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Theres many things to love about hitchhiking in New Zealand. After being picked up by an odd Kiwi who had a strange fascination with cats (he was travelling with a few in his car) I manage to make good distance with a friendly French couple in their campervan. (They didnt enjoy poking fun at their language from Flight of the Concords). The hour journey takes me through Whangamata, (fangamata), Wahei and finally to Katikati where I’ll be couch surfing once again with some locals who live up on a hill outside of town in an eco friendly home.

My host Ian takes us tramping (hiking) up to sentinel rock with sweeping views over all the surrounding bay and towns including views of volcanoes, Mt. Maunganui and in the distance the washed up sea trawler that crashed and is currently sinking to the ocean floor, causing much enviornmental concern. The rushed route back in darkness (sunset was almost an hour ago) brings us across many glowworms sparkling on the earthed soil (they’re not actually worms). From Katikati, I manage to grab a ride on the back of Ian’s motorbike in the early hours of the morning in the direction of Rotorua. The bike ride is fast and furious in the cold morning wind with views of the sun rising in the distance across the bay.

Cold, damp but highly excited after a thrilling few hours we arrive at the hot pools, mud baths and geothermal city of Rotorua. Geysers and hot springs are sprawled throughout the town which unfortuntaly creates a terrible lingering smell of rotten eggs- which takes a while to get used to. Kinda makes me feel like throwing up every now and then! The great thing is you can fart and fart and no one will ever suspect a thing.

Its here where I meet another fantastic couch surfer. This time its a 62 year old woman Suzanne (aka travel guru) whos vegetarian and lives alone with her overly bossy cat. Shes fantastically welcoming and the hospitality is well needed. Rotorua is also one of the most important places for Mauri culture. Its presence is a little slim and anything that remains feels a little commercial driven.  Rotorua is also another adventure popping landmark in NZ. I enjoy speeding down at shocking speeds on the luge ride (like a go kart but with a different braking system). I’m close to flipping more than few times but its great aul craic altogether. This is the reason people love NZ: heart pumping adventure sports in incredible scenic locations…

Heading further down south I hit Taupo, notorious for its giant lake…and skydiving of course.

And before I realize the plane doors open wide and fills the small noisy aircraft with bright light and cold breeze. I’m packed like a sardine at the back of the plane, safely attached to my overly enthusiastic and not very reassuring guide.

I’m also wearing a stupid looking hat and glasses and an oxygen mask around my mouth. I’m not nervous but slightly apprehensive that I’m not really sure what I need to do.

Either way it doesn’t really make much difference; basically I’m shuffled to the edge of the door like a dead corpse. My feet are dangling off the plane like jelly and I simply just want to enjoy the stunning views over lake Taupo ( NZs largest lake). But no time for this… Next thing I know I’ve flipped 360 degrees and am now dropping 15000ft at a speed over 200kmph.

TaupoSimply awesome!!

There’s another skydiver across from me within arms reach. She’s a cute girl I got introduced to before take off. She’s frantically making hand signals to me at very fast speed and looks very concerned. I begin to get really frustrated and confused as what she’s trying to tell me and I simply try to mimic her hand positions. Alas it’s difficult to concentrate as I’m free falling, the views are stunning and I come to the conclusion that if there’s a problem or I’ve some something wrong my chances of survival is slim!!! As it turns out she’s only making signals to my guide as she’s training to become a dive instructor. Yeah, thanks for the heads up on that one!!

Before I know it the chute is pulled out, the straps round my crotch are pulled to the maximum (possibly causing life damage to the testicles) and we are now floating about, around the lake with snow capped mountains all around us. There’s crystal blue skies and you can see all the way across the country on both sides. ‘welcome to my office’ says my smarmy guide. ‘Yeah fuck you buddy’ I reply. We land safely and that’s that. Skydive in New Zealand. Check.

From Taupo it’s hitching south towards Wellington but first we head to National Park. The park is one of the worlds first to be declared as such and is home to the Tongariro crossing (supposedly the greatest day walk in NZ). With treacherous conditions before us as the snow covered mountains and gusty winds take over, it’s unfortunate that we only make it a third of the way. We do however manage to get fantastic views of the famous volcanoes (aka Lord of The Rings Mt.Doom) with snow edging down the side. Our views our slightly obstructed by darn full colorful rainbows that stretch across the landscape!

So it’s onwards to the ridiculous town of Ohakune. A small little town with a population of approx 1000 people but famous for its carrot production. To celebrate their work in carrot farming, a huge carrot monument was erected in 1984 to great applause and excitement to the locals. After a 7 hour scenic train ride I arrive to the capital city of NZ Wellington. The city is great for its compact size, San Francisco-esque hills and houses overlooking its busy harbor and skyline.

There’s a real energy about the place and is a milestone from the often ‘boring’ Auckland. I meet old friends and check out some neat hidden places. The cable cars, Te Papa museum (rivals any museum in the world) Mt Victoria and Cuba street make Wellington a great place to spend a few days. And before I know it I’m on a ferry to the south island.

Winter is coming….