Taupo is touted as the cheapest place to skydive in New Zealand. I knew I should seize the day before I gave myself the excuse that it's too expensive. Yes, it's is a hefty chunk of change, but I had saved up for months, and knew that this was one adventure I'd never forget.
Just before pulling up to Taupo, our bus stopped at the powerful Huka Falls. Its milky green rushing water fuels about 15% of NZ’s power and offers a stunning backdrop to experience jet boat tours, just one of the activities offered in the area.
A 10-minute drive from the falls is easily-walkable, fun Taupo. The lake views of snowcapped mountains are beautiful, especially when hurling yourself out of an airplane. That's right, skydiving is another popular activity in the area.
Even though I decided to skydive here, let me just start off by saying that prior to visiting NZ, I had no intention of ever skydiving.
While getting to know my new bus mates in the calm of Paihia and the Bay of Islands, I found myself unexpectedly agreeing to skydive with fellow traveling friend, Elena.
I then spent the next five days vacillating between excitement and dread, and confusion...a few times over. My thoughts went a little something like this:
"What am I thinking? This is insane. Nah, this is going to be amazing! I've only heard good things. Wait, why would I voluntarily leave a perfectly good plane that I would otherwise strap myself into? Oh come on, everyone who's done it has loved it. This is a really good idea. Maybe I have always wanted to do this?! Yeah, I think I forgot that I want to skydive."
Back to our arrival in Taupo.
The weather initially called it off, but by the next morning, we were on again. I had shaken on this, and I was ready. I stopped asking "why?" and made the decision to do it. We were picked up in a super cheesy limo, with just enough time to quickly sign our lives away en route to the airport.
I felt surprisingly calm and quickly found that a huge smile had spread across my face. Gearing up in the jumpsuit, hat, and goggles made it exciting and official!
After suiting up, my tandem diver and I hopped into the tiny plane. I was the last one in, which meant that yes, I was the first one out. Ok, I got this. I had been told that it was ideal to be the first to jump as I wouldn't have anyone in my eye-line. Just open skies and clear views.
Up we went, slowly rising to 12,500 ft. Once we reached the correct elevation, the door lifted, and suddenly that unquestioning ease I’d felt the entire morning was completely knocked out of me as the cold wind entered the plane. I went from all smiles to facial contortions of terror and disbelief. What the &$!# was I thinking?!
I wasn't. I was doing. Our legs swung over the edge, my head leaned back onto his shoulder, and 3-2-1, out we went!
I remember flipping over and doing a couple of spins. My eyes were open every second of the way. I didn’t want to miss one moment.
About 10 seconds of free-fall, the chute opened, and I just kept taking in the views.
After landing, I couldn’t wipe the smile from my face. I had a massive sense of accomplishment, not because I really did anything, but because I got past the fear and stopped questioning it all. Sometimes reasoning and logic need to be tossed out of a plane.
Everyone at Skydive Taupo was great! They were all friendly, happy, and made what could be a very scary experience, unbelievably fun. Here's my cool photographer!
What surprised me the most was that my stomach never dropped, and I never felt dizzy. I don't like most roller coasters because of those sensations, and this had no jarring movements, jerkiness, or physical effects that I thought might happen.
The rest of the day can't quite compare, but it was still really great. A group of us walked to the natural hot springs, which is free and easy to find from town. Just follow Spa Road up 20 minutes, starting from Countdown supermarket. There's a parking lot on the left, just beyond the bungee jump platform that lines the Waikato River. There are different entry points, but the closer you go to the river, the more the temperature varies.
The springs are completely natural and thankfully, there's nothing commercial about them.
There are scenic cruises you can take to tour the lake, but make sure you know the times or you'll miss the last boat, like I did.
Aside from that, Taupo is great for window shopping, has some quality restaurants, coffee, and fun street art.
Next up is a trip to Mt. Doom!
Places worth visiting in Taupo:
The Waikato River simply for the view, or a jet boat adventure. Around the bend, you'll find the Hot Springs.
Skydive Taupo for the time of your life!
Otumuheke Stream in Taupo’s Spa Park for a natural, non-commercial spa outing.
Scenic Cruise for beautiful views of the city and mountains.
Friends Cafe for great coffee and nice people. Try the Piccolo Latte.
The Tongariro Crossing can be accessed from here.