|We struggle to leave the campsite before midday as so many people come to chat but we finally make it out to the look out point above the town, from here we can look down on Cathedral cove and the whole bay which is a vista of golden sand and turquoise sea.
We are headed back to Katikati to stay with a couple we met at the race meeting in Pukekohe. Pausing in the town of Whangamata for supplies we are approached by a local reporter who conducts his interview in the supermarket car park of all places. After this and cramming everything on the bike we shoot out of town and stop for lunch it is 4pm!
A passing cyclist stops for a chat inviting us for tea at his holiday home when he has finished his ride. He says the local beach is beautiful and we shouldn’t miss it so we make a detour to visit and it is stunning, a long stretch of sandy white beach, picture postcard stuff hidden behind rows of houses, you would never know it was there. Sadly we only have time for photos before we have to be on our way.
When we arrive at Marty and Chris’s they are out but we are greeted by their friend who makes us instantly welcome they had to pop out for a while but soon return. We find Marty has a similar taste in music and there is not much persuation needed to get the albums and dvds out.
Next morning we not only get the tour of their kiwi fruit orchard and an insight to how they are grown but also the beach for an ice cream. Then onto a high view point which has commanding views all across the harbour and bay and even a trip to the local market where I pick up a nice necklace. We end up back at the lunch spot we stopped at a week ago overlooking Matakana island only today is sunny and clear so we get chance to retake some photos. This time we can see the distant harbour and hills. Back ‘home’ we have a catch up afternoon washing, blogging and uploading photos. I also unfortunately discover a bill we thought paid and finished with at home in the UK has been incurring late payment fees, an unecessary drain on our already meagre resources so we put plans in places to get it paid off I will ‘fight’ later to get it reduced if we can. Marty and Chris’s son turns up this evening with some home brew, not beer but vodka and dark rum (it’s legal and quite common to distill your own spirits here ) so we have to sample some it is very good.
We say our goodbyes the next morning we are heading down the coast again and two contacts we met at Pukekohe, Chris with the delectable Vincent and John the Guzzi sidecar racer. We get a guided tour of Chris’s workshop and his next project an aircraft rotary engine which he has cut down to make a 3 litre v twin to be shoehorned into another bike of his making in the future, he is a really clever engineer. After the tour and a cup of tea we head out for a ride with Chris to John’s place. They have not met but have mutual friends so it’s nice to be able to introduce them, we decide to stay the night with John and Diane, Chris and his wife Trudy offered to put us up too but we needed to visit John as he has made a rocker cover with an oil filler and a differential plug with a breather and we need to let the old girl cool down so we can fit them. It’s a shame as we would have liked to have met Trudy as she sounded really nice.
John and Diane live in a beautiful setting looking out over rolling farmland, they are the most calm and chilled couple we have met in a long time and we enjoy our evening with them.
The next morning we set off feeling more at peace and relaxed than we have in quite a while.
That is until we get a text from Trudy telling Karen she left her bag in Chris’s workshop. The bag that contains the passports no less !
Once that problem is sorted we set a course for Napier and our couchsurfing friend Debbie who we have been looking forward to meeting for a while. We travel on main roads something we very seldom do as it’s ground we have already covered, through Rotorua then Taupo. The last few days has been great weather wise and today is a scorcher too.
We arrive in Taupo 2pm it is valentines day February 14th so how shall we celebrate this day I know we’ll jump out of a perfectly good aircraft at 15,000 feet (3 miles high) with nothing but a few straps holding us to the man in control, no worries it will be a breeze! In the early days before we left home I planned one big blow out and this was it, out here in NZ over the back drop of the Taupo lake on a beautiful day seems like the right time. The i site lady makes a call they can fit us in 3pm today this is good I don’t have time to get scared. We make our way to the airport and arrive with time to change out of our bike gear and into shorts after trying to sell us the photo, dvd options which we can’t afford we don the jumpsuit and are strapped in to the harness. My jump buddie arrives he is german, they usually are very efficient precise people so I should be ok. He takes my arm and almost frogmarchs me to the waiting plane I guess this is so I can’t escape. We are the first in and there are two covered planks which we turn and shuffle on backwards. We now have our backs to the pilot, for someone who doesn’t like being out of control and gets car sick I have a moment where I wonder what the hell I’m doing. The plane soon fills and Kev is on last so I can’t even squeeze his hand for comfort. My jump buddie rubs my shoulders reasuringly then pulls down an oxygen mask and puts it on my mouth. Talk about breaking you in gently he now gets me to sit in his lap whilst he attaches and tightens all the buckles, hat and goggles we are ready. A video camera is passed around the plane we all grin maybe hysterically I give Kev the thumbs up. The plane lurches violently the door has been opened, in a blink of an eye Kev, his buddie and a cameraman dissapear into the abyss, the plane lurches up a few feet this is repeated twice more now it’s my turn. We bumshuffle to the opening I look left to the camera grin wildly then lean my head back on my buddies shoulder.
Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh, I can’t breathe, wow this is unreal, my nose feels as though it will bleed, no don’t take your arm away I’ll fall oh back again thank you. Look at that view!
All of this happens at over 200km an hour plummeting straight down to earth in about 2 minutes, your buddie can’t hear you so it’s sign language all the way. The pressure on your face is unbelievable. He has his arms looped through my shoulders without them there I feel as though I’m really falling.
Woh. A massive jolt – the parachute has been deployed. Now it is totally different, time to relax and take in the views which are like nothing else you can almost see the curvature of the earth. If we shout we can hear each other now.
My buddie shouts in my ear ‘I don’t normally do this’ as he appears to loosen my straps holding me to him. My mind screams well don’t then I’m fine as we were but it is just to make the descent more comfortable. We float gently down like everything is in slow motion, the views all the way around are a true 360deg vista. He tries a couple of fast tight turns my stomach lurches ‘no please just the gentle turns’. The distant ground now suddenly looms closer. Put your hands under your knees and squat down. You what! Oh! so we can land I understand. The whole of the lake now becomes a small bite and the landing strip ever larger the last few feet are seconds and bonk we land.
How do I feel?, elated, slightly nauseus, bruised, over awed, amazed, rushed.
Kev has done a 12000ft tandem jump before and says this one was much more intense and exhillarating, the extra 3000 ft makes a big difference both to your terminal velocity and freefall time. The lass from the office is pointing the video camera again this time we all have to throw our hats and goggles in the air for the finale to the dvd.
Glad to be back on the bike again we head for the sanity of Jared and Annette’s place for another night in the den. Wow did that really just happen !