Ankles lashed together I shuffle to the edge. The sun shines bright and warm, a soft breeze caresses my cheek. Below me 340ft and 102m are the blue-grey waters of the Shotover river.
I wake early on a crisp, clear February morning on the South Island New Zealand. I’ve spent the last seven days onboard the Kiwi Experience bus on the Southern Roundup route that’s carried me from Auckland down the North Island and across the Cook Straits to Queenstown. I’ve enjoyed a number of stops on the way including kayaking in Abel Tasman National park with its golden beaches and lush coastal native bush and a helicopter flight and trek on the imposing Franz Josef Glacier .
Since boarding in Auckland we’ve developed into a tight knit crew of English, Irish, French, Israeli and Spanish twenty-somethings forever bound by the collective memories of this phenomenally beautiful country.
Yesterday we decided to jump off a bridge.From the sanctuary of the Cairo Club last night this seemed like an excellent idea. Watching the video loop of previous jumpers we’d delighted in counting the 4 seconds before confirmation that the river rushing towards us wouldn’t be the last thing we see.
The Pipeline Bungy was in Skippers Canyon several kilometres north of Queenstown (It was bought out by AJ Hackett some years ago.) The canyon was formed by glacial activity approximately 25,000 years ago. It remained highly inaccessible until the building of the Skippers Road in the 1880’s.
It took 22 years to complete the road as large sections of it had to be carved out of the vertical cliff face using only black gunpowder and hand drills. This created a minibus ride to get to the bungy jump site which is an experience in itself navigating the mostly one-way, narrow and steep road with sheer drops of several hundred metres. It’s a road so dangerous your car rental insurance won’t be honoured if you drive on it.
The Pipeline bungy sat on New Zealand’s highest span, a narrow suspension footbridge that was converted in 1994. The name came from the bridge’s original use as a gold-sluicing water pipeline bridge spanning approximately 525ft (160m) long.
Skippers canyon is also home to the Shotover jet boat a thrilling high speed ride through the narrowest canyons on the Shotover River. We’d also signed up for the Jet boating experience immediately after the bungy jump as part of an adrenaline fuelled day ending with white water rafting .
“Wave if you love Jonny!” echoes around the canyon walls as my companions toast my impending leap into the unknown, from the relative safety of the narrow bridge swaying behind me. I wave back and make the obligatory tongue out and thumbs up to the overhead camera capturing the moment for posterity – available to purchase later on along with a video of the whole experience.
I jump on 1, just as the Kiwi bungy aficionado next to me, who to this point has been guiding me gently through the process bellows “HANG ON!”
As I flail my arms in a vain attempt to claw my way back up as I plummet headfirst towards the canyon floor he turns to my friends with a big grin and says – “I think he heard that.”
Guest post by Jonathan Dove.