A Travellerspoint blog

New Zealand (Rotorua & Lake Taupo & Skydive)

Rotten eggs, bubbling pools & nervous stomachs!

sunny -17 °C
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We spent just one day in Rotorua, too touristy for us. The smell of sulphur in the air around Rotorua is also really bad in places, rotten eggs!

However the Thermal springs at Wai-o-tapu were mindblowing. The colours were great. These were created by the mineral content within the water coming into contact with the air.


So after enjoying this for a few hours we decided to move on, and head to Taupo to see what this had to offer.

It is a really picturesque area, centred around the volcanic Lake Taupo. After settling into the YHA hostel, we headed to book the skydive Mark has been so keen to do. Somehow I ended up putting my name down as well!

So, soon after breakfast the next day we were picked up to go to Freefall Skydive, at Taupo airport. I was getting pretty nervous at this point and ready to back out. However, Mark convinced me to keep my nerve and after a short time waiting for the first "drop" (not a reassuring term) it was our turn. It was during the waiting I wished for a bar to appear with a selection of shots to calm the nerves!

We got dressed in our delightful jumpsuits, harnesses (which had Mark singing a few notes higher!), lovely biggles hat and goggles. I was most pleased that I had a hunky Swedish Tandem Master to attach myself onto. Unlucky for Mark, his was also a man!

Next we had to climb into the place and sit in rows of order to jump. Some crazy people wanted to go to 15000ft, I was more than content with 12000ft. It was a great view on the way up, over the Lake. I was unaware, but Mark was at this time getting really nervous.

All too soon the plane was at the correct height and the first person did their jump. Mark was second and sent the air blue with many bad words! All he could think about was if his chute was going to open.

I was next! You are shuffled to the edge of the plane, your cameraman is outside pointing at you getting your nervous face! For a second or two you hang outside the plane, then you are off. Oh my god. All those people out there who can only find the words awesome did not help us to prepare for this. The speed you fall at first (150 mile/hour), the cold on your face and hands, & the ground rush are overwhelming.


I was pretty relieved when that chute opened. Then it goes quiet, and you can really take in the view. WOW!
It was at the same time both the scariest, and most exhilarating thing I have ever done.
Mark still hasn't quite recovered. Everyone else was relieved to be back on terra firma, he was still in shock.
Don't worry we have full evidence we did actually do it. Just in case you don't believe us. You'll enjoy my hysterical mid air acrobatics!


That evening we treated ourselves to a few beers/glasses of wine. We needed it. Despite this, we would both recommend everyone give it a go, its "amazing".

The next day we headed out to Tongariro National Park, so see the mountain they used as Mount Doom, and Mordor in Lord of the Rings, before heading on a long drive to Wellington.

Posted by blytonrtw 20:35 Archived in New Zealand Comments (4)

New Zealand (Bay of Islands)

The Origins of Modern Day New Zealand

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We arrived in Paihia after a long drive, and many roadworks. It was a really nice place, full of history. Perfect for Diane. We stayed at The Mousetrap Hostel, which was a really friendly small and quiet place. Perfect for relaxing.

We went to Waitangi where the treaty was signed, and found out about that and the relationship between the Maori people and the Europeans. There is a really beautiful traditional meeting house there, used to commemorate the signing of the treaty in the 1900s.


We took a drive up the coast for a great view, over one of the group of Islands. We also took a boat over to a really nice town called Russell. The area has the oldest Church, stone and wood buildings in New Zealand.


We spent time at the Pompellier mission in Russell and found out about the printing of the Maori bibles there. Steeped in history. You got to find out about the origin of some common sayings. A "dab hand", comes from the job of the person who had to carefully dab ink onto the block of letters. Paper was expensive so you had to be careful. Upper case and lower case letters comes from the storage of letters according to frequency of use. Capitals were not used as often, so were kept in upper cases that were harder to reach. Lower case letters were kept closer in lower cases, as they were used all of the time. One other, "to quoin a phrase" originates from the triangular blocks of wood that were used to wedge the blocks of letters together, allowing them to be transferred to the press without falling all over the floor.

We were recommended to go on a boat trip, but I am still scarred by my underwater vomiting so I couldn't face it quite yet. We still got great views though as you will hopefully see.

Posted by blytonrtw 20:25 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

New Zealand (Auckland)

Rainy Auckland

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We arrived into Auckland to the pouring rain, and it pretty much stayed the same until we left. It's a nice city, really friendly people. It felt like being in the UK though, not all that different. The first place we've been that felt like a real home from home. Everything seemed so familiar. They also have Cadbury's chocolate here, no rubbish stuff like in the USA, home of the unappetizing Hershey.

We stayed in the City YHA, which was Ok after 3 room changes. Some of the rooms stank and had mould/fungus on the walls and ceiling. Not good. We got a good room eventually.

We had a look around and we struck by the oriental mix of people living there (or Asian if you live anywhere other than the UK). So we had a great Japanese meal in the foodcourt there. The same meal in the UK would have cost at least 5 times as much. What a bargain.

We kept holding of for the Skytower for a good day, but we had to go on an overcast day. There was still a reasonable view over the harbour.


We didn't get a really good exploration of the city as the weather was grim. We did get to the movies though as a treat.

We picked up a car on our final day to head up to the Bay of Islands.

