It has dawned on me that I don’t believe I’ve done a post on our nearest neighbour yet! The stunningly beautiful country of New Zealand. Home to some of the world’s most beautiful landscapes, it truly is a feast for the senses. I would love to return one day, as it’s been decades since I was last there. There’s no excuse really, it’s only a 3 hour flight from my home in Sydney to NZ. When I say it like that I feel rather ridiculous for delaying my return for so many years. Unfortunately, I don’t have any photos of New Zealand to share with you. At the time of my visit, all my photos were taken in slide format. Yep, slides. Old school or what? And sadly over the years those slides have faded to the point that they are no longer salvageable. So, this post is going to focus on NZ’s adventure activities capital, Queenstown, and some of the things I tried while there.
The only thing I was truly aware of, adventure wise, when arriving in Queenstown was the Shotover Jet. Basically it’s a high speed, sharp turning, wild ride in a jet boat on the local Shotover River. And of course it was the first thing we headed for and it didn’t disappoint. But we quickly discovered that Queenstown is a adventure junkies paradise – the range of activities available to visitors is immense. One of the first things we did when our road trip landed us in beautiful Queenstown was a scenic flight in a helicopter. Now, Queenstown is situated on a lake down in the south-west corner of the South Island. It is backed by a magnificent mountain range known as The Remarkables (a very fitting name, if ever there was one!). Our pilot on the day was a ex-army pilot and as such he was a bit of a daredevil, sitting in our little glass bubble of a chopper he would fly us directly towards a cliff face, before angling sharply upwards and climbing at the last minute. Okay, by his standards it probably wasn’t the last minute but to a 15 year old girl with a head full of adrenaline, it was close! Our helicopter ride eventually landed us a short distance from a river, ready to embark on the next adventure activity … White Water Rafting.
Also located on the Shotover River, our rafting adventure would turn out to be much more than anticipated. The journey usually takes about 4-5 hours to complete and these particular “mother-of-all-rapids” are usually graded 3-5. Which sounded fine. Except in the days prior to our experience a vicious storm had ravaged the area and the river was swelling and wild as hell. Plus, we had kind of “lied” on the paperwork for the rafting company and stated that I was over the minimum age of 16. We were kitted out in wet suits, with life vests and helmets, and given a safety talk by our rafting guide. Basic instructions like what he would say to paddle forward, backwards, sideways, when to brace and get in the boat etc. were also given out. My Dad and the guide had been engaging in banter back and forth, and so mid-way through the trip the guide decides he’s going to have us paddle, fast, head-on into a cliff face – the aim being to throw my smart-ass Dad in the river. It was a highly successful ploy by the guide … only he didn’t factor in the light-weight kid (namely, me) who also slipped over the edge and into the river. I can remember it like it was yesterday. I got stuck under the raft. The rocks and rapid water beneath me, the rubber of the boat above. I could feel the feet of someone in the raft so I grabbed on trying to get attention that I was stuck. I can’t say I was too scared at the time, I’m a strong swimmer and comfortable in water, but I was starting to freak out about not being able to surface. Eventually, my uncle felt me bashing around under the boat and, reaching under the water, he pulled me back in. Just in time to hit one of the worst of the rapids. I was a little shaken, my nerves rattled and so I wasn’t doing my bit to paddle and get us through the rough waters. Neither was the man at the front of our boat – who it turns out had a prosthetic leg which was floating in the now flooding raft and throwing him off balance as he tried to paddle. Honestly, it’s a miracle we all arrived in one piece at the end of the long rafting adventure!
You may think I would’ve had enough adventure after that. But no, I’d saved the best for last! Bungy jumping! You need to keep in mind, this was 1991. The first ever commercial bungy jumping site in the world was established by AJ Hackett in Queenstown in 1988. So this thing was still pretty new and daring! They weigh you first, wrap some towels around your ankles to protect your skin, then wrap the bungy cord around them. My initial thought was that the cord was awfully thin … is that thing really going to work?! I was to jump off the Kawarau Bridge and was given the option to get dunked in the river below (hands only please!). So the moment arrives, with a little help I shuffle my feet to the edge of the jump off point. Someone has very helpfully drawn an outline of feet so I know exactly where to stand. Someone less helpful has written the words “Don’t look down” in the outline … so of course, as anyone would, I look down. Way down. To the churning river below. And then after a quick countdown – I fall into the air. I say “fall” because it’s less like jumping, more like just a little spring of the legs and diving into air. Arms spread wide, sailing out into nothing. When you reach the bottom of your fall, it’s not the jerk and rebound you might expect. It was more a gentle swinging motion that flung me back, upright, heading up the other side. Before eventually you are left dangling at the bottom and waiting for the raft on the shore to come across and collect you. It was such a rush. There aren’t really the words to explain a rush like that. To this day, it’s still one of the most exciting things I’ve done and my fondest memory of the beautiful and action packed city of Queenstown.
This post is part of my contribution for the April 2017 A-Z Challenge
For a list and links to my other challenge posts, click here
For those interested in my 2016 challenge post for Q, here’s the link: QANTAS