Until the deluge set in, the Routeburn had been great fun, and a suitably challenging physical workout. The day before we (Sinead, Daisy and I) had reached the highest point of the track – Conical Hill, at 1515 metres (5,000 feet), a climb of about 1000 metres (3,280 feet) from our start point – and enjoyed spectacular views over snow-capped mountains, lakes, and the Tasman Sea. On our descent to the Mackenzie Hut we’d passed back below the treeline, into mossy woods reminiscent of Lord of the Rings, which was filmed near here.
But the rain started to pour the next day and was forecast to get even worse. We had planned to do the Greenstone Track as well, but took a joint decision to quit while we were ahead, having already enjoyed the best of the scenery that our route had to offer. We caught the bus back to Queenstown for a bonus two days of doing something different instead.
It turned out to be an excellent decision. Queenstown is the outdoor capital of New Zealand, with options aplenty for the outdoor enthusiast – and I was feeling a lot more enthusiastic about the outdoors now that we were back on the dry side of the mountains.
New Zealand is the home of the bungy jump, and I was keen to give it a try so I signed up for the original A J Hackett bridge bungy. But as with many things that seem like a good idea at the time, I started to feel a lot less keen as the appointed hour approached. By the time I was standing teetering on a tiny wooden platform on a bridge over a deep river gorge, staring down into empty space, my instinct for self-preservation was telling me to run very fast in the opposite direction.
“How much of a dunking do you want?” Adam asked me as he set up my bungy cord.
“Hardly any. Just my fingertips,” I’d said, impressed that they had this down to such a fine art. I assumed that they factored in my weight, the dunk-quotient, and calculated a suitable length of bungy cord.
It turned out that it is a rather less precise science than I had fondly imagined. As I hurtled headfirst towards the water a vague thought went through my panic-stricken mind, “I’m still going really fast and that water is getting really close…”
Totally dunked. Water up my nose. Soaked to the skin. A bystander later showed me a photograph of myself in the water, only my feet visible above the surface.
As I bounced inelegantly, dripping water and dangling upside down on the end of the bungy cord, awaiting the retrieval boat, I yelled up at Adam, “Fingertips, Adam, fingertips!!”
But hey, what’s the point in doing something new if you know exactly what to expect?
[photo: about to pass the point of no return]
[Click here to see the video of the bungy jump – apologies for blurry quality, but you can just about tell it’s me. What you can’t see is that I’m hyperventilating…