Posted by blytonrtw 20:11 Archived in New Zealand Comments (1)


Scuba diving (Feeding fish!), island hopping and chilling out

sunny 37 °C
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BULA! (Hello in Fiji),

We arrived Fiji after a night flight and headed to the hostel we booked for the first night. Nadi Bay Resort. A nice enough hostel with a pool where we tried to sort out our plans for the time in Fiji. Don't let anyone tell you it is cheap in Fiji. The ferries between the islands really rack up the price, something we were a bit naive about. After a few hassles, and messing around we finally got our diving booked with Aqua Blue.

We moved to cheaper accommodation, which was OK, but the New Town area is not the nicest and really off the beaten track. You get what you pay for though.


Kuki, our dive instructor at Aqua Blue, was a really cool and patient guy and looked after me (Diane) when I got an attack of the nerves taking masks off under the water in the confined pool dives. We got the theory day out of the way first and the second two days were out into open water. Unfortunately I got sea sick, which was not good. I found out on the second day diving that it is possible to be sick under water into the regulator, feeding the fish. Poor Mark didn't know what to do! Somehow I was able to get through this and did all the skills including taking off the mask and replacing it 15 metres under water, a weird experience.
However, despite this we both managed to pass the course and are now PADI open water certified. Yippee! I hope we get to use it in calm waters from now onwards!
It was a great experience minus the vomiting. We saw fantastic coral, reef shark and a Manta ray 5 metres across.

After the diving, we took Kuki's advice and booked a few days on Mana Island, in the Mamanuca group.
We stayed at really basic accommodation called the Mana Lagoon. However the view from the front was priceless.


When we didn't get rain and wind (there were a couple of storms) it was just like you see in the photos. Clear water, sandy beaches. Not a lot to do! We met some nice people who made it a great experience (thanks Gemma and Will) and we stayed 5 days in the end. The sunsets were magical and different every day. This quickly became our favourite time of the day. As you'll see when the photos are sorted.


We visited the island used in the Tom Hanks film, Castaway. It was strange seeing all the areas in the film and being the only two people on the island. It really is uninhabited, but there are islands quite close unlike the film.

Whilst on Mana we did a bit of snorkelling, visited the local school and had a concert by the children there. It was the closest we got to real Fiji life. The Fijian people live a very simple life and are extremely happy in doing so. They are really friendly people and welcome all guests.


The final few days of our visit have been at Nomad Skylodge, which feels like 5 star luxury. Well, there is hot water and electricity all day (not just when it was dark, like on Mana Island). On our last night we went out with a bang and tried the Fiji drink Kava. The best way to describe the taste is imagine dirty dishwater!! Maybe you can get the gist from the pictures demonstrated by Diane!!:-)


We leave for Auckland tomorrow, and although it has been great weather, we are ready to move on.

Posted by blytonrtw 22:15 Archived in Fiji Comments (1)

Los Angeles

Hollywood, Beverly Hill's, Santa Monica and Aliens!!

sunny 27 °C
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The first thing you notice when driving into LA is the smog floating above the city, like a grey haze.
Not pleasant. The second thing is the traffic. For the 1st time in the USA it took us a while to finally get in.

We drove into Hollywood, saw a film being made (Mark thinks it was George Clooney) parked and had a look around. It didn't take too long. The main sights are on Hollywood boulevard. The stars on the pavement, Mann's Chinese theatre and the messages in the concrete dating back to the 1920s. We saw names from Harold Lloyd, Clint Eastwood, Paul Newman, Johnny Depp, to the young stars in the Harry Potter films.


After looking around and spotting the names we recognised, we drove onto Beverly Hills and Rodeo Drive. It was very posh. Straight out of pretty woman, with the hotel at the bottom of the street.
Mark was most amused at the lady carrying her pooch (Christian Dior or Gucci) around in its own designer bag, just its head popping out!


When our free parking ran out we, took a drive towards Bel Air and all the mansions that are around. The places are huge. We hit Santa Monica at tea time, ready to check into the hostel.

Day two
We had to take the car back, which took up a lot of the morning. In the afternoon we took a walk along the beach to Venice and Muscle beaches. There were roller bladers and cyclists to begin with, then more unusual folks. One guy was dressed in a leopard skin outfit, asking for money for bacon. Mark egged him on saying he would need some gas to cook it with, so he added this to his pitch to try and double his income.


We reached Muscle Beach and the fitness people there. Everything from full on basket ball games to the outdoor gym. It was an entertaining time. If you love showing off and you're very strange with a good body you will fit right at home here. The weirder the better. In fact Area 51 is just a cover up, the real aliens are here! It certainly makes the time fly by. 4 miles and 5 hours later we headed back to the hostel and made the most of the free films shown there, after a cheap meal in the nearby food court.


Day three
We headed to the beach after calling home for the first time (it was great to speak to you all), and had a chilled out day at the beach. The surf wasn't great so we just soaked up some sun for a while, had a walk along the pier then headed to the hostel to relax, and watch more movies.

Today, day four
Well finally got some time to update the blog. I can't believe this brings us up to date. In eight hours time we'll be on the plane to Fiji for some R & R and hopefully SCUBA. So long USA it's been fantastic. See you in Fiji!

Posted by blytonrtw 14:36 Archived in USA Comments (1)

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