Perks of the Job

Trip Start Jun 04, 2009
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36
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Trip End Sep 06, 2010


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Flag of New Zealand  , South Island,
Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Against my usual chronological blogging I thought I'd slip in this update of some of the 'smaller' activities we've been getting up to between the big trips - I know life is so tough for us!

At the beginning of January we went on a great kayaking trip a lot closer to home on our very own Lake Wakatipu where we got to visit the islands in the middle of the lake and did a short hike on the island to learn about the nature and wildlife that isn't able to survive on the mainland since predators have been introduced. In particular there is a flightless bird which is only found on the island who, in all fairness, is not going to win any Darwin evolution awards after running around our feet and being overly friendly towards us strangers rather than the textbook plan of keeping a safe distance from others big enough to eat you.  We had a great tea and cake break on the island and investigated an awesome ramshackle hut that which would be great fun to go and stay in overnight if we one day had our own kayak.  The lake was really wavy on our way back so we had a proper sea-kayaking experience of being thrown around at the mercy of mother nature but we had a lot of fun getting ourselves back to shore while trying to take action photos.

The next adventure was just for me as I couldn't get Steve a freebie too but it was a real treat.  I got to fly in a 6 seater plane over the mountains and Fijordland to Milford Sound where we connected with a two hour cruise and then fly back again.  The flight out went over Glenorchy and the Routeburn Track before passing next to two massive glaciers, then on the return trip we flew over The Milford Track and back down the lake to Queenstown.  It was absolutely incredible to put everything into perspective and see how endless the mountains and valleys seem to be and just how much of it we have been lucky to cover so far.  Seeing it from above in such a spectacular fashion was a real treat!  On the return trip I got to sit shotgun with the pilot so really did have the best seat in the house.  Having now seen Milford Sound by car, coach, foot, plane and four different boats I think it is fair to say I am qualified to call myself an information centre.

And if you thought I couldn't top that flight for an experience a couple of days after getting back from the Milford/Doubtful trip Steve and I both went on a Canyoning trip which now stands in my mind as the best activity we have done on the whole trip so far.  It was a full day trip taking us back into the Routeburn Valley and along the Routeburn track that we did when Richard was visiting to the start of a waterfall that we had seen previously, at the time I did not realise we would be jumping off the top of it!  It was once again a stunningly blue sky day which helped a lot as the water we would be in for the next 3 hours was glacier melt water which means very cold.  First of all we scampered upstream doing some rock scrambling to find a beautiful waterfall just out of sight of the main canyon and invisible from the path below, this was our first dunking as we jumped into the pool and swam under the falls.  It was so exhilarating and stunning to be seeing these little hidden places of such beauty and getting to really experience them rather than just taking photos.  Speaking of photos I was completely gutted that we didn't have a photographer with us on the trip, usually there would be one but she had just injured herself on a previous trip (which didn't reassure me!) and so there is no actual demonstration of us in action on the trip.  However thanks to the wonders of the internet I have found someone else's video of the same trip we did but on a different day so here is the link to have a look and see for yourselves some of the stunts we had to endure/enjoy and just pretend those people are us!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yfZhX-i_Stg
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GxqWvd_RsaQ

