I actually returned back to the UK for Christmas some weeks ago, having been all the way around New Zealand and about a quarter of Australia as well. I haven’t been very good at keeping this blog up to date, especially with my travels and even less with my reading. I’ve actually exceeded my Goodreads target for the year – weeks of beach time in Australia helped me power through my kindle TBR like you wouldn’t believe.
But back to September, and the North Island of New Zealand, where I seemed to have taken it upon myself to do a bit of uncharacteristic risk taking.
Rotorua is a huge geothermal area of New Zealand, near enough in the centre of the North Island. It smells like eggs because of all the sulphuric gas being released. The weather also turned when I (and a few friends) hopped off in Rotorua, and suddenly it was really cold, drizzly and smelly. We did have a fairly good time in Rotorua. I went wite water rafting for the first time since my year 7 adventure trip (which is a hilarious number of years ago now), on a river with the highest waterfall commercially rafted. As they told us. Repeatedly. It was such good fun! So. Rafting! Check.
There is a geothermal activity area in Rotorua, but I actually recommend you don’t do that. It was pretty boring and the only bit I really enjoyed for the pictures was the artist pallete pool, where the water was a multitude of colours billowing steam. That was cool. It probably didn’t help that I was on my own for the first time in the trip, and it was cold, wet, and I hadn’t slept well. Recipe for disaster really. I spent a good chunk of time waiting for the shuttle bus back to Rotorua listening to an audiobook.
However, the natual mud and hotsprings in the park surrounding Rotorua was great fun. There are sections of bridge so you can walk through the steam and it is legit like something out of a fantasy novel or movie and it was so. cool. Well, no, it was actually incredibly hot and I had to put my glasses away, but it was amazingly atmospheric and I would recommend wandering around Kuiria Park should you find yourself in that neck of the woods.
After Rotorua, we headed down to Taupo in some impressively grim weather and signed up for our skydives. I was PRAYING that the bad weather would continue so that I could just get a refund and express fake regret at not actually HAVING TO DO A SKYDIVE. Why did I think it would be a good idea?
Truth is. I am terrified of… not heights per say, I love a great view… but edges. I hate being anywhere near the edge of anything. If there is a barrier then we are grand. If there is not, I am peering over the edge on my belly, so gravity cannot pull a trick on me and send me down. So. Petrified of high edges, falling and, lets be entirely honest here, not being in control.
DING DING DING
Three for three. However, I figured that if I was going to skydive anywhere, it would need to be in New Zealand, on my gap travel (what do you call a gap year if it isn’t actually a year long?). So. I paid in advance so I couldn’t chicken out. Then I proceeded to panic intensely to the point where the person in charge of checking us all in and getting us ready was laughing and asking why I had signed up for this in the first place if I was that terrified.
The answer is, because I was that terrified. I didn’t want to keep being scared and I’ve never been one for moving in increments. Pull that plaster off. So my answer to my fears seemed to be a skydive. WHY.
They paired me up with the most experienced person for my tandem skydive and they had a cat on the desk that I think stopped me from having a full on panic attack before I’d even suited up. I felt sick, I felt hollow, I couldn’t talk (if you’ve ever met me in real life, that’s a neon sign right there. I could talk for Great Britain). I was actually mostly fine whilst being suited up, grand while we were going up in the plane – enjoying the flight immensely, and then they opened the hatch, we started moving forwards and I saw my friend and her tandem jump and…. that’s when I freaked the hell out.
Long story short – I panicked, grabbed onto a pole and we missed the jump site and had to go around again. BUT, I did jump. On the second go round, I was rolled out of a goddam plane and was freefalling through the goddam sky. I did like the view once the parachute had been pulled. It was phenomenal – you could see the mountains on one side cross the entire lake and a patchwork of farmland and houses. It was beautiful!
The best bit of the entire, fairly stressful experience, was when I landed, and my friends came racing out to scream at me that I had done it! And the people on the flight after us (who we’d spent the better part of an hour with) were jumping up and down and whooping and telling me that they weren’t scared now they knew I could do it (my favourite quote of the entire day was from this woman, who said ‘I thought I was scared and then I met you’) and about how they’d all been standing holding hands, counting the parachutes appearing in the sky – one, two, three… where’s Bea?! and that they’d started cheering when about a minute later my parachute appeared.
tI’m never doing that to myself again, but the camraderie of the people at the depo, these new friends and complete strangers, made the experience for me. I think freefalling is something I am honestly never going to do again, but I think I’d like to try paragliding, where you have the wings from the start. I loved the view but honest to god – I am never jumping out of a plane again.
I skydived with Skydive Taupo, and they were great with nervous wreck little me. I also got the video and pictures package because even just waiting beforehand, I knew there was no way in hell I was putting myself though that anticipation again.
But, as I kept reminding myself on the day, if Bradley Walsh can do it, so can I.