New Zealand is a beautiful place, but if you don’t like jumping off stuff or out of things, you are limiting your choice of available activities. Such as things are the norm for backpacker pastimes.
1. Sky Diving in Rotorua and Franz Josef
Sky Diving was basically the first thing on my New Zealand to-do list and I booked my jump within my first days in the country. I hate heights but the ability to fly through the air with the greatest of ease in New Zealand was too good of an opportunity to miss. Sky diving doesn’t really seem like a big deal in New Zealand, all backpackers seem to do it. The question isn’t “have you been skydiving”, it’s “when and where did (or will) you go”.
When the time finally came for my first sky dive, I was beyond excited. After I pulled on my jumpsuit and little hat, I climbed into a little plane with a professional strapped to my back. I was happy to find that from 12,000ft, vertigo just doesn’t kick in in the same way. The world looks less real from above and, besides, those little planes make me feel sick, so I needed to get out into the fresh air. I giggled the whole way down as I flew over the lakes of Rotorua. That was until I put my hands onto my harness straps and a voice behind me shouted “don’t touch that!” As I fell down, a photographer zoomed around me taking the perfect profile picture photos.
My second skydive was over the Franz Josef Glacier. I’d arrived in Franz Josef and didn’t have enough time to do the popular glacier hike and sky diving seemed like a good alternative way to see it, particularly since I’d loved my first jump. But, as the time came, I felt a lot more nervous. I think it was something to do with the fact that, since my first sky dive, I had gone bungee jumping (see below) which had scarred me a bit. That didn’t make it any less amazing though. This time, instead of a sky diving photographer, my instructor and I sat balanced by the door of the plane, as I gaped down, before we tumbled out. I also got to take my own camera so I could make the most of the incredible views.
2. Bungee Jumping in Taupo
Standing on the edge of a platform, looking down to the water below, I couldn’t help but wonder what on earth I had been thinking to get myself here. I really hate heights. Just put you arms above your head and jump, the man said, you’re making it worse by waiting – but I just needed a minute, or ten. The water below was turquoise and would have been inviting from a lesser height. This seemed so much worse than sky diving, despite the fact I was only about 45 metres up – the world seemed to lurch forward a lot more.
After about ten minutes, I realised I was at the point of no return. I’d paid my money and there was no chance of a refund. At the end of the day, I was on a budget; I was going to get my money’s worth. So I jumped. Well, I stepped off. Instead of a graceful dive, my photos came out slightly less dignified and more contorted as I fell through the air. I can’t bring myself to watch the video but I did it- partially with my eyes closed. I just remember a whoosh and the flash of a cliff whizzing passed before I was dangling upside down.
3. Canyon Swinging in Queenstown
My final extreme sport activity in New Zealand was canyon swinging. I had arrived in Queenstown, the home of New Zealand’s highest bungee jump at 134m, and I had no interest in doing this but I figured I could do the Nevis Arc – a 120m canyon swing – instead.
On my visit to the Nevis site, I was the only one in the group doing the swing instead of the bungee. Sitting in my harness, I was clearly nervous as the instructors started to tease me a bit. One supervisor held his hand out for a high-five but, as I hit it, the other pressed the button and I was flying through the air with the greatest of ease. This wasn’t as bad as the bungee. I could firmly feel my harness. I felt secure. There also wasn’t as much plummeting. I soon came to rest at the bottom of the arc, dangling above the canyon floor. It was actually kinda nice. Serene even. Then I started to be dragged up and I found myself dangling a lot higher up. This was less serene. I was swinging side to side and couldn’t be brought into the safe platform until I was still. After an eternity, I returned to solid ground- I’d done it! But I still hate heights.