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New Zealand

Where sheep herding is an X-treme sport

You wouldn't expect an island nation, best known for its 20:1 sheep to human ratio, could be much more than a pastoral paradise. The island does hold more than it's share of natural beauty, ranging from spectacular geysers to boiling mud pits (also spectacular, if slightly lacking in beauty), tropical rainforests to active volcanoes and sulfurous emerald pools (all of which you can see in one day if you do the amazing, way-too-much-uphill 18 km Tongariro Crossing hike, just pack more than a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, take it from those with experience) and from the southern glaciers to clear ocean waters of the north, teeming with dolphins that BEG for you to jump in and play. The land is also rich with the culture of the Maori, a Polynesian people eager to share their history with the wayward traveler. All of this is reason enough for most people to visit New Zealand.

However, lesser known and perhaps more enticing to the backpacker with his or her fill of six months' worth of beauty and culture is that this island...this QUITE literally a thrill-seeker's wonderland. We found that after several months of trekking across Australia, battling scorpions, snakes, crocs, and the occasional ornery travel agent, there was no better remedy than to spend a whirlwind tour of daredevilry.

We first tried white water rafting in Rotorua, however, having our raft flip over halfway down a 21 foot waterfall just wasn't enough excitement. So we moved on to black water rafting in Waitomo, which, for the layman, translates to floating around in the freezing waters of a cave river system, often in the dark. Very risky, and yet, not sensory overload, for we went skydiving very soon after. This, admittedly, caused a few moments (ALRIGHT, a sleepless night's worth) of panicky fear, but we survived, and even went on to unwittingly go swimming with the aforementioned dolphins accompanied by a great white shark (later caught by local fishermen).

As you can see, New Zealand is a country of many facets, not least of which is a fondness for 'waiver of responsibility for personal injury or loss of life' forms...





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