134 meters of pure blue sky

Trip Start May 30, 2005
Trip End Sep 30, 2006

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Saturday, November 5, 2005

I hopped onto the bus at Mount Cook, despite the short ride it had two drivers on board. I was greated kindly by driver number one, Mr Jekyll, a really nice guy. As it'd been such a streneous day I managed to fall asleep, waking up only when the bus was stopping. To my surprise we'd changed driver now having Mr Hyde in control. I said to him "Sorry, I was asleep there, how long do we have at this stop?", but no reply from him, I waited a few more seconds then asked again.
"I'm not a parrot" he replied, "I've said it three times already, but for your benefit alone we're stopping for twenty minutes.", sorreeee!!
Mr Jekyll took over again and we had a pleasant journey for a while, coming into Queenstown Mr Jekyll announced on the loudspeaker "We'll be arriving at the central bus stop soon, but anyone staying at the YHA Queenstown is welcome to stay aboard", great I thought. I jumped off at the YHA to find Mr Hyde there again, "All stops should really be pre-booked you know". I just smiled, nodded and legged it away from him as fast as possible.

Queenstown is another of the really pretty towns round here. On the shore of a lake with looming mountains all around. It's the adventure capital of New Zealand and it's not hard to see why. Whenever you walk down the streets you see signs everywhere for all the fantastic activities that you can take part in. It's the kind of place that your wallet hides in fear. If you had an unlimited stack of cash I reckon that you could have an absolute blast here.

I did see one of the takiest things ever though. In one of the shops there is a 'UV activated Ring'. Yes, that's right, it reveals Elvish writing under UV light imitating the 'One Ring that Rules Them All'. Very very sad.

The YHA was actually really quiet and I ended up sharing a five bed dorm with a young Ozzy guy that was overseas for the first time. He was a nice enough guy, but when he announced that he'd visited hobbiton through choice I decided that was enough information that I needed! Thinking back on it, his feet did look a little too large and hairy, Mmmmmm.

Of course, the real reason that I'd come to Queenstown was for the Bungy. I'd decided at the start of my trip that I'd do one here, but faced with the prospect of actually being 'here' I started to get sweaty palms. I could have chosen the 43 meter Kawarau bridge jump, only 130 NZ dollars. But no. I could have chosen the ledge bungy, 47 meters of fall but with a view right over Queenstown, but no. If I was going to do this, I'd be doing it properly. It was the 134 meter Nevis Highwire Bungy for me. 200 NZ dollars (80 quid!) but if you're only going to do this thing once, then do it right.

I turned up at the shop in town on time, was weighted like a bit of cattle and then sat aside. Despite my travel diet doing wonders to the number of notches I've come down on my belt, I haven't actually lost all that much weight. I won't reveal what my weight is (how dare you ask!) but I was relieved to find that there was another guy there that weighed the same, and since the jumps went in order of heaviest first, this proved to be vitally important. I was so scared sitting there, play and re-playing differenct scenarios in my mind. Obviously they all involved me jumping off at the right time.

We got on the bus and drove out of town, it's a good 40 minute drive so there is plenty of time to mull over your decition. Even though it's quite an airy bungy jump, I never thought of the road that you'd need to traverse to get there. It was quite a hairy ride in itself with a sheer drop down a cliff on the side that I was sitting. I said to the guy next to me, "I'd have never have come if I knew what kind of road we'd need to drive along".

We arrived and donned our safety harnesses, weighed again just to ensure that you hadn't eaten a hamburger on the way up. I was still dead level with Russ on our weight. We took a little cart thing out to the main pod that's suspended above the ravine. It's not wise to look down at this stage, it looks like a long way (mainly because it IS!). We got our feet strapped up and then had to decide who went first. Neither of us wanted to. We had to resort to rock, paper, scissors, best out of three. How delighted I was to win the first round, and then even better to win the second, a clear 2-0 victory. Russ was up, or should I say down, first. He took it like a man, stepped up to the mark, had his countdown from 5 and jumped like a star. What a man.

I was now feeling really nervous, me next. I jumped into the chair to get the bungy strapped to my legs, I stopped listening through fear. The guy was trying to check that I'd remembered all the safety briefings that we'd been given but to be honest I was on planet Ron, millions of miles away. He managed to shake me out of it and sent me on the walk to the platform. I didn't want to get too close. "Come on, just a little further" I was half a meter away from the jump point, "just a little more".

"I'll count down from 5, and when I say jump, you jump"
"5 4 3", I was leaning back towards him practically holding his hands "2 1 Jump".
"Ohhhh, it's a long way down"
"Look Ron, when I say jump, you need to jump, ok?"
"5 4 3 2 1 Jump"
A moment of utter and pure madness overcame me and I went for the dive. It was sooo scary. Since the bungy cord was so long there was a long moment of weightlessness, about 4 seconds, as I just fell towards the earth. I screamed out, thankful that no-one could hear me. Eventually the cord tightened and I slowed, then rebounded back up. Wow, what a feeling. It was a moment of pure joy, I'd jumped, and more importantly, I'd lived. A couple of bounces and I released my feet to move into the comfortable sitting position to be winched back up to the platform. It didn't even cross my mind at this point that I was still dangling above the chasm, I was just so full of adrenaline that it didn't matter. When I reached the pod again I climbed in grabbed the wall and hung on. I'd done it, never to be repeated. Even when they offered a second jump for only 69 dollars, I knew that I couldn't go through with it again, I was spent.

I was able to watch a few more people doing their jump, it was great doing this knowing that you'd already done it and that nothing more was expected from you. Obviously offering encouragement to the others. We took the little cart back to solid land and I felt better. All through the booking and transport sections I'd been continually asked if I wanted the DVD and photos of my jump. I'd always said no, but then with the good feeling and then watching, reliving, my jump again I just couldn't resist the purchase. An expensive DVD but something that I'll be able to watch again and again, if I dare!

The rest of my time in Queenstown was a bit lacklustre though. I didn't meet anyone to hang around with, even the bungy lot disbanded as soon as we got back to Queenstown. Also the cost of doing almost anything is so much that I'd rather save my cash for South America. I'm finding New Zealand to perhaps be more expensive than Australia, which believe me is not a good thing. I'm also now boycotting much of the free food in the hostels after a rather nasty incident involving free chicken and a toilet bowl.

I'm now off to walk the Routeburn track, a 40 Km trail that'll take me 3 days to walk and leads me out towards Millford Sound. I'll update you all again soon, perhaps, if I find cheap internet access on the go.

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