For those who can't see the videos, fear not, I will do my best to ramble on and explain it to you as well as I can.  Once we came out of the waterfall pool I thought we would be scrambling back downstream but instead we were taking the 'slide'.  This essentially means falling down a waterfall where the rocks have been eroded away, better than that we were launched down it on our backs, head first!!  Pretty scary but I imagined I was a Goonie which gave me the strength to go on!  Next stop however was even more terrifying, the first of our jumps.  Technically this wasn't a jump, as there were nasty rocks in front of the landing pool we had to just step off the cliff and not launch ourselves forwards, but I didn't think that made it any easier at all.  The first two people went and I suddenly realised I was standing on the edge of the waterfall with 8 meters to fall in front of me as if I had just woken up from a bad dream and found myself in an even worse scenario.  To add to the tension this section of the canyon passes under a bridge where a congregation of about 20 Routeburn hikers had gathered to watch us in action.  The problem being that in my case there was no 'action' I was frozen to the spot and had been counted down to go but nothing was happening.  I turned around to the rest of the group and politely said 'I'm sorry I've bottled it, I'll just wait here' expecting them to make room for me to walk past and go to sit in the sun for a few hours.  However no one would let me pass, least of all Steve.  I glanced up at the expectant crowd on the bridge with all their cameras pointed at me and decided the show must go on, even if I didn't.  Next thing I knew I was jumping off the edge...do you remember how we were told NOT to jump!  The guide had to grab my life jacket and pull me backwards mid air so I came into a back-bellyflop 8 meters below and didn't hit the rocks.  I would have loved to take some time to reflect on the situation but I had to quickly start swimming against the current to the cliff side where I could clip myself on and clear the landing spot for the Steve who executed a perfect style of landing without hesitation.  Thrilled at myself for actually doing it and now getting deeper into the canyon and into places of extreme beauty that can't be seen from any path or other angle my confidence grew and I was embracing the big slides that launched us off big waterfalls with 6 meter free falls, abseiling and zip lining taking us further and deeper into the canyon.  The only thing I was still not keen on was the jumps, we stopped for a bit at a pool fed by a waterfall with a few different jumps around to play on and I climbed up a few times to slide over the waterfall, which was one of the highest points, but just couldn't launch myself from the jump points, the height didn't bother me as much as the actual jumping.  Steve on the other hand fearlessly launched himself from the jump points until the guide suggested to him there was a much higher one if he was up to the challenge.  Needless to say he was, and he climbed up to the 11 meter cliff where he had to jump out over some rocks to land in the pool again - and he didn't even hesitate!  Unlike the German guy who followed Steve and stood trembling at the top shaking his head for a long time before eventually walking back down. 

After our play I thought nothing could stop me and took the very thin slide Goonie style to the next level of the canyon.  But then I was faced with another compulsory jump and the fear started coming back as I found myself hovering on the edge of the rocks staring at the white water below.  To add to this we had been told due to lack of rain for a while the water level was low so we had to rotate during the jump to land on our backs to create the biggest surface area possible.  No prizes for guessing if I managed this successfully, I somehow managed to slip as I was jumping and rotate in the air so I landed sideways on my face with my legs up in the air.  I was fine!  Just pleased I managed to actually propel myself off the cliff again, others in the group though were starting to see me as a bit of a liability though but I can't really blame them - I was.  Steve decided to take the route of repeating all instructions to me clearly two or three times after I had been told by the guides to try to help.  Unfortunately as he was doing this I caught my knuckles in my carribena as I was listening to instructions and not paying attention.  It may not sound like it so far but I was having such an amazing time, I couldn't wipe the smile off my face and the adrenalin was in full swing.  Just a few final obstacles to overcome like being lowered over a rock and then just dropped to freefall into the pool below before abseiling down and out of the canyon.  It really was mind-blowing and I can't recommend it more, I know there's a big canyoning scene in the UK as well and that will be one of the first trips I do once we're back home - if Steve will let me that is, and we can find an insurer crazy enough to sign me up.

So you would think that that was quite enough adventure for one day but in fact that evening we were meeting up with friends for one more jump.  This time no wetsuits, no guides and a very very cold lake.  There was no way I was doing anymore than I achieved already that day but the rest of them were preparing to jump off 'Little Thailand' a cliff face that is 15.5 meters above the lake and once in you have to climb up a rock face to get back to land again - madness!  Given that the equivalent height is about a 4 storey building it did not tempt me one bit.  Watch the video and see for yourself as Steve shows no fear once again where fear would be a perfectly reasonable reaction.  Afterwards we went and celebrated with a free bbq in one of the local pubs as it was Australia Day and got a couple of drinks down us before we were out for the count.

Only when I woke up the next morning did I notice I couldn't move my body and thought I had been in a car crash!  Bodies heal but glory lasts forever :)

Lot's of Love

Amy and Stupid Steve



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