Some years ago now, I was lucky enough to enjoy a 3 week long holiday of a lifetime in New Zealand. As I had no idea whether I would ever travel to such a far flung destination again, I wanted to see as much of this gorgeous country as possible, and so embarked on a road trip around both North and South Island.
What never ceased to amaze me about New Zealand, was the spectacular variation in scenery within such short distances. And the views!! I was gasping at some new and splendid vista every five minutes. I have no idea where else in the world you can gaze upon a glacier one moment, then a beautiful white sandy beach with a snow-capped mountainous backdrop the next, but I want to go there!
The thing that really made New Zealand the experience of a life-time, was all the individual little experience-of-a-lifetimes that I packed in to just one trip. The Kiwis are an adventurous and outdoorsy people, and the knowledge that I might not travel to New Zealand again was enough of a spur to goad me into all sorts of activities that I may well not have enjoyed in the UK, and I’ll mention 2 of my favourites here.
Black Water Rafting
Black water rafting involves suiting up in a supersexy wetsuit the likes of which would make Angelina Jolie look like a beached whale (I suggest you take a few moments here to breathe fervent thanks to your Deity of choice that there are no photos of me in this glorious piece of attire. Putting on an already-wet wetsuit involves a lot of leaping up and down, swearing, and fairly graceless squirming), then climbing, crawling and floating on an inflatable ring through underground caves run through by a river, and spotted with glow worms. It is utterly and breathtakingly beautiful, and I highly recommend it.
Tandem parascending involves shackling yourself to a strapping New Zealander (“Where do I sign up?”, I hear the ladies cry), who is in turn shackled to a parachute. The parachute is carefully unfurled on the ground behind the intrepid pair, who then run full pelt down the steepest hill they can find. It was unnerving to say the least, convinced as I was that I would fall face down in the dirt, which it transpired is impossible to do. The second you set off the parachute fills and is pulling you insistently vertical with such grim determination, that eventually you realise you are in fact airborn, with your legs still frantically pumping underneath you like a cartoon character who’s just run off the edge of a cliff!
Once airborn, parascending is an incredibly tranquil sport. Attached to the strapping of the parachute was a sort of “seat” that I wriggled my way onto, so the ride was both comfortable and surprisingly tranquil. The parachute glides peacefully rather than falls, and my strapping Kiwi steered and turned us gradually so that I could take in all the magnificent snow-capped moutain scenery. He also had a camera at the end of a long pole which meant I had 12 wonderful photos of my fantastic experience.