Sunday, July 27, 2008

Taranaki Falls

One of the best things about being surrounded by travelers is the element of spontaneity. People from around the world with different personalities and varied interests come up with adventures that you could never have dreamed up alone. It was over lunch that I decided I wanted to jump into Taranaki Falls.

Helen and I were eating in the staff room and planning to use the internet before our shifts started when Mike, a sweet young guy from England, plopped down at the table across from us. Everyone knew that he was heading home to start university in a few weeks and was trying to cram in as many activities as possible before leaving.

“What are you up to today?” we asked.

“I’m going to jump in a waterfall,” he replied matter-of-factly, “I just wish I had someone there to take my picture.”

Helen and I exchanged a quick glance. “I’ll go with you,” I volunteered, “but if you’re jumping in the water then so am I.”

“Well I’m not going to be the only loser who doesn’t jump in,” Helen chimed in.

And so, our idea was born. We each ran home to change into swimsuits and pack a bag of warm clothes to bundle up for the walk home. We met at the entrance to the Taranaki Falls walk, checked our watches and realized that there was no way we would make it back to work in time if it actually took us the allotted hour posted each way.

Refusing to accept defeat, we decided to run the downhill portions of the trail and Manhattan speed walk the rest of the way, reassuring ourselves that the time was overestimated for dawdlers. Stopping for a few pictures in between, we reached the falls in about forty-five minutes.

Since it was his original idea, Mike stripped down and went first while Helen and I stood on the rocks armed with a disposable camera. After striking a few poses he crawled out shivering but grinning. We took turns wading to the middle, standing still long enough to get a good shot, and then trying to convince the next participant through chattering teeth that it really wasn’t that cold.

After we had each taken one turn, we concluded that we couldn’t really claim to have jumped into a waterfall while we still had dry hair, so Helen and I grabbed hands, plugged our noses, and tip toed far enough out to completely dunk our heads. Not one to be outdone, Mike followed suit, splashing water overhead as he broke the surface.

Exhilarated, and possibly delirious from the cold, we started our walk back at the same fast pace that we had taken there. Even slowed slightly by a scraped knee that I earned taking a fall around a slick corner, we made it back in time to change clothes and get to work with barely a minute to spare. For the rest of the evening, fueled by adrenaline, endorphins, and the sheer timing of coming across the idea on a day filled with blue skies and sunshine, I couldn’t wipe the grin off of my face. As fate would have it, a blizzard hit Whakapapa village the next day making the savoring of our experience even more sweet.

**This little adventure was featured on!

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