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Pleasure in the Pacific

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It's a sin really - sitting inside here keeping all you fine folks up to date when Mel is out sunning herself on a Fijian beach!

However, back to our last few weeks in NZ. Our final stop on the South Island was the stunning Abel Tasman National Park. Unfortunately we only had a day here but you could easily spend a few weeks. We got a boat out to the famous Split Apple Rock before being put back ashore to hike the trails which wound their way through lush rain forests providing fabulous views of craggy inlets and luscious sandy beaches (a fantastic day, made all the more perfect by the free hot choc pudding and ice cream back at the hostel!).

After returning to the North Island, we once again stopped off in Taupo in order to hike the Tongariro Alpine Crossing. There were about 27 of us in the group (although 2 people bailed before we even reached the trickier parts). It was fairly easy going, including the omnious sounding "Devil's Staircase", until we reached the upper slopes and started hiking through the snow. We buddied up so that strong people (like me) could prevent mini people (like Mel) from blowing away. Crampons on and walking poles at the ready, we battled against biting winds and stingin snow to traverse Mt Doom (Mount Ngauruhoe) and reach Tongariro mountain itself. The views were phenomenal. Far in the distance, we could see the snow covered peak of Mt Taranaki, which stood in for Mt Fuji in movies such as "The Last Samurai". Lunch at the top of the mountain was a huddles affair, with us all sitting pretty much on top of each for the purposes of sharing body heat (not my suggestion! that of an over-amorous guide me thinks). The descent was fairly quick, the group hiking past  bubbling pools and hot thermal streams. The free drinks and chips afterwards never tasted so good!

Later that week we ventured out on our second white water rafting experience of this trip. Two rafts set out, Mel and I in the second one with two others and  our trusty (?) guide Nick. All went well, crashing over 2-2 1/2 metre falls.Then we reach the top of the fall that makes this a Grade V raft - a drop over a 7m waterfall. Nick reiterates the safety points "Sit down on the bottom of the raft when I say and HOLD ON", "If flipped, stick close to the boat", "Try to hold on to the paddle" etc etc. The other 3 sit on the base of the raft while Nick and I paddle toward oblivion. Just as we reach the lip, Nick shouts for me to get down. The boat tips, goes vertical, plunging us down and then....a wall of water hits us and all I can hear and see is churning white water - we've gone under!! I feel like I'm inside a washing machine as I'm thrown around, not able to catch my breath. After what seems like forever, I open my eyes to find myself trapped under the upturned raft, still clinging to the centre rope (and my paddle!). Not exactly a fish in water, my head focuses on the mantra "Don't panic, don't panic, don't panic" as I try to get my water-logged brain to figure out my escape. Despite putting my head into the water being the last thing I want to do at that point, I've no choice so I duck under the raft. The guide is on top of the raft, telling me to let go (again, how about "NO") and, after flipping it over, he drags my sodden body into it. Mel and the other two are still floating around somewhere having been thrown out of the boat (and losing their paddles in the process, tut tut). Once we're all aboard again, we finish the rest of the river withour incident. That night we attended a Maori cultural event which involved visitng a Maori village, complete with the locals singing and doing the haka, a maori war boat gliding through the river, a sumptuous traditional meal and a night walk through the woods to see glowworms.

Our last weekend in NZ, we decided to treat ourselves to a night on the town. After a lovely meal, we headed to a comedy club where we were seated in the front 2 seats and, obviously, we got some serious ribbing from the comedians, I even got serenaded (complete with a condom thrown at me!). Afterwards we caught a drag show and danced the night away in a gay bar.

Last Sunday we left NZ and flew to Fiji. We were greeted at the airport by a tropical singing welcome group. The next day we headed for our first island, Robinson Cruiseo. We were officially welcomed on the island with a Cava ceremony, a drink made from a root and looking (and tasting) remarkably like muddy water. The after dinner entertainment each night consisted of half naked Fijian men prancing around (they don't call this paradise for nothing!), followed with some fire throwing and a disco. After RC, Mel and I got the boat with 6 others to Mana. Talk about the ride from hell! It had started drizzling in the morning so we'd put on our rain jackets but by the time we were out on the boat, it had turned torrential. A journey that was supposed to last 45 mins, took 2 hours, the gang of us shivering away as rain, wind and waves pounded us. The weather thankfully cleared enough for Mel and I to go snorkelling off a sandbank one of the afternoons. In addition to the usual beautiful exotic small fish to be see, we also saw a beautiful manta ray gliding through the ocean and Mel spotted a baby reef sharf (thank goodness I didn't as I only had the one bikini with me....).

Well, that's it folks. Mel and I arrived into Melbourne late last night and in 3 days we will saying our goodbyes. We trust you've enjoyed our blogs and hopefully you'll continue to read our individual adventures as we continue our travels.

Laura & Mel



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