They call Queenstown adrenalin capital of the world. Bungee jumping originated here and it grew from there. All the vertical terrain just lends itself to extreme sports. The kiwis are so chilled- I think they have adrenalin to spare because they don't waste it on complicated stressful living. Selecting your method of adrenalin donation is tough. Prices mandate you choose wisely and there are enough people on crutches around town to remind you that wisdom should expand beyond the budget. I myself entertained bungy jumping. I don't like the feeling of falling much but like to push myself beyond fear to make sure I still can….plus…it would be an awesome badge to wear. If they set the harness right maybe I would get the spinal adjustment of a lifetime? Another family member wanted to jump off a mountain and parasail to the canyon, another wanted 2 hours of full on galloping through Lord of the Rings country. Doing the math considering both time and budget quickly led us to realize we needed to focus on activities that the whole family could enjoy- individual pursuits would not work. We arrived at jet boating, rafting and horseback riding.
The family made an intervention to keep me off the jet boat. The twisty turns they feared would be an invitation for meanbackpain mommy to reappear. I could not argue so stayed at home and tended the home fires. The shotover jet boat speeds wildly through a narrow canyon on the shotover river and comes within inches of the canyon walls at times. It takes the opportunity in wider water areas to do unexpected 360s. There was a good deal of education about how the jet propulsion works as opposed to a propeller and the kind of training involved in order to be able to navigate and read the water at such high speeds. They all loved it.
I served up some vittles and we were off for rafting. The van picked us up right from our beloved Creeksyde Camp- such a great spot. An unexpected bonus came with the trip- we got an exhilaratingly treacherous ride on Skippers Pass on our way to the Shotover River. It is number 7 out of the top 10 most dangerous roads in the world. A picture of it is the header of this blog. At the entrance to the road is a 2 dimensional metal goldminer dude with his hand resting on a wooden sign. The sign reads
Historic Skippers Road is narrow and prone to slips
-Caravans and trailers are not suitable to this road
-In winter snow can close the road (I just type it like I see it)
-Some vehicles are not insured past this point
-No turn around for 6 km
The road was blasted in 1862 by Chinese laborers to allow access to the gold found in the river. It took 22 years to complete- its literally cut into the mountain like you would use a peeler to carve a design into a fruit or vegetable for display. It twists and turns for about 16 ½ miles through Skippers Canyon. There are no guardrails, there is NO room for error. As you drive on it your tires create an occasional landslide that trickles down the mountain reminding you that gravity will do the same with you if given the chance. We made it through the pass including bad joke corner, which was good fun and half hour later we're getting suited up at the orginial A.J Hackett bungee jumping outpost. There is lots of banter and bonding and discussion along the way.
We have wet suits, booties, life jackets and helmets. Suited up and a 2 minute van ride later we are being inducted. Keep your feet up if you fall or jump out of the boat so they don't get stuck under a rock or river debris. You will tend to drown if your feet remain stationary while the rapids continue to push your body down river. Keep your hands on the top of your oar so no one gets their teeth knocked out. We launch right at the bend where The Fellowship of the Ring flash flood scene was filmed. It's the 'Ford of Bruinen' and Arwen (Liv Tyler) challenges the wraiths "If you want Frodo, come and claim him! Swoosh.
Our guide was born and raised in Alaska and works in his home state on the water in the summer and in New Zealand on the water... in the summer. Forever summer, why the hell not? We are also with a family of 3 from some Midwestern state and they do some serious farming. It is so cool to hear about their life. All these people so connected to the natural world that they structure their lives upon it. This connection has a byproduct I can't name but I always can tell when it is there. I want that so bad. We set off and the guide reads the water for us and shouts paddle front, paddle back, paddle up.
We jump out into the icy water when the river is calm and our fellow rafters pull us back after a float. The chill is not to the bone- just a flash which is exhilerating. The water is such a high quality, I feel like I am swimming in Krug. We navigate the white water when the river is raging and I find my eye quickly starting to read the water and our paddles effect upon the raft. The canyon walls are are everchanging in shape and color. At one place there is a deep pool so we raft over to the edge and beach the boat taking turns climbing up the cliffs and jumping off. The canyon walls glisten in this place with what I used to call fools gold as a kid. The rock looks like stacks of paper- some set on their side. It is so brittle you can peel it apart in layers. Wild swimming became a part of my life this past summer when I entered a triathalon with an open water swim. There is something magnificent about it. Why don't I own a wet suit? Swimming is my absolute favorite sport and there is such freedom to be able to get into any water no matter the temperature. The wet suit today.. the cramp ons yesterday.. I am beginning to feel like a super hero.
I want bigger rapids, some falls, and to go on a long trip and set up camp at least one night. I make a promise to myself that a wet suit, wild swimming and rafting will become part of my life.
Kia Kaha (Maori for Be Strong) at Latitude: -45.031104; Longitude: 168.662731