Jet Boats Rock!

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07/01/08
Good day folks. Well, another day has passed here in summery New Zealand for me. I spent a full day in Taupo exploring the sights by bike, and boy, am I tuckered out once again! Remember how I said that I don’t really take days off? Well, today was another prime example. I ended up putting almost 70km on the bicycle yet again, although I didn’t have to lug my trailer around with me this time. There are a number of things to do around Taupo, but I just concentrated on the things on and around the main river. This includes a bungy jumping zone, waterfalls, a dam, jet boating, and rapids that are controlled by said dam.I didn’t do the bungy jump this time, but I did have some other fun. You can look at my map and read of for more tales of excitement from the land down under.

I dragged my butt out of bed by 8:30am, and was on the road before 10am. First stop was to hit a post office to mail something off, then it was on to the Bungy Zone via a bike trail along the river. The bungy site is actually pretty close to the hostel, and I could have walked there, but I was continuning on from there to the other attractions. I forget the exact height of this jump, but the number 37m jumps into my head for some reason. I watched a number of people do their jumps, but I wasn’t convinced I had to do it here in Taupo. After all, the real high ones and famous ones are in Queenstown, so I’d definitely be doing it there. I certainly wasn’t scared, I just thought I should wait for the best ones. However, I kept it in mind in case I didn’t do any other exciting things this day.

From the bungy zone, I carried on along a hiking trail by the river. Unfortunately, it was walkers only, no bikes. Of course, I later found out that there was indeed a bike trail higher up the slopes of the river, but only after I spent probably an hour hiking up to the Huka Falls. Damn! What a loss of time… However, the walk was nice, and the river was really beautiful. There was a group of kayakers on the river, which is a brilliant color, and seeing them below was really nice. Once at the falls, I admired them for a bit, then headed to some mountain bike trails in the “Craters of the Moon” area. So called as a result of thermal activity, and the fact that there were cave-ins leading to sunken mud holes resembling craters. Personally, when I finally did come across them, I wasn’t that impressed.

However, the mountain bike trails, although not that well marked and me with no map, were really fun! These were more what I’d consider classic cross country trails, with a lot more roots rocks, and challenges than the trails I ran at Rotorua. I kept thinking what a great site this would make for an enduro-style race over 24 hours or something. I also thought some of the trails by the river would make excellent sections for an adventure race, or even an off-road triathlon. However, I’m just a tourist, and tour I must. I hadn’t planned or dressed for too long in the trails, so I shortly departed for a quick sandwich at a nearby cafe (where Heli-tours depart from), and was back on the road towards some other attractions such as the Huka Fall Jet boating.

This was another thing I was unsure about, but after watching the boats a bit, and convincing myself that I should do it if I had any interest, I plunked down my 95NZD and put on my life jacket. Again, since I’m all alone, I was slotted on the next boat out. Sweet. I’m glad that I did this. Overall, the ride was about 30 minutes, but had a lot of 360 spins, and plenty of high speed. We had a good pilot, and we got really close to the Huka falls from the water. I also learned that 4 times a day, the dam downriver is opened, to allow the rapids to take shape below, reportedly the deepest and gnarliest ones in New Zealand. Next opening was in about 50minutes. Unfortunately, I was on the wrong side, and had to bike back to the falls, then along a trail all the way there to make it in time. Well, I could have taken the highway, but that would have been sort of annoying. So instead, I rushed off in hopes of making it there in time.

My timing was excellent. I had just enough time to get there, lock up my bike, and run off to the viewing platform at the mid-rapids point. I was there when there was about 4 minutes left till they opened the flood gate. At the moment, there was only a trickle of water, and I really didn’t know what to expect, although the dark water marks seemed to indicate the levels would get pretty high. Once the gates opened, I expected a big surge. Well, nothing happened. As it turns out, there was a fairly large basin above which first had to fill up, then a secondary one as well. It took probably 10 or more minutes before the real action started happening. However, once it did, it was quite amazing to see. The level did indeed rise in a big way, and the trickle became an insane pile of frothing whitewater which even world-class experts wouldn’t dare try to navigate. I was very impressed. And glad to have come to take in this free spectacle.

After the ‘show’, I got back on my bike and pedalled back to hostel central, which is where I’m writing this. I’m hungry, but I’m trying to get some laundry done. Once that’s done, I’ll head downtown to seek out some food and an internet connection to upload my latest adventures. Hopefully you’ll be reading this post very soon! Hope everyone is well, and that the warm weather in Ottawa is lifting spirits 🙂

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