21: Adrenalin Days Not Over Just Yet!
2 November 2002
I arrived in Wellington on the ferry to be picked up by some long-lost relatives I’d never clapped eyes on. To avoid complication and embarrassment, my distant great uncle and aunt printed out a sign with my name on and waved it around as I alighted the ferry. We made awkward and polite conversation as we waited for my bags, and I tried to forgot the pain in my jaw at having broken a tooth clean in half that very day. Next day I was off to the dentist, who pulled half my tooth out, shoved in a temporary filling and left me drooling out of the side of my mouth for the rest of the morning whilst my uncle drove me around the greater Wellington area recounting historical fact after historical fact.
I liked my newfound family; they were laid-back and let me sleep in until daft hours of the afternoon if I wanted to. But I still managed to fit in the famous Te Papa museum. “Famous” like their very own home-grown drink ‘L&P’, whose tag line is “World famous in New Zealand” – that little one-liner threw me a bit.
I searched for the cable car up some little hill but got lost. Drove up Mt. Victoria (which to be honest is just little more than a grassy knoll) and looked out over the windy city. I met the daughters and sons of the long-lost family, and slowly but surely the family tree started to fall into place.
From Wellington I hopped on an overnight train to Auckland where I immediately hopped on to the Stray Bus to take me around the north island. On our first stop in the surfing mecca of Raglan, we stayed in this wilderness lodge where ‘more than a handful’ of kiddies were on surf school vacation. To get away from the madness a bunch of us went up the hill and tried our hand at the ‘flying fox’ (foeffie slide) and balancing ropes.
In Waitomo caves we went black water rafting, which is absolutely nothing like I expected – but better! You traipse through dark caves through cold water and bob around on inner tubes, jump backwards off mini-waterfalls and watch the wonder of glowworms light your way until you reach daylight once again.
In Lake Taupo I decided at the last minute to go skydiving from 12,000m and then, charged with adrenalin after my bum-on-the-runway crash landing, I signed up for the video, photos and t-shirt – now well into the red with Mr. Visa card. The amazing feeling of free-falling left my reactions a little slow. When your skydiving partner taps you on the shoulders, you’re meant to put your hands out and it’s clear from the video that calling them ‘delayed reactions’ is being kind – he tapped me about 5 times before I put my arms out. The photographer went to shake my hand about 3 times before it dawned on me, and as I mentioned previously, my landing gear was inoperational and I hit the deck on my arse with Terry behind me using his kneecaps as break pads!
As if this wasn’t enough to keep me buzzing for weeks I managed to find my way up another grassy knoll, this time descending on a luge. With my butt so close to the ground, helmet strapped on tight and something to steer between my sweaty little paws I bombed it down the hill about 15 times with Pia (from Mexico City) hot on my tail. On the advanced track there’s one bit where if you speed up when the signs say slow down, you will be airborne for at least 3 seconds!