As New Zealand is not as adventure-filled a travellers' destination as South America, we felt we needed to inject a bit of excitement into the proceedings in the form of a few adrenaline sports, so we booked up a couple of action-packed days, including jetboating and a skydive.
Having just had my hair cut into a Sarah Harding-style bob (well I like to think it makes me look like Sarah Harding, but I fear it may be a bit more Sarah Goudie..sorry Sarah if you're reading), what better way to completely wreck it than to book in for a white-knuckle ride under some waterfalls on a speedboat.
Not being much of a swimmer, Liam was a little apprenhensive as we strapped on our lifejackets, but I had to get revenge for his little Bolivian bike-riding expedition so I gleefully asked the driver/captain/whatever he's called, to go extra-fast on the 360 degree spins.
We all piled into the boat and clung on for dear life as we were thrown from side to side as the kiwi guide performed all sorts of water-acrobatics with the boat, often sending us flying into the air before narrowly missing various ducks and swans as they scattered trying to avoid the giant speedboat full of screaming tourists charging towards them.
It ws absolutely exhilirating - the kind of buzz that is pure fun rather than the terror I felt on the bikeride..a different kind of thrill altogether. Liam loved it too, and as we got used to it we even managed to film a couple of mini video clips on our camera as we spun around in the swirl at the base of the waterfalls.
Our next little outing was a skydive..Liam had been going on about how much he wanted to do one since we left the UK (funny, he'd never mentioned it before, but now he's a regular daredevil, always wanting to try some new adventurous persuit - it's amazing what a bit of freedom can do - we can barely muster the energy to get of the sofa and make a cup of tea at home.)
The next morning we were collected from our campsite bright and early along with a few other English guys called Adam and Rob and taken to the TT Skydive centre next to Lake Taupo. On the drive there we chatted to these guys and it transpired that it was Rob's birthday so we agreed to go for a drink after the jump, if we all survived that was. They collected us at 10.30, it was half an hour to the site and they told us that the actual jump would be all over in less than 5 minutes (45 seconds for the skydive part until the chute opened..yikes) so we figured we could be safely in the pub by lunchtime..happy days!
The preparation seemed a little brief - choose how high you want to jump from, get your gear on and then watch a 1 minute safety video.1 minute..surely that wasn't long enough to explain how to do everything?!
I was a bit concerned by the clothing we were given to wear - a thin jumpsuit made of cotton (I was expecting something a little more..padded?), a hat rather than a helmet (a flimsy skullcap made of leather of all things - how was that supposed to stop your head from splitting open?) and a harness to attach you to your instructor (well you didn't think I was gonna jump on my own did you?)
We were then shown the safety clip (basic rules, head back when you jump, put your arms out when the instructor taps you on the shoulder, and keep your legs bent out front so you resemble a banana on landing). Let's hope we don't split like a banana on landing, I thought morbidly...
Once we were all ready we were led out to the plane. I was told that my tandem jumper was famous, but that they wouldn't tell me why until afterwards. I was pretty scared so didn't push the issue.
Luckily I was last out to the aircraft (a tiny thing) which meant I was last in, so first out. At least I'd get it over with first, I figured.
Once airborne, the noise was deafening as we climbed to 12000ft, our chosen altitude. I was more scared in the plane than during the jump, particularly as I couldn't hear a word my instructor was saying and I assumed he wasn't just making smalltalk...
Once we got to the right altitude the dude opened the door of the plane and told me to edge myself onto the ledge. This was the most terrifying part of the jump, as we sat on the edge for what seemed like ages as the photographer (who jumps out with you as well as the guy strapped to you) takes a few snaps. Smiling for a picture was the last thing I felt like doing, but I gritted my teeth and gave a beamer that would have shown up Wallace and Gromit.
Then it was time to jump - the instructor had to give me more than a gentle shove to get me out, but before I knew it we were hurtling towards Earth at over 200kph, my cheeks were wobbling uncontrollably and I had a permanent rat-face cos my lips had dried out with the sheer g-force.
I didn't know whether to laugh or cry and tried to scream but we were spinning so fast I couldn't make a sound, so contented myself with trying to hold hands with the photographer who was doing all sorts of crazy moves in front of me. A thought suddenly occured to me..what would happen if my instructor passed out or had a heart attack or something? noone had shown us how to deploy the parachute, and even if they had, how would I get to it? I pushed all rational thoughts from my mind and tried to relax and enjoy the moment, then before I knew it..whoosh! the parachute came out (at 4500ft apparantly, so you fall for around 8000ft) and we were suddenly yanked back up heavenwards, before, by complete contrast, experiencing the most peaceful sensation ever..no I hadn't died, it was just the gentle downward drifting that occurs once the wind is filling the parachute. My instructor even started chatting to me about our trip, then showed me how to steer us by holding onto the straps and pulling left or right. He even let me have a go, but quickly took control again as I sent us spiralling towards the Earth. The views were amazing, it was a brilliant feeling surveying the lake and greenery from such a great height, bit before I knew it it was time to land and I assumed the banana position obediantly. The landing was so smooth and controlled that I just stood up and walked slowely forwards, none of the crash-landing and broken limbs that I had been anticipating. All in all, a great experience, and another thing to tick off our list of sporting achievements whilst on this trip.
Oh, and I found out why my instructor was so famous..appparantly he'd done a jump a few years earlier and his parachute hadn't opened, he'd then tried to deploy the reserve one but that got tangled in the first one (doh!) so he was plummeting towards the earth with no chute. He actually said goodbye into the camera on his wrist, but luckily his fall was broken by a blackberry bush of all things and he escaped unscathed with no more than a punctured lung and a broken ankle. Glad they told me that AFTER I'd just jumped out of a plane at 12000ft feet with him strapped on my back...
To celebrate, we had a few bevvies with the two lads I mentioned earlier, then it was back on the road to drive to Hawke's Bay in order to visit Jarrod and Talia, some Kiwis we'd met whilst they were working in London several years ago.