On our first morning in the Otago region of New Zealand, we woke up to one of the most glorious sights we came across on our entire trip so far.
We didn’t have time to appreciate it for long though – we had a world of puzzles to confuse ourselves with! Puzzling World just outside of Wanaka was created by Stuart Landsborough, a man famous for designing the first ever fence maze.
It was like no attraction we’d been to before, and we had a lot of fun playing with the different mind-boggling optical effects, such as the hobbit room…
We finished off our visit with the famous fence maze. There are two ways to do it – you can find all the corners in any order and then the exit, or you can find all the corners in a particular order and then the exit. We chose the former, and that was challenging enough! We managed to get out in just under an hour.
After our brains were well and truly exercised, we had wanted to head on to the old gold mining settlement of Arrowtown to make our fortune panning for gold. Unfortunately, fate intervened and problems with our campervan meant that we had to bypass Arrowtown and head straight to Queenstown.
After the problems of the day before, we were rewarded with glorious warm and sunny weather that made Lake Wakatipua a beautiful deep blue and caught the snow on the tops of the surrounding Southern Alps, making them shine like beacons.
To make the most of the sun, we decided to get a better look at the city with the Skyline Gondola up Bob’s Peak. We weren’t disappointed. The views were stunning.
While we were up there, we rode the chairlifts further up the mountain to where we could luge down the racing tracks.
The luges were more like simple go carts with handlebars that control the speed and direction of the cart. They didn’t take long to get used to but, just to be safe, we sampled them on the ‘scenic track’ first. After we’d gotten the hang of it, we raced each other down the fast track. It was a lot of fun, and we were constantly confronted with fantastic views everywhere we looked. Once is definitely not enough with these!
After Queenstown we were due to head south to Fiordland for a boat ride around Milford Sound, but I wasn’t content on leaving without trying one of the ridiculously expensive adrenaline-pumping extreme sport activities that the city is famous for. After looking at the options, from bungy jumping to sky diving, I decided on a canyon swing.
109 metres high, it would involve a 60 metre freefall followed by a 200 metre swing. Different to a bungy, a canyon swing accelerates as you fall and, as you swing, you fly over the ground at speeds of up to 150kmph.
Pleased with my decision, I met the four other nervous jumpers and our jump master with enthusiasm and headed to Shotover Canyon. On reaching the little hut on the side of the canyon and peering over the edge, my excitement flared. The drop looked huge!
After a quick briefing, we lined up ready to meet our fate. Two girls went in front of me. One in particular seemed extremely anxious and would constantly ask the jump master about the best way to do it. She told me she’d never wanted to do anything like this, but that it was a gift from her parents and she didn’t feel she could refuse it. Odd, I thought to myself, that the girl’s parents would pay for her to hurl herself off a cliff… Expecting a bit of drama when the time came, I was disappointed to see that she jumped in seconds without any fuss and came up with glowing reviews of the experience. “You’ll love it” she gushed, “It was awesome!”
When it came to my jump, I was full of adrenaline and ready to go. I felt nervous, but excited and couldn’t wait to dive off the platform. Having seen the girl that was a quivering wreck come back up smiling, I knew I’d be fine. I patiently waited to be hooked up, enthusiastically posed for the cameras and then it was time.
Only I didn’t go. With every step back into my chosen position, I could feel my gut tightening with nerves. It looked so far down to the river rushing at the bottom of the canyon and the thought of jumping over that ledge made waves of panic wash over me.
I knew the jump masters were expecting me to go, but that just made it all the worse – I needed to calm down and having an audience didn’t help at all. I tried to get into the right mind-set – thinking about how much fun I’d had jumping into the waterfall lagoons at Kaiate Falls and Colombia, and how I’d loved the thrill rides on top of the Stratosphere in Las Vegas. When the courage I needed didn’t come, I thought I could feel everyone’s patience wearing thin. I meekly requested a change of music to try and get me pumped back up, but even when a new song was selected I knew there was nothing else for it – it was go, or pull out completely.
One of the jump masters could see my internal struggle and suggested holding onto the rope attached to my harness. “It doesn’t do anything useful” he said, “but it might help”. It did. Having something for my hands to cling on to made jumping somehow seem a bit more bearable than clawing at the air and flailing around helplessly. I took a deep breath, and ran.
I’d wanted to leap off the edge with my arms outstretched – I was going for ‘Pocahontas leaping off of the cliff’ pose – but as soon as I’d pushed away from the ledge my legs cramped up in horror and I clung onto the useless rope in my hands for dear life.
I don’t remember all that much about the falling – it was over so quickly! I remember seeing the rocks below rushing up at me, screaming, and the feeling of utter terror as I plummeted. But then I saw the beautiful sparkling river rushing underneath me as I swung out over it, and the wonderful feeling of flying. I could feel the reassuring pull of the harness around me and instantly my muscles relaxed – I was swinging and I was alive!
It was a massive rush, and I was aware of all the nerves in my body jangling with adrenaline. I was also aware of a dull ache in my chest – as if my heart pounding so hard had somehow pulled a muscle! The relief that I was safe and the now-gone terror of hurtling towards the ground had me grinning from ear-to-ear as I yelled a loud ‘wooohoooo!’ up to the skies. And then I was spent. I felt exhausted – as if I’d run for miles.
Before I knew it, the motor to pull me up kicked in and I swiftly rose back up through the canyon to the hut. Even though I was going fairly quickly, I marvelled at how long it took to travel back up to the top after hurtling down the same way in seconds.
The nervous girl that went before me gave me a knowing smile when I reappeared at the ledge and was pulled back in. “How was it?” she asked. “Amazing” I replied, “But I’m not doing it again!”