The Kiwi Bus had taken us to Waitomo, a village which contained very little. Basically, we had stopped off to see some caves. We had $35 taken from us and were then told that we weren’t allowed to take photos. Thankfully, the caves turned out to be pretty amazing, with lots of stalagmites and stalactites (I think I know which way round they go). We then all got onto a little boat and sailed in the dark to see all the glowworms stuck on the ceiling, which lit up the space like hundreds of little stars. You don’t see that everyday.
In the evening, we hit Curly Bar. It wasn’t as packed as we hoped, but it was a nice place to chat and drink before bed.
Taupo was our next stop. We arrived at about 1pm and we thought the time had come to organise our bungee jump, as we had some time on our hands. The woman at the front desk of our hostel kindly called the local company for us and her next response was, ‘Would you like to go now?’ 20 minutes later, two girls were to be found out on platform ledge, 47m over a river, in a gorge getting a bungee roped strapped around their ankles and some guy telling them to just lean forward and fall off. Was he crazy? I hate heights and, unlike with my skydive, vertigo had reared its ugly head.
After a few deep breaths- correction- after many deep breaths (probably about 10 minutes worth to be somewhat exact), I closed my eyes and stepped off the edge. With a whoosh, I saw the flash of a cliff go whizzing past. The feeling wasn’t quite as good as skydiving but it was still a good adrenaline kick. The experience was over pretty quickly and before I knew it I was bouncing back up again. A boat appeared underneath me and a woman lifted up a pole for me to grab onto and they pulled me in. I was then left to watch my travel buddy, who didn’t seem to need to take quite as many deep breaths as I did. She also looked a lot more graceful in her dive.
The hike back up the cliff was actually much longer than the bungee itself but soon enough we were back in town grabbing supplies from Pak n’ Save (the food industry’s answer to Ikea). W then chilled in our room until about half 6 when we made our way to Element bar- the bar in our hostel- as that night they had a deal on where you could get a free pizza when you ordered a drink. That was dinner sorted. The bartender told us that the pizzas were given per group so if we stayed just the two of us then we’d get more. It may have not been the most social way to spend an evening but that is what we did. Priorities.
Afterwards we headed to the nearby Irish bar for quiz night. I am awful at quizzes. I knew two of the answers, one of which was Zorro and the other was Bob The Builder; I have no idea what the questions were.
We finally crashed to the sound of music blaring through the bedroom floor at about 1.20am. We were then up at 5am for our monster hike to see Mount Doom ( the mountain from the Lord of the Rings films). We walked from 8am till 3pm, over the Tongariro Crossing, with a few very necessary breaks. I’m not going to lie, it was tough. The sky was clear blue which made it all worthwhile, as I took about 200 photos of various rocks and pools of water. I was glad we did it but I am also glad that I never have to do it again. The returning coach trip was in silence as there was barely one person left awake.
After a nap back at the hostel, the prospect of treating ourselves to a KFC made us drag our painful legs out of bed. We spent our evening eating fried chicken and watching the 40 year old Virgin in the TV room. It was a well deserved break.
Our next stop was River Valley, a small hostel- I think it was a hostel- in the middle of a valley with limited activities. The only possible pastimes were not available until the following morning and no one wanted to do them as otherwise we wouldn’t have arrived in Wellington until much later and, since we were only spending an evening in NZ’s capital, we wanted some time there. We had to pay $22 for a bed in the “spooning” room and that bought us each a mattress on the communal bunk-bed. We spent the rest of our time reading on the sofas and cooking some microwave mac and cheese, which we ate watching the people who chose to buy dinner at the lodge tuck into a roast. In the end, we did buy a dessert to share- chocolate brownie and ice cream. By bed time we’d decided to invest in duvets which were an extra purchase. It was the best $3 I’ve ever spent, as I was toasty warm while all the duvet-less people were freezing.
After a coach trip and an hour-long lunch stop in Bulls, which involved a footlong meatball sub, I dragged my travel buddy out to explore Wellington. We wandered up and down Cuba Street and she then went back to the room while I spent an hour or so exploring a bit more. After some tinned spaghetti and a trip to the hostel bar, we headed out to find somewhere to go on to. We found a couple of places but on a Friday night everything was strangely quiet, so while some people continued on the hunt, the rest of us headed back. I chose noodles.
The next morning started at 6am and we bumped into the others who had only just got in from their night out on our way to breakfast. Clearly they had found somewhere. After 3.5 hours on a ferry, through which we mainly slept, and a couple of hours driving we made it to Nelson in the hope that a couple of friends from home, who had been waiting for our arrival all afternoon, would still be there. We’d missed them by 15 minutes. On a brighter note our hostel- the Fern Lodge– was really nice. At 4pm on a Saturday afternoon everything was a pretty much deserted and several shops were shut, so we just did some food shopping and watched TV until dinner time.
The next day was time for Nelson National Lake, where we got taken on a walk around the lake, which was stunning. There was an option to jump off end of a small pier into the lake, which admittedly did look fun but, at the same time, it also looked freezing so I declined. In hindsight, I should have jumped.
That night, we had a three legged bar crawl in Westport. Our names were selected out of a hat and we were then tied together for the rest of the night. I already knew the person I was tied to but not very well and we all ended up having a really good night. We did detach in the second bar but reattached later for a quick race on our way back. We didn’t win but we didn’t lose either. The next day, we were taken on another walk along the coast. It was pretty and we saw some seals but sadly the weather wasn’t fantastic. The Pancake Rocks, which appeared to be layers and layers of rock stacked on top of each other, were also quite impressive.
The bus then went to Greymouth, where we got our outfits sorted for our ‘bin bag’ themed party that night. After reaching our accommodation for the night at Lake Mahinapua, the ‘Poo Pub’, our bus drivers cooked us all a massive dinner of steak, venison stew, pasta, coleslaw, the first vegetables that we’d eaten in a month and bread. It was amazing and rather nice of them.
After a nap, we dedicated an hour to making our bin-bag ninja outfits. As the party got underway, most of us had to dispense with part of the outfit by the end of the night. It was boiling. The night involved a lot of limbo and photos with the legendary pub owner, Les.
The next day, we made it to Franz Josef. Sadly, my travel buddy and I were running out of time and didn’t have time to hike the local glacier so we skydived over it instead. When in New Zealand. The views were stunning, even if I was more terrified this time. Apparently, it is scarier the second time because you know what is coming. I think that I was just scarred by bungee jumping. Afterwards, we headed to our hostel, the Rainforest Lodge, had a dinner of actual pasta with tomato sauce and headed to the Monsoon Bar for a drink and to watch the Rock, Paper, Scissors tournament.