I had read about Queenstown, the world capital of adrenalin junkies. An article about Adrenalin4, a combination of four crazy activities that are certain to increase your heart rate. Arriving in Auckland, I had no doubts that I had arrived in a land with plenty of people who live on the edge – and are ready to make a big step forward. On a stroll through downtown I see people hurtling themselves from the highest tower and others being catapulted up in a little capsule, suspended by giant bungie cords, on their way into certain earth orbit.
Yet it is only little preparation for what awaits me in Queenstown on the South Island. I easily find the activity I came for: The Awesome4Some, advertised in every other store in Queenstown. It includes a jet boat ride down a narrow stream, a helicopter flight through a mountain valley to the starting point of a white water river rafting trip, followed by a bungie jump.
The day starts early, with the check-in at 7:45am. A bus whisks me and our little group of conspirators away to the first event, the jet boat ride. Think of it as a giant jet ski for 12-16 people, just faster and with a madman at the wheel. We all get into our rain gear and into our seats. The driver explains that we will be racing down a narrow stream, with as little as 7 inches of water, past steep cliffs and with some 360 degree turns thrown in for good measure…and that’s exactly what he is doing! He is zipping past the cliffs. I am convinced he is trying to clip them and everybody is inching to the middle of the boat. We are wet after the first 360 degree turn and the grab handles who got laughs at first are getting squeezed now. The driver’s hand signs to another boat indicates a lot less than 7 in of water, but the ride is over soon.
Everybody is awake by now and we head over to receive our gear for the white water rafting. We are quickly dressed in wet suits, with life jackets and helmets. I didn’t expect to jump from the helicopter straight into the raft, but I don’t question the logistics. The helicopter is up soon and we are on our way quickly. We head over the ridge, through a narrow valley to the starting point of the rafting trip. With Adrenalin levels already up, the ride is almost relaxed.
Our rafts are already waiting and we group into teams, with our river guide. After short instructions, we are ready to go, paddle in hand. We train our maneuvers on a quite stretch before we reach the first set of rapids and we are quite confident. Soon enough we are in the middle of them, rocks around us, water everywhere, up to our knees in the raft…As we emerge from the boiling water, a quick headcount…and we are all still in the raft, soaked but happy. We watch other rafts pass the rapids more or less gracefully before we move on. The final stretch of our trip is through a narrow tunnel, dug by gold miners a long time ago. We all pull our heads in, kneel down and hold on for life – the exit of the tunnel has turned more than one raft upside down – here the “light at the end of the tunnel” announces the darkest spot of the trip. Sure enough, we are submersed quickly, holding on and holding our breath. We are lucky and make it unscathed.
A hot shower, hot tea and lunch in the sun gives us our energy back, before we get ready for our last stop: The Nervis bungie jump. The military grade, 4×4 bus takes us up a narrow dirt path to the launch pod: It is suspended from wires across the valley. We get to it on a little, open gondola from the edge of the cliff. Far, far below us is a little stream at the bottom of the valley. The bungie cords are dangling from the pod, waiting for its passengers. Loud club music greets us on arrival at the pod, setting the scene. We are arranged by weight – the heavy ones among us get to go first, the light one get to watch them through the glass bottom of the pod. Everybody is prepared, our feet tied together with a padded, synthetic strap to attach the bungie cord. The ones to go before me have a smile on their face, followed by horror as the inevitability of their jump sinks in. We are told to dive head forward, like into a pool. Why would anybody in the right of his mind jump from a perfectly fine platform to fall 134m into nothing, the bottom of the valley rushing at ‘em? Than it is my turn, I’m tied up connected to the cord and been walked to the edge. “Don’t look down!” – Thanks, of course now I do. The countdown begins…5…4…3…2…1…and I launch into nothing…my life is not flashing in front of me, just nothing, and somebody is screaming is heart out…oh, that’s me…after 8 seconds (minutes, hours?), the cord starts to hold and the free fall ends, yanking me back up towards the pod – just to start all over again. On my second way up, I pull the rip cord to turn me heads-up and I start to enjoy the view, for a few moments before being pulled up to the pod again. I am led back into the pod and offered the opportunity to jump again, at a discount – thank you very much! I sit down, my heart is racing and I think my body poured out all the adrenalin it had to give.
It sure was an Awesome4Some and the marketing hype is completely justified. Needless to say, don’t try that at home…