From the Maori adventurers looking for Pounamu (greenstone, the green gold) in the 1100’s to the gold miner and high country sheep farmers in 1860’s; on the edge lifestyles have always been the norm in Queenstown. The culture of adventure still rules and now being home to skydivers, mountaineers, free skiers and others who dwell on the edge – no wonder the town is known as “Adventure Capital of the World”.
Stephen had asked us to find out the shape of the Lake Wakatipu and so as we had reached our hotel the previous night I had done some research on the net. And read a very interesting Maori Legend which states that the giant Matau was burnt to death in his sleep after he abducted a chief's daughter, burning a massive hole in the ground and melting the ice and snow of the surrounding mountains, forming the lake. The lake is a large "S" shape, like a giant, curled up and sleeping on its side. Matau's head rested at Glenorchy, at the north of the lake, and his feet south in Kingston. Queenstown sits on Matau's knee. One of Wakatipu's mysteries is the rise and fall of the lake by about 12cm (5") every five minutes. Legend states that a Giant's heart is impossible to destroy, and causes this rise and fall, while science says it is due to fluctuating atmospheric pressures. We were going to enjoy views of this lake from several heights and in my case even from 9,000 feet above!!!
It started at an easy pace with a half day city tour on a lovely sunny morning. We enjoyed beautiful views of the Lake Wakatipu, saw a London Bus doing the tourist rounds here and then went for a gondola ride - reputed to be the steepest lift in the Southern Hemisphere to the Skyline complex located on Bob's Peak for still more spectacular views of Queenstown and Lake Wakatipu.
Queenstown is the birthplace of bungee jumping and we visited the place where it all started and watched people as they were flung off the bridge. I commented –“These people are crazy. How can they jump off like that?” I turned around to see my friends with THE LOOK. Dipti commented – and what you plan to do later in the day, thatz not crazy???
Our adventure started when we decided to go for an exhilarating ShotOver Jet Ride - a unique, breathtaking white water ride through dramatic and narrow Canyons. The boats speed in mere centimeters of water (as little as 10 cms) in the famous Shotover River and move deep into the spectacular Shotover River Canyons where the jet boat drivers aim their high-speed boats at rock walls and then veer away at the last second with just centimeters to spare. They skillfully whip past rocky outcrops, skims around crags and boulders and steer their boats into sharp 360-degree turns, throwing up plumes of water that drench us. What an unforgettable adrenaline rush!!!
A walk in the beautiful Queenstown gardens to calm us down was needed. The rest decided to have lunch and go back to the hotel as they had other plans for the evening. But me? I decided to skip lunch. I was too scared that I will throw up during my SKYDIVE slated for a little later.
After exploring the gardens for some more time I went to the skydive place. I was NERVOUS. But a very nice couple who were also going reassured me.
I was going to jump out of a perfectly good aeroplane – don’t ask me why, from 9,000ft for 25 secs of free fall at a terminal velocity of 200kph. Then a 15 mins parachute ride land back.
We reached the drop zone and our jump masters were assigned to us. As I waited, I saw each one getting instructions from his/her jump master but mine was nowhere to be seen. I asked around and I was told ‘Ahhh don’t worry, sometimes he decides to take a nap!!!” What??? He should be giving me instructions!!!! I anyways listened to someone else getting their instructions. Then my jump master comes along and casually hands me a cap and gloves and asks me to get into the suit. As I tell him, let me try the cap on, he smiles and says. Don’t worry, you just trust me!
And gives me exactly 5 mins to get ready and takes me to the plane. We are the last to get on, coz it seems we will be the 1st to jump off…heavens noooooooooooo!!!!!
As we reached the desired height of 9000ft, he opens the shutter and asks me to dangle my feet over the side. I shudder, he gauges I am nervous. Tells me…don’t worry, take ur time and as I decide to relax and look around he nudges me over and before I know it I am off the plane, into the air. But no fear now. There is just too much beauty around to enjoy that there is no time to worry about anything else. I am so engrossed that I forget to pose for the camera man! Adam nudges my face and asks me to look at the camera for a few shots.
Even after we landed I was on a high. My lunch was still in my bag. I couldn’t even think about eating anything. I didn’t know how I would feel after the dive so I had opted out for the dinner plans that the rest were going to. When they were doing their bookings, they told the lady that our friend who has gone for sky diving may join. It seems she told them – she will be so high on adrenalin that I doubt she will be able to eat anything!!! How right she was.
Decided to just sit around in the park, next to the lake and let it all sink in. After nearly 2 hrs, took a bus and went back to the hotel. But the excitement that day had been much – I couldn’t even sleep!!!
What do I feel now - if given a chance I would do it again!!!! It was simply wonderful.