When Suzanne and I have talked about taking a bit of a plunge on this trip, I didn’t think we were ever talking literally. Turns out she might have been. After always saying she would never do a bungy jump, it took 15 minutes to convince herself other wise and then a further 2 minutes for the sickening realisation to sink in that I couldn’t let her do it alone. Queenstown was supposed to be a fun little stop for us with a few exciting experiences that at most got you a bit wet. It turned into perhaps the highlight and certainly the most unexpected 10 minutes of the 6 months.
We left Te Anau for Queenstown quite early and so gave us nearly a whole day to begin with in the Adrenaline capital of New Zealand. That was my first mistake. After a visit to the information centre to book our very much expected white water rafting trip the following day as well as tickets for the city’s cable car and luge ride that lunchtime. We enquired about going to watch bungy jumps at the famous Karawa Bridge, assuring the lady behind the information desk that none of the 4 of us were interested in doing one, and were told it was just a short drive out of town and jumps happen every 5 minutes or so. At the time I thought this was great, later on I’d be cursing it! Blissfully ignorant of what my afternoon had in store we tottered off to the cable car to ride the luge down the hills above Queenstown.
Having watched some “extreme swings” near the luge (a bungy in kind, except rather than falling strait down you swing back and forth) Suzanne reiterated her belief that she would never do a bungy, however not long after we arrived a karawa bridge she had gone ominously quiet and I could sense she was weighing something up in her mind. She started saying lines like, “oh it’s not as bad as it looks” and “I reckon I could do that” at which point my heart began to sank. Trying very hard not to put her off, but also trying to stop Sally from encouraging her too much, she went to ask at reception if you had to make a reservation. Probably hoping they would say yes they told her that there was space but they’d be closing in 10-15 minutes so she’d need to decide soon. With a sharp intake of air she said “I’m going to do it” and ran off to the car to get her credit card. I was horrified to realise that if she did it and I didn’t I would always regret not giving it a go, particularly when Suzanne would recount the above story. So with very shaky legs I ran off after her to get my GoPro from the car, if i was doing it I would definitely be documenting it as much as possible!
When we got back to the counter and were charged we were told that the fee was non refundable. Suddenly it was a battle between my fear of heights and my fear of wasting money. We were weighed, given a jump number and sent on to the old suspension bridge to wait our turn. We joined the back of the queue and quickly told that we would be the last jumpers. Damn it, if only we’d been a bit later! The wait seemed to be a while but I don’t expect it was more than 10 minutes, eventually we were given a harness had our weight double checked and given a few safety stats (on Zans request): 100% survival record in 28 years. Why did I think I might be the one to break that record! Suzanne insisted that she was going to go first so she climbed into the cage had the bungy attached and was taken to the ledge, while I was left pondering life still on the bridge. When Suzanne was ready to jump I was led into the cage to have my bungy attached. I was just in time to get a front row seat to watch Suzanne dive off, with a massive scream (one which the staff said was the loudest of the day), and with it my last hope of getting out of the whole thing.
So I was up. Before I could even think I was on my feet, on the ledge, 43 meters above the river. The nice chap responsible for throwing me off the bridge and making sure I didn’t die asked me to walk closer to the edge. Somewhere between my ankles being strapped together and my knees trembling I found this task pretty difficult and so I ended up hopping towards the precipice, he said “keep going” one too many times for my liking but eventually he said I was close enough. We’d been advised to spend as little time as possible on the platform so I just wanted to go there and then, but the chap insisted I pose for some photos. I couldn’t help but think this wasn’t the time, but as my life was in his hands I obliged with a pathetic wave. Finally he said it was time to go, without giving my self a chance of a second thought I bellyflopped off the platform towards the river below. The free fall seemed to last a while but in reality was probably only about 1.5 seconds. Once the bungy had kicked in and I’d bounced back up a few times the tension drained and it was enjoyable before I was intercepted by a dingy, lowered into it and sailed back to shore to bask in the glory/foolishness of what I’d just done.
We celebrated our win with a huge burger back in Queenstown, which after dark had a bit of a ski resort feel, before retiring to our trusty camper for the night in a Department of Conservation campsite just out side of town. The next morning, after a run through some Lord Of The Rings scene settings, we headed back into town for white water rafting trip (which now sounded a little tame). It was actually good fun, 90 minutes roaring over rapids, down a small waterfall and through a tunnel! I was stuck in the front of the boat, and so was a glorified windshield for the rest of the boat, keeping them all nice a dry while I took earfuls, nosefuls and mouthfuls of water as well as narrowly avoided head butting a rock. But we managed to keep all 7 of us in the boat the entire time while the other boat we were sharing the river with had 5 overboard at various times. Perhaps we were naturals? After navigating the river we were back at base to enjoy a sauna and a hot shower. By nightfall we were back in the van heading east out of Queenstown ending a surprising but enjoyable 36 hours in the city.
Our next major stop was marked our arrival on the east coast for the first time since our first week in New Zealand. Dunedin was certainly a more tranquil town than where we had come from but with no less abundance of things to do, just the things had fewer people our age doing them. Our first stop was a brewery (obviously) to find out about the speights brand of beer that’s been brewing in the town since 1886. The tour was very informative showing us the brewing process as well as a brief history of beer, but this was all just killing time before the real reason you’d go. Once we’d done a lap of the brewery and were back in reception they let you loose in a tap room where you can try as much of their 6 most popular beers as you can in 30 mins. Challenge accepted. I like to think I made my money back on the tour fee, definitely would have bought my water bottle if I’d known it was going to be unsupervised tasting though!
The next day we boarded a train for a scenic return journey through the Taieri Gorge. 5 hours out and back through beautiful New Zealand landscapes in old styled train carriages complete with outdoor platforms perfect for taking photos, videos and just enjoying the view. The ride even included cream teas, although this lot don’t have much of a clue it was raspberry jam and only whipped cream. At least the tea was Twinnings. After a mid point break where we could get off the train for a little walk while the locomotive switched ends we were back off down the valley on the same track to enjoy the views for a second time before arriving back at the beautiful Dunedin train station (apparently the second most photographed building in the Southern Hemisphere after the Sydney opera house).
Now in Kaikora, our luck with the weather seems to have run out we’ve had three grey days driving north. Which restricted some views of the wonderful scenery it hasn’t actually hindered us at all. That camper is still water tight despite its crack and at least it’s getting warmer as we head back north! Today was supposed to be a day of dolphin searching but the weather has prevented us so we’re camped in a holiday park with a hot tub hoping the weather clears tomorrow!