“Me Miss, me Miss. I know. Is it Denmark, Miss?”

“No, Damian,” – weary sigh – “it’s cheese.”

The worst thing is, I haven’t changed. Bedecked in helmet, wet suit and large cushion-nappy thing, I’m standing at the top of a 12m waterfall. 

“Right,” says Alister, our guide, “we can abseil down this waterfall, or…” he adds, with a challenging twinkle in his eye, “you can jump.”

My head says, “jump? I’d rather extract my teeth with a shotgun.” But my arm is in the air and my mouth has made some noises that sound very much like, “Yeah, okay then.”

Everyone else has abseiled down and is staring up at me with looks that say, “he’s going to chicken out. Or become a lump of jelly.”

I had to jump soon – bungy jumping has taught me that time is the enemy of courage. So I shut my eyes and step out…

Fear factor conquered, along with Alister and a young doctor called Chloe (if a doctor’s doing it, it must be safe, right?), we jumped from another five ridiculously high ledges into swirling black pools. Canyoning is sensational and exhausting fun. 

Ace in the hole

Wanaka is one gorgeous spot. Mesmerising mountains and lakes are strewn around it like offerings to a gluttonous king. Though it is relatively quiet, there’s barrel loads of fun to be had. Most involve descending at great speed.

With a skydive, you’re not really thinking about the vistas so much, more about whether you’ll live or die.

The next day I find myself sitting on the edge of an aeroplane with my legs dangling out of the door. Someone said “smile” and pointed to a camera. I did the opposite. And we were gone…

A backward somersault. Then down, down, down… and I realise I’m screaming. Not in panic, but in sheer, unadulterated… whatever it is.


Forty seconds later the parachute pops open and it feels like being shot back upwards. We drift for another four glorious minutes towards the safety of terra firma.

The floor might be dull, but rocks aren’t. Minutes from Wanaka is a great climbing site. I took a half-day rock climbing course didn’t fall off the rock face once. I may have told a small fib.

The next morning we passed Wanaka’s famous underwear fence; hundreds of bras and under-garments great and small, all attached to a fence. Why? Just because. I too left a little offering to the underwear gods.

I should have kept them on! Ever been whitewater rafting without the raft? They do give you a mini raft/sledge thing, but whitewater sledging is still nuts. Surprisingly once you learn to go with the flow, it’s thrilling. And I actually got told off for going too fast. Following instructions, something else I didn’t learn at school.

The damage & the details: full-day canyoning with Deep Canyon (Ph: (03) 443 7922) costs $225; tandem jumps with Skydive Lake Wanaka (Freephone: 0800 786 877) cost from $295; climbs with Wanaka Rock Climbing (Ph: 03 443 6411, ) from $120; and sledging with Frogz White Water Sledging (Freephone: 0800 4 FROGZ) cost $139.