Up to the Highest Height

December 20 – Narrated by Alaina

Queenstown… A quaint lakefront village that appears all calm and relaxed, but then when you start delving in, you realize you are surrounded by absolute crazy things.

When we checked into the holiday park, there were hundreds of brochures, but what caught my eye was a bungy swing… Having no desire to actually bungy jump due to the whipping at the end and my not so great back, a swing sounded much more amenable. The idea of it kept on creeping back into my head throughout the evening but by the time we went to bed, I had decided I would pass.

We woke up to another beautiful day and we were excited to set out and explore the Otago Central wine region. Known for their pinot noir, I had found a couple of places that I wanted to visit through a few blogs.

The first was Brennan Wines, nestled into the hills of the mountains, this winery has an absolutely stunning view, a modern tasting room and a really cool bocce court.

 When we arrived, we went to get the big camera and go enjoy some wine! “Mike, where is the black backpack?” All of a sudden I was frantic… The small backpack we used for our day trips was no where to be found. We tore apart the camper, my heart rate continued to increase and I was trying really hard to hold back tears. Trying my hardest to remain calm I kept repeating “we have a lot of pictures on our iPhones.” We went into the winery and asked if we could use their phone to call the campsite. I am so thankful people here are so friendly, Fiona, our tasting lead called the campsite and asked to speak with someone at the desk. I asked Mike to speak to them or else I would start crying 🙁 He described the bag and gave them his cell phone number. I refused to let this ruin the day so we continued on with our wine tasting, albeit somewhat depressed.

Not five minutes later, Mike received a call saying that the backpack had been dropped at the front by a couple named Karl and Lucy… Folks, when you are drinking while camping, make sure you keep track of all your things! Lesson learned on our part! We were so relieved and could now really enjoy the day!

Brennan was fantastic even though Mike beat me in bocce.

 We then grabbed a quick lunch at Gibbston Tavern which was almost out of the Wild West and then headed to Chard Farms a few miles away. Had I known the road we would have to take to get there, I would never have put Mike through that misery. There are no words to describe the one car gravel lane that traveled along an extremely steep cliff. In addition, a car came flying around the bend and almost hit us head on… We were not thrilled. If you didn’t
concentrate driving the bends, it could have been dire. Of course there were no guard rails.

 When we finally arrived, the winery/vineyard was absolutely stunning. The winery looked like a villa transplanted from Italy and the wines were delicious. We walked the grounds, met the local cat who immediately asked for belly rubs and just enjoyed the scenery and beautiful day.

 Across from the terrifying road, is the first commercial bungy jump off the Kawarau Bridge. Unassuming from the outside, when you enter the building they have erected on the side of the cliff, it is really cool and modern. Almost an octagon shape, I felt like we were in a bunker with all the cement and steel. They have two major observation decks so we were able to watch about a half dozen people take the plunge!

What all of you don’t know at this point is that we were heading back into Queenstown because I had signed up for the 5:30 Canyon Swing over Shotgun Canyon. I knew I would regret not doing it and considering I woke up with it on my mind, decided to just do it! I give all the credit in the world to Mike as he encouraged and supported me, even though I know he was freaking out inside knowing what I was about to do. I left him in town as I was shuttled onto the bus with 8 other people and we began the drive out.

 Some stats about this swing.
-109 meters high
-60 meter free fall
-200 meter swing
*The worlds highest cliff jump

I was relaxed throughout the day but when we pulled up and I saw the canyon? Oh man, my heart began to beat slightly faster. The group age range was from 11 to about 45 so I knew I had to do it. If an 11 year old can? We got to the building which had huge Windows for us to look down and then we were escorted to the platform hanging over the canyon. I give the guys so much credit that work at this insane place. Safety is obviously number one priority but they keep a humorous banter that attempts to distract you so you don’t freak out.

 The jump I chose was the slide. They set up a slide at the top so instead of leaning over and looking straight down, you slide right off! It was terrifying, exhilarating and every emotion in between. I had a seatbelt on the slide to prevent me from sliding to early, but when they unclipped it? I had to just take a deep breath and go. Holy crap. The feeling of free falling and not knowing when you are going to stop? It’s ridiculous. When I started swinging over the river? It was amazing, so peaceful, beautiful and I felt soooo good that I had actually done it. The worst part is that they have to pull you back up so you are literally hanging in a canyon, but I got through it. However, I was so angry that I closed my eyes for the first two seconds. I needed to do it again!

 We will post the videos once we have access to an actual computer, but the second was me just jumping off and I kept my eyes open!

 Mike was thrilled to see me and he was even able to watch the videos… I think he got sweaty just seeing me sitting on top of the slide 🙂

[Mike takes over to describe his thrilling afternoon]

Not wanting to even think about any humans, let alone Alaina, intentionally jumping off of a cliff, I politely declined the “free spectator” option & decided to wander Queenstown for a few hours. My main plan of attack: take the 2 casinos we walked by for everything they had. I walked into the first & saw about 10 slot machines, a roulette table, and an empty blackjack table & thought “hmmm, sketchy & sad – I’ll go try my luck at the other one.” Walked across the city & found the other casino was pretty much the same situation but hey, I was there so I had to at least give it a whirl. I threw $50 NZ down on Blackjack and quickly realized the rules here a slightly different to give the house more of an edge (the table pushes when the dealer gets 22?? Blackjack pays even money???, come on!). I should have walked away once I figured that out but wound up staying long enough to blow through they money I put down & leave just a little bit poorer than I walked in.

The rest of my time was mostly uneventful, just wandering the city, scoping out the parks & my big thrill while Alaina was getting the adrenaline rush of a lifetime was to find a cookie shop & buy 5 delicious warm cookies. Not emasculating at all….

[Back to Alaina]

Having gotten the rush of a lifetime, it was time to leave Queenstown and head to Wanaka. Again, Mike was tasked with driving ridiculous cliff side roads where he seemed to be torn between the stunning scenery and the sharp drop off on the other side of the guard rails… “Freaking New Zealand” has become a popular phrase in the camper 🙂 We pulled off while the sun was setting a a scenic view point and were just in awe of the sheer beauty of this country. There was a bride and groom taking some unbelievable pictures and when the photographer, Isaac, noticed us taking a selfie, he offered to take a picture of us. Of course in Kiwi fashion, he didn’t just take a picture… He took out my memory card, put it in his camera, set up a standing flash and took some amazing pictures. He didn’t have to do it, but it just seems to be the kiwi way. He showed us some of the bride and grooms pictures (they used a helicopter earlier that day!) and they were ridiculous. I haven’t had a chance to visit his site, but it’s www.perspectives.co.nz

 The drive into Wanaka is stunning although you have to be really careful of the rabbits… We saw so many which put Mike’s obstacle course driving skills to the test as the little thrill seekers jumped in front of the car every other minute. Luckily Mike was alert & skilled in his rabbit-avoiding so no bunny lives were lost on this trip. Although it looked like many others weren’t as fortunate as the road was littered with little bunny “speed bumps.” We arrived to the campsite I had found (free wifi folks!), pulled in and started chatting with a couple who was staying next to us. Come to find out, it was the tall German that we met in the Driving, Driving, Rain, Rain post! We ended up sharing beer and wine around the picnic table until 12:30 and it was awesome. Their camper is named Marta and here is the adorable couple:

 We now have their email and most likely will bump into them again. Oh the fun of camping and making friends from all over the world!

2 thoughts on “Up to the Highest Height

  1. I can’t believe you left your bag! You are luckily finding lots of kind people in your travels. Stay safe my friends.

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