Queenstown is the temptress your parents warned you about. She’s dangerous, seductive, beautiful and if you’re not careful, she’ll have you spinning out of control.
The town, which is built around the deep blue Lake Wakatipu, is famous for its adventure activities: mountain biking, jet boating, whitewater rafting and, of course, bungy jumping. You’ll spot the tourists easily: bungy protocol means you must have your weight brandished on your hand in red marker. The truly brave are marked like livestock cattle.
Arguably the three most adrenalin-pumping activities are skydiving, bungee jumping and the canyon swing. Over the years we have tortured many-a writer by forcing them to jump from silly heights all in the name of their job. Having all survived to tell the tale (so what were they worried about? The pussies), read on for their experiences…
Canyon swinging is not an activity for the faint-hearted, but it is loads of fun. There are numerous ways to jump, and the tomfoolery comes from picking which way is right for you. Each style of jump is marked on a ‘pants’ scale of one to five pants, so there are options available for both the nanas and the thrill-seekers. You can even have the instructor customise your very own jump – but be warned, they take no prisoners.
On my arrival at the canyon I was pretty sure it was the baby jump for me, but being the last person to swing I realised I couldn’t digress back to where we had all started. So the five-pants pin jump it was. Harnessed up (and pretending to be cool) I approached the rather attractive instructors. Note to girls: they aren’t adverse to the occasional cuddle so get in as many as possible. They may be your last.
The ‘pin drop’ requires grasping your hands together behind your back, crouching down, looking directly at where you were about to fall and jumping sideways into the canyon. Simple.
After freaking myself out to a ridiculous level, I counted down from three… and jumped. All I can say is that the feeling of freefall is an out-of-world experience. Despite my pleas to let me stay down there all day I was regretfully hoisted back
up to solid ground, and so I rewarded myself with another one of those hugs…
$215 (extra jumps for $35), canyonswing.co.nz
There is perhaps no better place in the world than Queenstown to risk your life on the cord of a parachute.
The mountainous scenery is phenomenal and would inspire even the most worried jumper.
Tandem skydiving (attached to a dude or possibly a dudette) is great because you really have to do very little. I thought there would be a long drawn-out, I-want-to-slit-my-wrists-style training course. But no.
You watch a short video, take an advised wee trip, get kitted up and told to bend like a banana (head up, waist forward, legs back). That’s it…
So how was it? Surprisingly – and I really was surprised – I felt no fear.
I usually get a bit funny on a plane. But this was the one time that I knew if there was a problem I had a tough man with a parachute strapped on my back.
So instead of feeling queasy I was raring to go. I spent the 10-minute journey up to 12,000 feet enjoying the buzz and watching others freak out. But I just figured, if I am going to die, this is how to do it.
People say it is easier to go first because you don’t have to watch the others bowl out before you. But I loved the thought that I was about to follow them through the clouds. The best moment was tumbling out of the plane feeling completely befuddled… Not knowing up from down is priceless.
At 12,000 feet you get a 45-second freefall which was without doubt the shortest 45 seconds of my whole life (shoulda gone for the 60 seconds in hindsight). The rush that you get is difficult to explain. It is tough to breathe and extremely hard not to think “When will my bloody parachute open?”
That was the scary part. You are face to face with spectacular scenery, but the thought of plummeting to your doom keeps getting in the way of enjoying it.
Boomchh!! What was that? It was the glorious sound of the parachute opening and us slowing to the point where I can now hear and breathe and, more importantly, absorb the view.
Gliding down to the ground, with instructor and parachute in tow, is as close to flying I will ever get in this lifetime. I’d done it. I now officially rock.
$299 from 9,000ft, $339 from 12,000ft, $439 from 15,000ft, nzone.biz
As we drove up a makeshift road towards the Nevis, my palms were sweating, the maniac driver cackling, and whispers spread through the cabin under baited breath: “I hear they throw you off a platform to your death…”
On the other side of the mountain, as if hovering in mid-air, a white pod was suspended over a ravine. Those shiny things lining the river’s edge, are they human skulls? Is that a vulture circling high over head?
Get a grip, man!
A gondola ferried us to the pod. Inside, thumping techno played on the stereo. I assume it was meant to psyche me up – it didn’t help the nerves.
The first victim stepped up, looked out over the barren landscape in the Jesus Christ pose and took the leap of faith.
The fall seemed to go forever.
The bungy cord went taut and snapped him back upwards. Everyone, staring through the glass bottom of the pod, gasped, seeing the ridiculous look on his face; half fear,
I stepped up, put my arms out wide and looked out to the mountain in the distance… three, two, one, BUNGYYYYYYYYYY!
Momentarily flying forward until gravity kicked in, then down I went. I had lived a full 27 years and I was comfortable to call it quits.
The ground rush you get from a bungy is something you don’t get from skydiving, accelerating towards nature at a pace only matched by your heart-rate. I was like Pierce Brosnan in GoldenEye – just without the composure as my arms flailed about and irrational thoughts raced through my mind. But saving my life, my freefall slowed as the cord became taut and sprung back upwards for the second part of my ride.
Back on the platform, everyone was staring, waiting for the familiar expression of terrified enjoyment. I acted cool, naturally, just like 007. But they must have had Q’s X-ray glasses because they could see right through me.
The Nevis bungy costs $275 (inc. T-shirt and transport). bungy.co.nz
And if you don’t do heights… do the Shotover Jet
There are some things in life I know I will just never do. Nearly all of them involve jumping/falling/being pushed from a great height to almost certain death. A few of the others involve cheese, but I won’t get into that now.
So when in Queenstown, the King, or rather Queen, of all things that plummet you towards earth at a great speed, how was I to get my adrenalin kicks?
Well, luckily for me, synonymous with Queensland’s River Shotover is the word ‘jet.’ The fast and frantic Shotover Jet tour through the canyons of the 75km long river is pure exhilaration, combining the two personality facets of Queenstown – beauty and excitement.
The big red boats seat around 40 people, and shoot up and down at a pace of up to 85kph over sparkling, clear water as shallow as 10cm deep. Eek.
Kate and Wills had a go when they visited New Zealand last year, and so if it’s good enough for royalty, it’s good enough for me.
Taking a seat in the boat powered by a V8 engine, I was already excited with anticipation. As the boat revved out of the dock, I was already gripping to the bars, and I hadn’t seen nothin’ yet. Going 85kph might be a regular occurrence on the motorway, but when you’re in an open-air jet boat, the engines roaring, the wind screaming past your ears and salty water spraying you directly in the face at any opportunity, I feel like I’m travelling faster than I ever have before – and I love it.
As we crash up and down against the water, dodging rocks and skimming over shallow water, my stomach flutters in response, and the grin on my face refuses to budge. When we spin and do 180 ‘handbreak turns’, I’m laughing so hard it’s hard to tell if my wet lap is from the water spray or from something somewhat more embarrassing… I wonder if Kate had a similar problem?
It’s like the best rollercoaster I have ever been on, and even better, it lasted for 25 minutes rather than two, and I didn’t have to queue for hours for the ride.
As we pulled back into the dock and my jelly legs made hard work of clambering back on to shore, I was almost as thrilled about the ride as I was at actually having a counter-story to all those jumpers back at the hostel with their stories of bravery.
They may have jumped off a cliff or out of a plane, but I had spent the day tearing around in a jet boat. And I may or may not have wet myself on the seat that the Duchess of Cambridge may or may not have sat on. Yeah. Take that.
From $108pp, shotoverjet.com