After an early night, the Gap Year Buddy and I had an early morning, catching the bus at 7.30am. Our first stop was some old gold mines and we walked through the pitch black tunnels and over some rickety bridges before heading off. Next was the town of Hobbiton – not the place where Frodo lived but an actual town. We had a picture with a Lord of the Rings statue and grabbed a meatball sub for lunch but sadly we didn’t have time to take a tour over to the actual Shire movie set. Instead, we had to move onto our final destination of the day: Rotorua.
Upon our arrival, we went to a geothermal park, where there were mud pools and geysers sending steam out of the ground. We also got to see some native Kiwi birds which appeared to be having some kind of fight with each other.
The next activity on our Kiwi Experience bus tour was a visit to the Tamaki Maori village where the maori people performed dances, songs and hukkas. Before we arrived, we were warned not to laugh as the village members could appear comical. Apparently one time a man had laughed during the hukka and he was rewarded with a headbutt. Thankfully, I found it more intimidating than funny, so that was not a problem. Everyone else seemed to feel exactly the same way.
We were also showed how the maori did their tattoos, carvings and how they killed their food. We were then treated to a buffet feast for dinner. I was left very happy after a dinner of roast lamb and gravy. Our day ended with a bus ride back to the hostel, singing songs as we went, before dancing the night away at Lava bar.
The Gap Year Buddy and I spent the morning wandering around Rotorua. We were collecting shot glasses in every country we visited (not the most practical souvenir but never mind), so we found our New Zealand ones here, bought some postcards and a Subway and then headed back to the hostel to get ready for today’s big adventure: a skydive.
We’d booked our skydive while we were back in Auckland and, after a bit of a wait, our minibus finally arrived to pick us up and take us to the jump site. When we climbed in, we were shown a DVD of a skydive and were given the option of getting one for ourselves or a photo package – we opted for the photos. They were expensive but we needed a memento and they turned out fantastically, although having watched a lot of people’s films since, I wish I had that too.
As we arrived at the jump site, we were prepped before being taken up into the air. It took a little while to get to 12,000ft. Annoyingly, I get travel sick and those little planes do not do me any favours, so I was really looking forward to getting out into the fresh air. My instructor and photographer – Peter and Tony – chatted to me and told me what I needed to do and, before I knew it, the door was opening.
The Gap Year Buddy was the first to jump and I quickly followed. It was hands down the best experience of my life. I hate heights, I mean really hate them, but, at 12,000ft, vertigo did not kick in and I giggled for the whole freefall. I was giddy with excitement.
I had expected to have the same sensation as you get when you’re falling in a dream (you know, when you get that lurch in your stomach) but instead I floated over a toy town of little cars and mountains. 45 seconds later, the parachute was deployed and we drifted over the lakes before hitting the ground with a surprisingly little bump. Once it was over, I couldn’t wait to do it again.
The excitement of the skydive really took it out of us, so instead of checking out the hostel pool, we crashed in bed whilst stuffing our faces with crisps. After a nap, we wandered down to the kitchen to try out our super-cheap, 55p macaroni and cheese. It was actually not that bad and we relaxed in front of the TV before getting an early night to prepare for our early morning.