Thursday, March 02, 2006



Adventure in Queenstown

You have to be at least a bit crazy if you can jump off a plane. Or a bridge for that matter. But you head to Queenstown in New Zealand’s pretty South Island, and you realize that there are a lot of crazies out there. Queenstown advertises itself as the adventure capital of the world. Going by the number of sky divers and bungy jumpers and river rafters it attracts, that is no tall claim.

The town itself is pretty as a picture. It lies on Lake Wakatipu and the foothills of the Remarkables range of mountains. The snow-topped mountains and lake combine to make Queenstown a year-round tourist destination. Summer sees skydivers and bungy jumpers and river rafters do their thing, while the winter brings on the skiers. So, if you have even the smallest adventure bone in your body, you need to come here.

We didn’t get to do this ourselves but if river rafting is your thing, the Shotover and Kawarau rivers can provide you thrills and more. There are half day rafting trips over Grade 4 rapids and the Kawarau river has some wild segments including New Zealand’s longest commercial white water segment. If you don’t have the time, you can try the Shotover Jet, a half hour wild ride at over 70 km/ hr through the canyon, skimming impossibly close to the canyon walls. I had fun screaming my lungs out.

The Kawarau Bridge is the site of the world’s first bungee jump. You jump off a 43 metre bridge over the beautiful green waters of the Kawarau river. You can jump forwards, backwards or with someone else. You can also touch the water when you jump. I did the tandem bungee with my husband. That fateful moment when you will yourself to take the plunge is hard to forget. Your legs are tied together and you are standing on the ledge looking down at those blue-green waters. Every instinct in you screams at you to step back. There is no earthly reason you need to do this, you tell yourself. Yet in one heart-stopping moment you jump. The waters rush up towards you and before you know it you are pulled back by the rope. The second time you go down, you are expecting it and then you enjoy it more. It is quite crazy.

Even crazier is jumping off a plane. I never dreamed I would do something like that. Ever. But an adventure-crazed husband and a persuasive salesman at the NZone office on Shotover street made sure I did the impossible. I did not sleep the entire night before the sky dive. I had already done the bungee the day before, but I knew jumping off a plane at 9000 feet was going to be different. I was scared witless. The pep talk the Hungarian instructor was giving me in his heavily accented English was going over my head. All I could do was curse my husband for getting me into this mess and I was sure that if I got out of this alive, I was going to leave him. They strapped me up to this instructor, him behind me with the parachute and we hopped onto a small plane. As the plane flew up to the required 9000 feet, I was so nervous, I was almost in tears. The 2 minutes when you sit at the edge of the plane door looking down at the clouds below was almost interminable. And then you fell. The free fall was the most terrifying 35 seconds of my life. I could feel the skin of my cheeks flapping against my face as my instructor and I fell headlong into earth. Then the parachute opened and all was well with the world. The 5 minutes or so we floated down to earth with the parachute was magical – the clouds above, the mountains and lake below. It was paradise on earth. Especially as it seemed we had snatched ourselves from the jaws of death.

After that bit of madness, it was good to have that refreshing mug of beer in one of the innumerable English-type pubs dotting the town. Nothing else in our stay at Queenstown quite matched that sky dive. But we spent a nice afternoon strolling by the lakeside, enjoying the sunshine and looking up at the sky watching the other crazies do other wild things like paragliding. Queenstown sure is fun. If you are a little twisted in the head.

2 comments:

Deeps said...

Oh man!! Looks like you are my type, though in my case its me who's trying force my hubby into taking me sky-diving. We did bungee jumping in South Africa which is supposedly the highest bungee jump in the world. The post and videos are here.

We'll probably sky-dive within another 6 months and I'm oh-so-looking forward to it. Though, I am sure I'll spend a sleepless night like you :).

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