Saturday, December 20, 2008

"You could spend every dollar you ever earned, and it would be totally worth it."

It was 8:15 in the morning and it was raining as I made my way down to the AJ Hackett bungy shop right in the center of Queenstown.  Justin had done the 134-meter Nevis high wire bungy 2 years ago last time in Queenstown, so if I was going to do it, it was going to have to be solo.  This is the second biggest bungy jump in the world and considering I have never done a bungy jump before it made me a little "uneasy." Of course Justin did his best to make the whole process seem as frightening as possible (as most of you could imagine) which only added to my fear.

Justin described the 45-minute 4x4 bus ride through the mountains to the Nevis canyon as, what he though, to be the least safe part of the journey.  I could easily see why, we were in this huge bus on a very narrow dirt road with 100-meter drop-offs on either side. When we made it to the top we got our first look at what we were be jumping out of.  In the center on this massive canyon was this cable car that looked like the size of a shoebox suspended from 3 wires that ran across the gap.  I didn't like the looks of it.

Before I could fully take in my surrounding, I was being fitted into a harness, of course with my back to what I was about to do.  Then, me and the other 10 individuals who thought it would be a good idea to do this thing found ourselves getting the "safety" talk.  I was expecting some 15-minute video warning us about the dangers and how the whole process worked.  I was not even close, this "safety" speech was simply "take everything out of your pockets and I need numbers 1-4 to follow me," I was number 4.

We followed this guy to a small open-air booth that was attached to the same cable as the jump station. He then strapped our harnesses to the bar and told us to hold on.  We started to move along the cable, I looked down and my heart started to pump very fast, we were way higher up then I though we would be.  When we got to the bigger, jumping station I realized I was only a few moments away from actually doing this. Techno music was pumping as we sat on the Plexiglas seats and waited to get a foot harnesses fitted.              Then you walked through a small gate which led to the metal chair that propped your feet up to be attached to the bungy.  Next it was stepping up to small piece of plywood to look down, then came the final words from the jumpmaster, "pick a spot on the mountain and jump towards it.” I held my breath and leaped forward.  I was in free fall for 9 seconds; it felt like forever with the ground getting closer and closer.  I remember about half way through thinking I wasn't attached properly and that I wasn't going to spring back up, that's how long the free fall was. It was amazing; it feels like you actually cheated death.

After bouncing up and down a couple of times I pulled the release cord that turned me right side up so all the blood didn't rush to my head as they winched me back to the cable car. The rest of the time was kind of like a blur, I was floating with excitement, I wanted to go again.  But of course it is way too much money to do it twice in one day so I soon found myself in the cable car back to the base station where I could look at my photos and video from the jump.  Obviously being a sucker for this kind of stuff I bought both and would be happy to show them to anyone.

            So that is how I kicked off my time in the adrenaline capital of the world.  Justin and I did heaps of ridiculous activities that would make both our mothers cringe.  Here is what we like to refer to as the extreme rundown:

We first went whitewater rafting in the shot over canyon.  There were class 3 and 4 rapids but unfortunately there was not enough water for the class 5s to be working.  Then we did the 43-meter ledge bungy jump that is on a mountain top 400 meters above Queenstown.  This was the “freestyle” bungy so I did a flip off it and Justin one upped me with a gainer. Next was the shot over canyon swing.  Basically we got attached to a cable, jumped off a ledge for a 60-meter free fall, and then did a 200-meter arc at 150 kph.  Additional jumps were only 20 dollars, we obviously did that one twice.   Between these activities in our "down time" we raced down the street luge course that overlooked Queenstown.  Finally our favorite activity that we saved for our last day was canyoning.  Canyoning is a relatively unknown activity to most people, even in Queenstown.  It involves hiking, zip lining, abseiling, rockslides, cliff jumps, and of course variations of these, all is 40 degree rushing rapids.  For instance one of the obstacles involved climbing up a hill, zip lining to the center of the canyon, abseiling ourselves down from 20 meters to about 3 meters over the rapids, then releasing ourselves into the freezing water.  It was extreme and we both are already looking for the next place where we can do it again.  Also the gear they put you in made for some price less photos.  The outfits consisted of 10mm of neoprene wetsuit, helmets with funny names on them (I was Rocky and Justin was Zorro), matching lifejackets, booties and harnesses.

We certainly got the most we could get out of the place.  Just last night while cooking dinner Justin pointed out that we did every activity that had a poster up on the wall of our hostel. Queenstown really is an amazing place; you could literally do a different extreme activity everyday for at least a month if your budget allowed you to.  Of course we needed to run away fast because as Justin puts it, "You could spend every dollar you ever earned, and it would be totally worth it."  Everyone should make it there at some point in his or her life.

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