Rainy Rotorua

Wednesday February 15th – Thursday February 16th | Rotorua 🌳 – Palmerston North 🌧 | 649 Km 🚙

Apparently skydiving makes you pretty hungry so we went to BurgerFuel in Taupo for lunch. I had a Thunderbird chicken burger: chicken breast, aioli, jalapeños, lettuce, tomato and, quite possibly the best burger topping ever, pineapple.  This place could definitely rival FergBurger. The burgers even came with a Doofer to hold it together while eating it. Genius!  Val and I also shared an order of kumara fries which are similar to sweet potato fries but better. The main difference (I think) is that a kumara has purple skin and is a little more fluffier in texture. 

From there we drove out to Huka Falls. Huka Falls are located on the Waikato river which produces approximately 15% of New Zealand’s power. The river system supplies eight hydroelectric stations and provides cooling water for two geothermal and one thermal power station. All of the waterfalls we’ve seen in New Zealand have been stunning: pristine water in beautiful shades of blue surrounded by luscious, green vegetation and Huka Falls were no exception. 

Waikato River just before Huka Falls

Around 200,000 litres of water plunges over the face of the falls every second and creates a huge amount of white water. It almost looks like foam created in a washing machine which explains why Huka Falls are named as such. Huka means foam in Maori. I wondered if anyone would be crazy enough to whitewater raft here and we found out later that yes, some of the locals do attempt it even with kayaks. 

The face of Huka Falls

We drove back up to Rotorua to the Redwoods Treewalk. The grove of redwoods were planted here in 1901 and the tallest tree is 72 meters high and has a diameter of 2 meters – apparently that’s enough wood to build 3.5 houses! It was a really nice walk through the trees which housed 22 different platforms to stop on to learn about the forest and admire the views. 

We spent Wednesday evening at the Tews home again before departing Thursday morning to the Living Maori Village at Whakarewarewa just outside of Rotorua. It was very interesting and deserves its own post so I’ll get to that later. 

The drive from Rotorua to Palmerston North was uneventful. Our boredom was interrupted only by two super cool roadside attractions. The first was a gigantic gumboot statue in Taihape. Taihape hosts an annual gumboot day (unfortunately we’ll miss it) including gumboot throwing competitions and a human dog barking competition.  Maybe next time …

Taihape: The Gumboot Capital of the World

The second was the town of Bulls. They have a massive, black bull welcoming you to town and the rubbish buns are shaped like milk crates. I also need to be friends with whomever came up with the witty slogans in this place. 

Examples:

Herd of Bulls?  A town like no udder. 

Scrap-a-bull scrap booking store. 

Constabull – police station

Forgiveabull – church

Cureabull – hospital 

We didn’t spot the sign but apparently there’s one in town that points you to all of the different places. I’m sad we missed it.  Here’s a pic I took from their Facebook page. 


A few hours later we arrived in Palmerston North where we had booked a cabin for the night though I’m beginning to think we might need an ark at this rate … 


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Rainy Rotorua

Freefallin’ 

Wednesday February 15th | Rotorua 😎 – Taupo 🎒 | … Km + 15,000 feet 🛩

She’s a good girl, loves her mama

I guess that’s why I didn’t tell her I jumped out of a plane until after I was safely on the ground. Because mums worry and I’m considerate like that …

Holy shit. 

Ian shared some delicious, warm hot cross buns with us for breakfast, Carol was kind enough to let us do a load of laundry then we hit the road to Taupo. I had planned to skydive at 12:50pm but we figured it would be a good idea to check it was all good before we ate lunch so went straight to the airport. The guy said I could jump right away, if I wanted, so twenty minutes later I was in a jumpsuit ready to go. Ready. I use that word lightly.

Joel was my tandem skydive partner master.  Partner implies I did some of the work but he was the sole contributor to the jump and I was just along for the ride. I suited up and was strapped into a harness. We hopped into the plane with five other tandem divers and began our ascent to 15,000 feet.  Joel immediately clipped me to him which made me feel a lot more secure knowing that, should anything bad happen, I was attached to a pro. I also had a life jacket strapped to my waist … I wouldn’t need it but the lake is pretty big so better safe than sorry.

Ready to go up in the plane

I think I had a bit of a death grip on the handle for the first couple of minutes but relaxed pretty quickly.  I asked Joel how long it would take before we hit the ground. He joked that he hoped we wouldn’t hit it but would land around five and a half minutes after jumping … Or one and a half if we didn’t pull the chute. I appreciate a witty sense of humour so lightened up after that. 

Oxygen on around 12,000 feet

Around 12,000 feet up Joel gave me an oxygen mask, pulled the very un-stylish brown hat onto my head and cinched the goggles tightly to my face. It wasn’t long before we reached altitude and all of a sudden I found myself perched on the edge of the plane ready to jump be pushed. 

Perched and ready to dive

Holy fucking shit. 

I wanna free fall, out into nothin’ // Gonna leave this, world for awhile

Sitting with my legs dangling out of the plane looking down at a large patchwork of vibrant green grass, deep blue Lake Taupo, and the miniature houses of town was definitely the scariest part. It felt like eternity but in all reality was more like five seconds. Joel catapulted us out of the bright, yellow plane and we began our freefall. 

Freefalling

It took a few seconds for my mind to catch up to what my body was doing. I had my thumbs tucked into my harness, elbows down by my side and legs back between Joel’s knees … I was supposed to arch myself like a banana but that’s a bit of an ask when you’re trying to concentrate on not dying. 

The view from the freefall

We were in freefall for approximately a minute and reached a speed of around 200km/h. All you can hear up there when you’re going that fast is noise and all you can feel is the goggles digging into your cheeks from the pressure, the cool air and a bit of dry mouth. But what you can see is spectacular: the curvature of the earth, the miniature green-wrapped silage bales that look like tiny marshmallows, the ant sized cars scurrying through town and the beautiful expanse of Lake Taupo.  It was unreal. 


Sixty seconds later Joel pulled the cord and I felt a small upward jolt as our chute released. The next few minutes was my favourite part. We soared through the air so effortlessly: turning here and gliding there like a giant bird. The view was phenomenal.  Joel loosened up my harness so I could sit a little more comfortably and enjoy the descent back to earth. This was definitely my favourite part.

Back on solid ground

The landing was a lot smoother than I anticipated. Basically I had to lift my legs up and we landed on our butts. I was unhooked and the jump was over. 

Pumped up from the skydive!

Since this was a bucket list item of mine I decided to purchase the selfie video and photos that were all taken from a Go-Pro attached to Joels wrist.  Sky diving isn’t cheap but it was so worth it. It was a great adrenaline rush, a little scary but fun as hell. I would highly recommend you add it to your list of must-dos and if you’re in Taupo definitely go with Taupo Tandem Skydiving. The guys there are a lot of fun and absolute pros. 

Freefallin’