12th Mar 2012 12:41am | By Editor
Taupo is one of the most underrated places in New Zealand. Discover it by getting over it – in fact, 15,000 feet over it.
I arrived in Taupo excited to jump out of a plane, but not expecting much else from the small, lakeside town. As with most places in New Zealand, Taupo is steeped in Maori myth and legend.
The lake itself is the crater of a dormant volcano, but big enough to fit all of Singapore in it. Driving down the hill towards the glittering Lake Taupo, I was struck by the beauty of the place.
Like so much of New Zealand it is a place of contrasts; a serene lake overlooked by intimidating mountains, most famously Mount Doom from the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Almost immediately after getting off the bus and checking into the hostel, myself and five others were being bundled into a minivan and driven to an airfield, ready to jump out of a small plane at 15,000ft.
I will admit I was slightly nervous to sign a disclosure against my death, and being told to pay after the jump, meaning it's free if I don't survive! Always nice to know. At this point there were a few thoughts along the lines of "why am I doing this?" going through my head.
My group were all dressed in bright red jumpsuits, not a fashion I expect to catch on any time soon, and partnered up with the pros. Then we all got into the plane, sandwiched up against each other and took off. The flight was quite calm, I was busy looking out of the window, so almost forgot to put on the oxygen mask you need to breathe at altitude. Luckily the man I was strapped to wasn't as forgetful.
After about 20 minutes we got to the 15,000 feet we were jumping at and the door opened. I was the first one out, so shuffled to the open door, second thoughts racing through my head. The photographer was hanging to the outside of the plane, ready to jump.
I was expecting a countdown before jumping, so was more than a bit shocked to be suddenly plummeting towards the ground. As soon as the shock passed, I started to enjoy it. I was turned upside down and saw the next person jump. I was spun around in circles to see the whole view, the lake, the mountains.
It was a bit like being on a rollercoaster, but thousands of feet up in the air. I had been ignoring the photographer up to this point, but then realised how he managed to almost fly around us, moving from above to below almost effortlessly. Then the parachute was opened and I had plenty of time to admire the view on the leisurely descent towards Earth.
Skydiving is not the only amazing thing Taupo has to offer. As far as nightlife goes it is a good night out. The Base bar is a fun place to start, and the numerous Irish bars are always busy. However one of my favorite activities in Taupo were the hot pools by the river.
About 20 minutes outside of the town there is a spot where geothermal hot pools boil away next to the cold river, making it a lush place to swim, paddle or just relax with a cheeky drink or two. I would recommend Taupo to everyone, after all, a trip to New Zealand wouldn't be complete without a death defying fall from a plane and I reckon that Taupo's the best place to do it!