Chapter 9: The Trapeze and The Swing.

Trip Start Oct 01, 2003
Trip End Nov 2004

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Thursday, November 13, 2003

Well, the weather interfered with my skydiving plans, so I'm still walking amongst the living. I'm sure mom is relieved.

Um, I realized in my plea for e-mails in my last post, I neglected to include my address, so here you go: Use it!

I left Rotorua yesterday morning and headed south towards the adventure capital of the North Island: Taupo. En route I signed up for an afternoon skydive (12,000 feet), but because the weather was sorta dodgy the company called the bus driver every half hour along the way with a different decision about whether or not we'd go. Eventually, obviously, they decided against doing any jumps. Oh well. The saying goes that New Zealand can experience four seasons in one day (there's even a Crowded House song with that title), and it's true. Rain, sun, clouds, wind, and a 10-20 degree (F) temperature fluctuation can happen in a matter of minutes.

Anyway, we stopped at a "thermal wonderland" outside of Rotorua to have a look at some geysers and hot mineral pools & such. I felt a little cheated because the park officials triggered the geyser with soap powder, and even then the eruption was far short of some of the heights reached in, say, Yellowstone. The deep holes in the earth with boiling mud at the bottom were suitably eerie, though.

Next up was a one-hour bus pause at "Rock 'n' Ropes," where an Irish guy named Damien and I decided we'd brave "The Trapeze" and "The Swing." Let me explain: The Trapeze involves climbing a 40-foot pole (like a telephone pole), pulling yourself up with just your leg muscles and standing on the top without anything to hold on to, and then jumping forward to grab a trapeze hanging 7-8 feet in front of and above you. Fun, no? Well, when I did it there was also a nasty, cold, gusting wind, so the pole and I both were swaying a little too much for comfort. After watching the two girls before me try (and fail), I almost backed out... and when I got up to the top and had to let go with my hands to stand up I almost quit again (it's unbelievably scary up there, even with a safety rope!)... but in the end I stood up, counted to three, jumped, and somehow grabbed the trapeze. Woo-hoo! One down...

The Swing started with a climb up another pole (tough when you're still shaking from the first) to a platform 50+ feet high. You hold on to a rope that's limply hanging from a line strung between two poles some 20-30 feet in front of you, and then you jump off. Straight down. After a second or two of freefall (there's no rope tension at first), the rope pulls tight and you sail off between the two poles and swing back and forth for a few minutes while your heart starts up again. What a rush! After managing to leap off both those structures, I'm confident that a bungy jump should be no problem!

On to Taupo, then, after a brief look at the churning Huka Falls. Taupo is a mecca for North Island rafters, skydivers, bungy-jumpers, and so on, but business won't really crank up until mid-December. Looking around at the mid-November drizzle (which would certainly make all those outdoor activities less fun) I could understand why. The hostel was cozy, though, and the bars were hopping. I dropped in on an English friend named Rich who I'd met in Fiji who was bartending downtown, and it was fun seeing him again.

Today we drove further south, passing near the Tongariro National Park, which was the shooting location for lots of the LOTR "Mordor" scenes (the "Rings" references are unavoidable from here on out, I'm afraid). The land looked just like I imagined even though visibility was limited due to more rain: it was rocky, barren, and foreboding. Originally I'd intended to stay a few nights in Taupo so that I could do a day-long hike through the park (called the Tongariro Crossing), but as the weather outlook was bad for the next few days I decided to press on instead.

We met sunshine upon our arrival in Wellington in mid-afternoon, and I spent the past few hours poking around the capital city, which has a population of around 300,000 but seems much larger. Like Auckland, it's a very cosmopolitan town; Wellington boasts more cafes per capita than any city in the world, and the clubs & restaurants are pretty numerous too. I'll be hanging out here for 3 nights, and then on Sunday I'll take the ferry to the South Island for more adventures.

Bye for now!

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