So…guess I’m boutta go jump off a bridge. Of all the extreme sports/activities New Zealand has to offer, bungy jumping somehow seems the scariest. I could comfortably jump out of a plane with another human attached to me, I think parasailing and white water rafting look rad, but I’m not sure I can will myself to jump off a bridge. We’re about to find out.
Dad talked us into going. Me, my brother Severin, his girlfriend Kristen, and Chesney. Surprisingly Mom wasn’t keen? Whaaaaat? The 5 of us are among the first jumpers this morning, bright and early at 9am. We’ve come to AJ Hackett’s – the home of bungy. The first (legally permitted) bungy site in the world! A 43m drop from a bridge above the Kawarau river. I’m doing my best not to over think it for fear I’ll psych myself out, but when we are standing on the bridge getting harnessed in, it all becomes pretty real. I make the mistake of asking the staff some questions.
How did you land such a rad job? Do you need experience with rock climbing or something like that?
Nah mate. No experience. In fact they don’t want people with any experience. They’d rather build our knowledge from the ground up.
Uhhhh okay fair. So how long is training then? Like a few months? A year?
For my job? 3 days.
Okay yikes thank you no further questions.
To be fair, he just put us in a harness and asked some questions for a video log, but still. Did not help my nerves. Ches and I are going first and jumping tandem, so at least I’ll have something to hold onto, even though that thing will be falling into the abyss with me. We move down to the jump platform where the next (more qualified) staff member secures our ankles in with towels and a bunch of knots. Towels???? There’s no specially made equipment to protect my legs? Just a bath towel? My life depends on this towel. Okay well maybe not my life, but certainly the comfort of my lower legs, which are about to be yanked on pretty hard as I barrel face first towards a rushing river.
It’s time. We’re standing up. We’re shuffling towards the edge. Our toes are peeking off the platform.
Gripping onto the side of each other by the harness, we lean forward, and start free falling. The turquoise green water comes zooming towards us before we are caught by the elastic rope and snapped back up. I hear someone scream and I guess it’s me but don’t remember doing it. We bounce around a bit then just chill there, danglin’, hanging upside down, laughing, and flailing around trying to grab the pole that’s been extended by the rescue boat. We survived! Our eyes are bloodshot AF and I’m definitely a little shaky from all the adrenaline, but so happy to have done it. Another item checked off the bucket list! And definitely not AS scary as I had anticipated.
We wait at the bottom to watch Dad, who yells “what was I thinking?!” (feels) before diving off the platform, getting a roar from the crowd of spectators.
When Sev and Kristen make it to the bottom (where they are apparently received by the boat guy whispering “don’t worry, Daddy’s here” lollllll), we all walk shakily up the stairs to the top while comparing experiences. I can totally see how people get addicted to this rush, but hot damn it’s an expensive hobby. As a one time experience though, 10/10 would recommend. Go do it. Are you in New Zealand? Have you bungeed yet? Do it now.
The whole squad spends the rest of the afternoon in mellow Arrowtown and tasting wine at the Akarua Cellar Door.
Before dinner, some of us decide to explore the nearby Remarkables Ski area, which is obviously not covered in snow at the moment but still accessible and open for a little hiking. Chesney, Dad, Kristen’s sister Nicole and I drive half an hour up the winding roads over looking Queenstown, and park when we reach the chalet.
I don’t understand how anyone skis here because it’s extremely rocky, but it makes for a nice walk. We hike up the abandoned (okay, temporarily closed) ski hill which also doubled briefly as a Lord of the Rings set a few years back. Not surprising because a) it’s very LotR-y, and b) because practically every inch of New Zealand was used for that film at some time or another.
After an hour of walking, now high enough that we’re surrounded by patches of snow in the middle of summer, we reach Lake Alta.
Dad and Nicole are true Canadians and feel compelled (for reasons I will never understand) to jump into the freezing cold water. I go in to my ankles and am already numb, so I don’t know how they casually submerged their whole bodies. Crazy people.
The walk back down is a little rough because the wind has picked up, the sun is going down, and 50% of us are soaked in cold water. Again, I’M cold and I didn’t even swim. How are they surviving?
Being the first back to the car, Chesney jumps in to turn it on and warm it up. He doesn’t notice what Nicole finds: we have a flat tire. It must have been punctured on the loose gravel roads on the way up. FFS.
It may come as a surprise to you but I haven’t the slightest idea how to change a tire. The rental office is closed and getting any kind of road-side assistance up here seems inefficient and unlikely. This is how horror films start. I’m half expecting some cave dwelling government experiments-gone-wrong to come crawling out from the hilltops all contorted and shrieking.
Chesney and Dad jump into action getting the bits and pieces out of the back of the car. I do what I can to help but I’m mostly passing mystery tools around and hoping for the best. Ches points out that it’s basically like playing an escape room. “We need something to unlock this piece…hand me that tool! Nah this doesn’t fit try that one! Does anyone have a coin? Try twisting that thing! Okay it worked! The tire’s been released, what’s next?” It’s some intense team work. As if it couldn’t be any more stressful, the wind is now out of control and blowing dust up everywhere, blinding us.
Miraculously, we manage to get it switched out, and are back in the car with the heat blaring before the mountain monsters come for us. We get straight in the hot tub with a bottle of wine as soon as we’re back at our cozy Air BnB.
What. A. Day.