What do you do when you are in the adventure Capitol of the world? I’m glad you asked! You bungee jump! Bungee jumping originated in Queenstown, so I always had it in the back of my mind as a possibility when we were in New Zealand. I never actually thought we would.
We got to Queenstown on a gorgeous, sunny day and headed for the town i-site to get information about the area. As soon as we enter, John picks up a brochure that says “Bungy Jump New Zealand!” We looked at the three options for terrifying plunges. The first was the Kawarau Bridge, a 43 meter bungee off the bridge where the first bungee jump was performed. The second was a harnessed, “free-style” bungee a little higher than the first with views of the city below. The third was the Nevis bungy, a 134 meter (440 feet) jump with over 8 seconds of total free fall. The highest in Australasia. Naturally, John decides it’s Nevis or bust, baby. I’m not so sure. The concept of bungee jumping at all hadn’t set in yet, let alone a jump with a drop over 400 feet. I spend a few minutes saying things like, “well we really should do the original bungee because it’s the original!” And “but the karawau is off of a bridge, and it’s cheaper!” John isn’t buying it and deep down I’m not either.
We decide to think on it for a little bit and walk around the town for a bit. Queenstown is a gorgeous place with nice bars and restaurants lining a torquoise lake with The Remarkables (a set of epic rocky mountains) in the distance. We stumbled upon a lake side hangout where the locals were enjoying one of their first real days of summer lounging on the shore by the lake, slacklining (sort of like tight rope walking for hippies), and sipping on some beers. It reminded us a lot of Boulder. We hung out by the lake for a bit enjoying one of our new favorite beers – MAC’s Great White. It is brewed in Auckland and is a fantastic treat for all you wheat beer/Blue Moon lovers. Once we were done, we headed back toward the i-site to make our bungee jump booking. Which one did we choose? The Nevis.
All I could think about was how nervous I was in the days leading up to skydiving back in July. I assumed I would be miserable with dread and nerves all evening before getting up for our 8am jump. To my surprise, I wasn’t really that nervous at all. I was actually pretty excited. We camped at a free site off the road, just outside of Queenstown. Nothing fancy but close enough to Queenstown to make getting up for our early morning appointment less awful. Our campervan is fully self contained which means it has a portable toilet on board. We never actually used the portable toilet, but it was a technicality that allowed us to camp at free, off the beaten path sites. Queenstown is notoriously known for being really strict about freedom camping. We knew that, so we made sure to find a designated area to camp.
Upon waking up at the crack of dawn, we realized we had a nice little ticket on our windshield, charging us 200 NZD for parking a non self contained van in a designated self contained camp site. Filled with rage because we had been sure to follow the rules and our van has self contained stickers on the front windshield AND the back, we set off for our death defying plunge. I’m actually really glad we got the ticket because it kept me focused on that rather than what I would be doing in a matter of moments.
We arrived at the bungee shop to check in and wait for our shuttle to take us 45 minutes out of town to our jump spot. In the meantime, they had free computers with internet that we could use, no doubt to encourage all those Facebook posts like, “about to do the Nevis bungee jump!!” Free advertising!
We got in the van with 7 or 8 other people and drove out to the middle of nowhere. The drive was full of nervous remarks from everyone and some Michael Jackson tunes playing out of the speakers. We passed the Karawau bungee and got to marvel at a jump 1/3 the height of ours. Surprisingly, it looked shorter than I imagined and I started to get a little more excited.
After what seemed to be an eternity, we arrived at the office where we would be harnessed up. Within a matter of minutes, we all had harnesses on and we were taken outside to an overlook which provided a view of a river far below with mountains on either side. A cable was connected between two mountains and a small platform sat in the middle of the cable, directly over the river. We had to try to focus on the instruction being given to us about how to jump and how to release our foot strap to allow us to be pulled up right side up once the jump was complete. And just like that, we were being sent over in two groups to the platform in a cable car. We were in the second group, so on our way over we witnessed the first person in our group jumping! Wow, they don’t wait around, it would be our turn very soon! The order was chosen by heaviest weight to lightest weight. That of course meant I would be last and get to see everyone go before me. I watched as people were put “on-deck” to be strapped up to the bungee and then taken over to walk the plank. Finally it was John’s turn and I videotaped as he soared through the air and was yanked back up to soar back down once more. He correctly released his feet and was brought up head first with a calm smile on his face. The bungee instructor said, “you’re a cool cat, aye?” In response to John’s calm and collected attitude as if it be had just taken a walk through the park. I laughed and continued to watch others as one by one each person couldn’t release their foot strap and were pulled up with their heads hanging down, flopping like a fish caught on a hook.
My turn rolls around and I walk the plank, hear the instructor say, 1…2…3…and I’m off! “Ahhhhh!” I’m involuntarily screaming as I dive down toward the ground. The river is getting closer and closer until all of a sudden I am springing back up again and back down for round 2. It was incredibly quiet and peaceful as the cold air came whizzing by my face. I successfully managed to pull my foot cord and had a blast spinning slowly in circles with my arms spread out as I was pulled up to safety. Yes, I know it’s crazy, but I loved it! It was over so quickly, I’m really glad we did the biggest one (thanks John!). Go big or go home!
We headed back to Queenstown after getting our “free” Nevis bungee t-shirt and went out to take care of our 200 NZD fine. We expected it to take up our entire afternoon, but we found the district court office quickly and explained to the clerk that we are self contained and were given a ticket by mistake. We wrote our explanation on a piece of paper and the clerk took a picture of a picture on John’s phone, which showed our license plate and our self contained sticker. She said that’s all she needed and a week later we received an email telling us we were off the hook! I don’t know how long it would take to appeal something like that in the states, but my guess is it wouldn’t be 5 minutes.
We decided it was time to celebrate our bungee jump and being ticket free, so we went to get our first real meal out in a restaurant since we became campervan folk. The lady at the district court house suggested a pizza place called The Cow, located on Cow Lane. We had an amazing pizza there (we highly recommend this if you are in the area) and a serving of their famous garlic bread. We both still crave that garlic bread nearly every day.
We spent the rest of the day hanging out around town and headed to Arrowtown around dinner time. This was an adorable town with biking and walking paths along the river. We wandered through the downtown area and ended up at the ruins of an ancient Chinese settlement. Men came from China and set up a mini town along the river in order to dig for gold. The old buildings are still scattered through the hillside. We pondered whether or not to get a glass of wine or some food at one of the cute restaurants and came to our senses when we remembered how expensive it is to eat out in New Zealand and the fact that we could set up our own table right by the river and eat some dinner. I cooked some diner and John set up a nice little picnic spot for us on the river. As it was getting dark, we decided to drive to Lake Hayes to camp for the night. It was one of our favorite campsites of the entire trip. We camped right up on the side of the lake and I was able to go for a beautiful 5 mile run around the whole lake the next morning.
After our delicious breakfast, courtesy of John, we headed off to Wanaka to do some climbing. The drive was beautiful and the weather was perfect. We climbed 3 really fun sport routes that had some pretty amazing views of the valley below. We camped nearby at a free campsite called Diamond Lake so that we could get up the next morning and check out a hiking trail called the Rob Roy Glacier.