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Gina, Joe and Justin's Backpacking Experience


NEW ZEALAND | Monday, 1 December 2008 | Views [563]

Taupo is actually another big stop for us that we kind of underestimated.  Taupo brought two big adventure to the table.  The first of which is the apex of our adventure seeking death-wish of a trip so far....Skydiving!  Unfortunately, due to reasons he'll have to explain to you, Joe was unable to partake in the skydiving adventure, but being this would have been his second time i think he was able to deal with it.  I think the most memorable moment of the whole skydiving trip was the conversation i had with my tandem guide (the guy i was strapped to).  To illustrate this conversation picture this Brazilian man (Max) who was about 6”8” tall and weighted about 250lbs and was the proud owner of one of the most beautiful mustache's I've ever laid eyes on and spoke only broken English...ok...got the picture.  So he's attempting to  explain the mechanics of proper skydiving form says, “Me big banana, you little banana.” Much to my happiness, everyone in the airport heard this conversation and got a great laugh at my expense ;).


The actual skydive was pretty good, unlike bungee jumping, skydiving is more fun than scary.  Me and Gina both agreed that it was much more of a walk in the park than bungee.  I think its the fact that the ground isn't approaching at Mach 1, coupled with the fact that in skydiving they push you out of the plane rather than make YOU jump.  Either that or both of us are now immune to adrenaline.  On second thought it seems somewhat unsettling that neither of us were apprehensive or scarred about jumping out of a perfectly good airplane 3 miles above the earth...I think we need help ;)


The second BIG adventure was the Tongariro Crossing.  This thing is a big deal!  According to the Kiwi's its often described as one of the top 5 hikes in the entire world!  I should state here that when they say “hike” they are serious; the crossing is over 20 KM (10+miles, not 100% sure on the conversion) through an inactive volcanic mountain range.  Its hard describe exactly what we saw, but i'll try my best and defiantly check out the pictures (disclaimer..im an idiot and didn't bring an extra camera battery and of course the cold weather toasted my battery halfway though the trip so i'll have to get some of Joe's pics up to finish the album). 

Anyway, Me, Joe (and his stupid new hat), Gina, and our Canadian buddy headed out at about 5 am so we would have plenty of time for pictures and slow American walking. The day started off a little overcast and foggy, but this actually worked out be be pretty cool because you could actually see the fog rolling in over the mountains which was absolutely amazing and unfortunately the pictures do it absolutely no justice!


The first bit of the trail was through a volcanic field where all the lava flowed and formed pumice rock after the last eruption.  Pretty cool and nice and flat!!!  However this abruptly ended when we reached “devil's staircase,” and as they said in the safety pamphlet “You'll see why they call it devil's staircase when you get there.”  HOLY DIVER did it SUUUCK!  To give a general idea, when we finally reached the top about and hour and a half later we were ABOVE the clouds and next to permanent glaciers ...It was that kind of climb!  Once at the top we got to hike across the perfectly flat crater on the top of the volcano, which was surreal and amazing to see. 


Much to our dismay there was yet again another gigantic climb a the end of the crater, except this one was twice as steep and didn't have any steps or guide ropes.  Just when we're beginning to decide who's idiotic idea it was to consider mountain climbing as one of our “fun” activities, we reached the top and found what we hiked all this way for.  It was a HUGE volcanic crater that was lined with dark red and black volcanic pebbles, which were steaming from all the heat below.  Without question one of the most amazing and beautiful things i have ever and probably will ever see.  Its impossible to explain how incredible it was in words and the pictures do not even come close to painting an accurate description...simply stunning.


After the red crater was the famous emerald lakes, which are lakes formed from the top of volcano's collecting rainwater.  Due to the volcanic chemicals and whatnot leaching out the water has turned a bright green color, almost Martian looking.  Again it was absolutely unbelievable and like nothing we've ever seen.


Ok, that was too much seriousness even for me, so at this point i decided that it was time for the American's to put on a show for our fellow hikers.  So on a dare from Gina, i waited until we had a sizable group of onlookers in range and proceeded to belly slide down one of the gigantic snow glaciers on the mountain.  Of course this was a huge success and i'm now a part of the photo albums of many travelers around the world.  Unfortunately for me, i shortly found out that the snow was much colder and wetter than i originally expected.  BRRR ;)  And   the worst part of the whole bit  was that i had to hike all the way back to the top of the stupid mountain!!!


So 7 hour and 45 minutes into the journey we finally made it back to the bus, ate chocolate bars and went to bed.


As much as i hate to add this in i know that if i don't, Joe will...So here goes. Because it's one of my favorite past times, I spent much of the last week making fun of the Canadians in our group for sewing maple leaf flags on every garment of clothing the own and spelling their country like they talk...ie. C “eh” N “eh” D “eh”.  This had been going all too well until I got my ultimate payback when i needed to borrow one of their backpacks for the big hike, which was of course riddled with darn maple leaves, and for a day I became the enemy, lol.  The highlight , ugh..i hate this part, was when i got passed by a group of other hikers one looked and my borrowed bag and said “ugh...Canadians and their flags.”  Priceless.

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