Windy Walks

Oh God… What have I done… The alarm went off quietly under my pillow. As I woke I had the dawning realisation of what I had agreed to do today. It was 8am, early for backpackers. Particularly those who had been out the night before, drunk a bit too much and not had enough sleep. My foggy morning head wasn’t clearing as I dressed and wandered down to a cafe for a quick breakfast. I think my taste buds were also unenthusiastic about today’s prospective activity because the food didn’t taste of anything and didn’t help settle the growing nerves.

I had signed up to the Nevis bungy jump and was due to be launched into oblivion early this morning. I wasn’t really nervous about the bungy, more that I was hungover and therefore more likely to vomit. The worst imaginings had me throwing up at the top of the rebound and then falling back through a weightless blob of my own puke…

I got to the check in desk, bleary eyed and fragile stomached. It was cancelled. The wind was too high and granted me a day to recover. I booked on again for tomorrow and made a personal promise be in better shape for it.  

So now the rest of the day was mine, I took a stroll around town. Immediately feeling better I went up in the cable car to the skyline station. From here I had incredible views over Queenstown and the lake. It was still early so not many people were here, leaving it peaceful to stare out at the enormous view.

Up here there was another activity I really wanted to do. A concrete luge. Like a gravity powered go kart track, snaking down the hill. You get into a small toboggan which has handlebars to steer. You pull it slightly towards you to start moving and all the way towards you to brake. Setting off down the hill, I was never going to take it slowly. The first tight left hander approached and I was definitely going too fast. This is when I found out the toboggokarts are actually 3 wheeled. I hadn’t leaned into the corner enough and I was going too fast so the kart pitched right and forwards onto the rubber brake blocks. This brought be almost immediately to a halt and meant several small kids shot past me screaming with glee at overtaking this man-child. I slowly built up speed again and now I knew the limit of control (and had plenty extra gravity around my middle) caught them up no problem. At the end there are a series of tightening chicanes to slow you down. On one run I barrelled into these to see how fast I could do them and was nearly flipped clean out the kart. This ride is as dangerous as you’d like to make it. Just how I like my activities: give me control and let me decide how scary and dangerous I want to make it.

The same is true of the rest of New Zealands attitude to safety. There are some extreme environments and activities available. Your welcome to go there and experience them and you take the risks accordingly. It was a refreshing attitude having come from paranoid and stiflingly restrictive England.

Each day I try and find a quiet spot for an hour to write these posts. Today I managed to find the best yet. At the top of the skyline centre, AJ Hackett also runs a smaller bungy jump called a freestyle ledge jump. Here is the only place you can do tricks off into space and be caught by the cord. I spent about and hour and half just sitting watching people run towards the edge. Yelps echo down the valley as they realise the commitment they just made to have faith in something which is usually found holding up your swimming shorts. I was hoping to see some people do tricks but most of them barely made it off the ledge, some took more than one attempt before finally managing it.

As the sun set I went to catch the gondola back down the hill. It was so busy that I chose to walk down instead, enjoying the forest path back to the city. At the hostel I jumped into the hot tub and relaxed with a few beers… A FEW BEERS.

I wasn’t going to make the same mistake twice…