Queenstown the capital of adrenaline
Trip Start Jan 04, 2008
130Trip End Dec 17, 2008
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The canyon swing is the new thing for crazy fools who like to try and kill themselves. There is a wire attached to either side of the canyon and then from this in the centre another wire is attached to the jumper. You leap off the 109m high platform at the side of the canyon straight into a 60m freefall and as the wire takes up the slack you accelerate into a 200m arc at speeds up to 150kph. Once you have finished swinging you are hoisted back up to the platform and apparently are likely to want to do it all over again...
To pass the few hours until the jump we headed up the hill behind the town via gondola to take in the great views of the city and to have a few runs on the luge (same as Roturua). Having had a good feed at lunchtime of waffles with apples, blueberries and ice-cream I definitely had the weight advantage and took back the luging crown from Maud with a final score of 3-2 !
Now feeling quite worried about the canyon swing we headed to the office to be weighed and measured. The fact is as long as you weren't over 130kg there wasn't any issues, really it was just an excuse for the bloke to scribble a drawing on your hand in permanant marker, I got a reasonably good drawing of a kiwi from the Rolf Harris of the office. Maud (having done her one and only bungee at Vic Falls) was coming along as a spectator only, rather than leap as well, so with the rest of the jumpers that consisted of 3 Israeli's, 3 Swedish girls (hmmmm) and a Canadian bloke we set out on the drive to the canyon which took about 15mins.
On arrival at the canyon we were led down a path for about 5 minutes to the actual site of the jump. We were then asked who wanted to go down first to do the jumps, the Israeli's were well up for it and I followed them down to get it out of the way sooner rather than later.
The first guy being quite sure of himself asked to take the chair, which involved sitting on a plastic chair and being dropped of the ledge backwards, however the two crew decided to liven it up a bit by making it an electric chair and zapping him with a tazer whilst leaning him backwards over the ledge. Once he had finally been dropped and came back up, it was good to see he had a huge smile on his face, I was beginning to look forward to this but not the antics of the two staff up there on the ledge.
After someone had gone backwards and the other forwards, I decided I would do what they rated as the scariest jump, the "Pin Drop" which basically had you standing on the side of the ledge and jumping off sideways, I think this was rated as scary due to the instant freefall and also you had to continue looking down before jumping rather than out.
So pumped up after having made the first jump I immediately said I would do another. I wanted to do a cutaway which is were they hang you from the harness face up and then release you with a ripcord. These blokes obviously thought I could take a bit more fear so made it the Seven Count instead which only became apparant when they winched me over the side and I saw the frayed rope attaching me to the overhanging strut. It seemed that they hadn't had enough fun with me before and this release involved them slowly but surely cutting away small threads of the frayed rope until it snapped and I dropped.
My explanations above aren't anywhere near as good as the videos, so please see the attachments on the blog to really experience what I was going through at the time, they still give me that sick feeling in my stomach every time I watch them. All in all, I was so glad I had done the swing as I nearly didn't book it, it was better than the bungy, smoother as you didn't have the recoil effect and less painful as there was no hanging upside down waiting to be brought back up, plus I have to say the two blokes at the end did a great job in building up the fear factor just to the level were you couldn't bear it anymore and then you were gone !!!
We arrived back in Queenstown at about 8pm and decided that a well deserved trip to the English Fish & Chip shop was in order so it was sausage chips and gravy all round - and very tasty it was too !
The next morning we had booked River Surfing so headed to their office for 8.45am. River surfing is essentially white water rafting but without the raft and oars with the added opportunity to surf - if you manage to time it
right. As you go through the white water rapids you can spin around to face back upstream and catch the backwash of one of the big waves and the river will hold you on the wave so that you can surf it. There were 11 of us and three guides and the point were we entered the river was about a 20 minute drive from Queenstown. We were kitted out with 5mm wetsuits, helmets, booties and fins and a bouyancy aid each and then given a body board. As we entered the water it was immediately apparent that this stuff was running down from a glacier as it was absolutely freezing. Having splashed about for 5 or 10 minutes practising how to get back on your board should you come off we headed off downstream.
Getting downstream was pretty easy - as long as you managed to stay in the fast flowing current you could just cruise along on your board without much effort. However, the first rapid came quite soon after we had started and it was a bit of a shock and a lot rougher than we had expected. It was a grade 3 and it was like being chucked into a massive washing machine full of cold water. It seemed to go on for quite a while and with a lungful of water and being spun around it was quite disorientating. We weren't the only ones to appear at the other end coughing and spluttering....The next leg was really nice as we cruised along in the sunshine passing through the gap used in the Lord of The Rings The Two Towers - where the Two Towers (I think they were the statues along the riverside in the film) were superimposed and then sat under the bridge watching jumpers do the original AJ Hackett Bungee.
The next rapid wasn't too far away though and this was the one with the biggest backwash so we were told we had three or four attempts each to catch the wave. To do this rather than get washed straight through we had to try and swim out of the rapid halfway through and grab at the rocks at the side of the river. Having kicked like demons and managed to do this we then took turns and one by one threw ourselves back into the churning water trying to catch the wave in the back wash. One of the guides was in there and made it look like a piece of cake but no-one in the group managed it on their first go so we all had to trot back up the bank to try again. The second time Maud managed to catch it and you could hear her "woooo-hooo" as she was surfing the wave. On my second attempt I also managed to catch the wave - it takes a massive amount of kicking to turn yourself around in the middle of the rapid but very bizzarely as soon as you catch the wave and start surfing you can stop kicking and the river just holds you facing back upstream. As I peeled off the wave and headed down the rapid I was so exhausted from all the kicking that I missed the exit point and was heading off down river and had to be dragged out by the guide waiting for the stragglers. Needless to say I had a bit of a paddle back up to catch the rest of the group but we had both managed to catch the surf so we were quite pleased with ourselves.
After the surfing rapid we headed off downstream for the biggie - the Chinese Dog Leg. A "nice" grade 3-4 and about 800m of white water to get through. We clambered out onto the bank and surveyed the boiling water below and it didn't look nice, it looked pretty fierce and nasty especially for a bodyboard. The guides pointed out the areas to avoid - big rocks and holes that would spin you around in a kind of whirlpool and then we were sent back into the water.
Our thoughts that it was fierce and nasty proved to be correct as in the first section the leash from my board was snapped by the force of the water and for a moment I lost my board. Maud came off hers a couple of times in the first section too. Somehow I popped up next to her and when she asked was I ok I obviously said no as I wasn't attached to my board and from the fearful look on my face she was convinced that I had bashed & broken my leg in the first section. After a lot of "What's up ? What's up ?? Is it your leg ?" I managed to tell her that it was only the board that had suffered any damage but she says that she has never seen me look that scared before.
About 10 minutes later after taking in a few more lungfuls of the river we washed out of the end of the rapid and cruised to the exit point and were greeted with a nice hot cuppa with most of the group agreeing that it was a lot more extreme than they had expected. Having said that we would both do it again now as we know what we would be in for - crazy fools !
We arrived back in Queenstown in time for lunch and headed to the apartment we had booked for the overnight stay before heading off to Oz. Maud took the van back to the airport and I caught up on all the washing whilst watching the Melbourne Grand Prix - a little envious that Neil Joynson & Andy Stanton were there, but not of the thought of sitting in the 38 degree heatwave.
After a walk along the lake and a pizza for dinner we packed all ready for the next stage of our big adventure - heading across the sea to Australia