This morning we woke early and after a breakfast of wholemeal bread and NZ cheese Eric and I walked to the AJ Hackett Center in Queenstown. We checked in for our shuttle at 8:30 as we had been instructed the night before. After some paperwork we were told to that we had access to 2 rows computers and wifi until our shuttle arrived at 9:00. Free wifi is basically everywhere in New Zealand. We checked in on facebook ad browsed the overpriced store. There had a cool display off the bungy cords of different thickness to match certain weights were of course were in Kg. Eric and I were both considered “Average Joe”.

The bus driver arrived at took the folks heading off to the Kawarau Bridge and Nevis Bridge Bungies, We chose to do Kawarau because it was the first commercial bungy in the world and $180… the Nevis has a longer jump, but was $260! I’m still doing double takes whenever the driver steps into the vehicle. In New Zealand they drive on the right side of the road. The driver was good humored as is everyone in this country it seems. The bridge was 20 minutes away. Only three of us were doing this jump at 9:00. the rest of the folks continued on to Nevis.

We were escorted into the Kawarau Bridge Center where we followed a long winding ramp down to the state of the art (aka: expensive) visitor center. The three of us watched a 15 minute video on the history of AJ Hackett’s creation of the bungy jump. Then we were led to the desk where we filled out some more forms. The staff weighted us and wrote the number on our wrist along with our photo/video package number. Now we were finally ready.

A group of folks were assembled beside the bridge to watch the first jumps of the day. The other jumper was no where to be found so it was just Eric and I. About 5 men in climbing gear that looked rather familiar were in charge of the jump. As music appropriate to get our pumped played in the background they prepared us. We each put on petzel harnesses surprising the guys by automatically doubling them back. Eric opted to go first and began to prep process a few minutes before me. The staff is exceedingly friendly and knew how to prepare you not only physically, but mentally for the challenge. As Eric edged out on the jump off platform I was seated in the prep area nearby. My calves were first wrapped in a towel and then webbing was wrapped in a formation to latch my legs together. I remember being pleasantly surprised that my prepper knew exactly what I was talking about when I said “BJJ”. At some point Eric jumped off in between all of this. I didn’t see much other than him vanishing from sight. Then it was my turn.

I was helped to my feet and sort of shuffled my way to the platform. I was instructed to come forward until my toes were off the edge which was probably the most unnerving part, because I felt like I would just topple over the edge (which of course is the point, but I wanted it to be at my own will). The gentleman held me by my hardness to prevent that though.

“Okay. Three. Two. One,” he said swiftly.

At that point in time I thought he had given me a slight push off the edge. After viewing the video I saw that he had just let go and I had jumped on my own accord. The free fall was 3 seconds ($60 a second), then I bounced back up. The hardest part was standing on that edge. Afterwards it was all just awesome fun!. I don’t know how many times i bounced, but I do recall laughing the entire time. I was retrieved from the bungy by a raft. The two men inside held out a pole to be as I dangled from the cord and pulled me into the boat. My feet were undone and we paddled to shore where Eric waited.

We viewed out videos and photos at the visitor center. Spome are the photos are below and I believe them to be of professional quality as well as the videos. Be warned that a video/photo package on DVD will set you back $80. We splurged, but it was definitely overpriced. Eric and I compared the techniques the staff used to get us to jump. The swift “no time to think” countdown had worked for me. But Eric did not jump when they had down this to him. Typical since he has to analyze everything. They then told him to look straight ahead and put his hands up. On the second count down he jumped.

We hung around watching some other jumpers. The woman that had been on the bus with us reappeared. She had mentioned that she was very scared before disappearing. She spent 20 minutes on the platform as the staff talked to her, before finally jumping. They are well trained to deal with all types of folks.

As we headed to the parking lot we noticed a group of 40 folks watching the info video. Word of advice: do the 9:00 jump.

When we arrived back in Queenstown, Eric and I decided to hike up to the top of the gondola line via the trails in Ben Lomond Forest. There are a few ways up. We took the Tiki Trail which wove through a dense thicket. Be careful to take the correct trail for walkers. Many trails are designated for free-riding (down hill mountain cycling). It took about 50 minutes to reach the top. I didn’t have a GPS to track the miles, but I would guess it was about 2-2.5. All trail signs in New Zealand only mention only the time it takes to walk, not distance.

At the top two gondolas dropped off cyclist to race downhill. There is also a luge that did not seem worth it. The views were gorgeous though. We continued on the Ben Lomond Track which leads to Ben Lomond Summit and a spit off to Skyline Trail. The track is 8 hours return though so we just figured we walk until the turn off  to the Skyline Trail which led to the bottom. This trail was much less crowded and much more scenic. It wandered through some open meadows revealing mountains and Lake Wakatipu. The top of Ben Lomand was in clouds though and a couple passing by informed us that the best views were along the ridge where we were.

We ran into this very couple again across the street from the hostel as were were walking back from Queenstown. Somehow we ended up have a conversation with them as they cooked their meal on the free grills before the lake. They were from Czech Republic, but currently living in UK traveling to New Zealand on the work/travel vista. They invited us to join them from tea after they finished dinner. In-tween Eric and I changed into our bathing suit and leaped into the freezing cold Lake Wakatipu for not other reason than because “it was there”. After a warm shower the four of us shared tea and stories of traveling. I hope we come across them again sometime.

Back at the hostel I broiled some lamb chops, with mixed veggies ad corn. Our final meal before a steady diet of couscous for the next 5 days.

 

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