or army or something for the realistic fight scenes in the Battle of Helms Deep, but the injury register was so long afterwards that the Kiwi president wouldn't let him use them again for other battles in the film!
From there we moved on to the little-known River Valley lodge. I couldn't tell you where it is, not because it's a secret just it's in the middle of nowhere down a steep valley on the bank of a river! It's beautiful there though, we played volleyball and sunbathed and just had a well deserved rest. The river is great for rafting but is very cold as it's melted glacier water (I felt the chill when forced to jump in fully clothed for my Uno forfeit, though the wine took the edge off!)
Though I could have stayed at River Valley for days on end, we moved on to New Zealand's capital; Wellington. As it was the last time me and Anna could go out together before her return to England, we toasted our time together in the city. Luckily, though it was a Sunday, luckily the following day was a bank holiday for 'Wellington Day' so we could dance along to a live band as though it was a Friday- fate much? Wellington's free Te Papa museum was fantastic and we spent the next day exploring the city, enjoying the cable car up to a great viewpoint and botanical gardens, and eating- happy days :)
After an early start and a sad goodbye the next morning and I found myself on the ferry to the stunning South Island (choppy to begin with but it got much better) for our first South Island stop; Kaiteriteri. This is on the edge of the Abel Tasman National Park, and it was a great place to relax for a couple of days; sunbathing, playing mini golf and being big kids on the park and flying fox. Back on the bus we braved the wind to walk along Cape Foulwind, spotting seals lounging on the rocks and taking in the views, a whopping 16,286 kilometres from London (said the sign).
A couple more walks through lush forests, along raging coastlines and through the blowholes of Pancake Rocks and we found ourselves at Lake Mahinapua. We stayed at 82 year old Les's place; barrack-style set of basic accomodation in the middle of nowhere, but 50 metres from his legendary 'Poo Pub'. This is where every Kiwi Experience bus has a steak meal cooked by Les and our driver guide followed by a raucous fancy dress party. Our theme was 'Bad Taste' and boy did everyone lower the tone with their costumes! Pregnant nuns, cross-dressing paedophiles and stuffed-animal thongs were the order of the day, the drinks came in jugs and the jukebox played some belters- epic night!
We stopped at Lake Matheson for the picture-perfect mirror views of the mountains in the lake and a glimpse of NZ's two tallest snow-capped mountains, followed by Huka River, sparse bushland and on to Wanaka. Nothing much to report at Wanaka, it's pretty but small, but there's an awesome Puzzling Place that boggled our minds for a couple of hours! We moved on to a bungy jumping site (not for me thanks!) and on to the #1NZ party place; Queenstown. My first night was epic but I probably should have shared my World Bar teapot and not rinsed the 11pm free bar! I'm here for a few more days then chilling out at Lake Tekapo before heading to Christchurch for my flight to Oz- I have LOVED my time on the Kiwi Experience bus, bring on Oz!