Thursday, March 2, 2006 - Queenstown,
Including Canyon Swing and Luge
Finally a morning to sleep late. That's
the great thing about staying two nights in
one place; you don't have to check out by
10:00 a.m. Having a king-size bed is
wonderful, and the shower here has great
water pressure. We only had a couple of
things on the agenda today, so we didn't have
Earlier we'd made reservations for the
Shotover Canyon Swing, and at high noon we
met up with a small group, signed our
waivers, and climbed aboard a van taking us
to an undisclosed location. We were driven 15
minutes from town and walked five minutes
through the woods until we came face to face
with a cliff-mounted platform 360 feet above
the extremely shallow Shotover River.
The Shotover Canyon Swing is the world's
highest swing, an insane 200-foot free-fall
before entering a pendulum swing at 90 miles
per hour. I was intrigued from the first time
I'd seen their Website.
No worries, Shotover Canyon Swing
We were each weighed, fitted with a
harness, then one by one we stepped to the
edge. The guys that work the Swing make
ridiculous small talk while hooking you in.
Tom thought they were being polite, but I
think it's a psychotic mind game to get you
to stand at the precipice as long as possible
in order to heighten the experience when it's
finally time to jump. When the guys decided
I'd stared into the abyss long enough, they
told me to go ahead and jump. Well, by that
time I'd come to my senses. "I'm not doing
it," I said in a panic, as I backed away from
the edge. "Yes, you are," said crazy guy 1,
as he pulled me back toward the chasm. "Jana,
do it," said Tom, as he waited for his turn.
So, not wanting to look like the coward I'd
suddenly become, I turned and jumped.
Free-fall, it turns out, is way easier
than the initial jump, and before I knew it,
I was swinging in a gentle arc over the
river. That was great! What was I so worked
up about? After all, the whole contraption
seems to be held together by Velcro. What
could possibly go wrong? They winched me up
to the platform, and I giddily walked away on
It was Tom's turn, so I ran to a good
viewpoint. He didn't even scream! I couldn't
believe it. He was so far away by the time he
reached the bottom that I could only make him
out as a tiny blue-jean speck. I took a movie
of him falling, but you can't even see him on
the image. That's how freaking far you
Tom on the edge
The first jump is NZ$139. If you choose to
go again, subsequent jumps cost only NZ$39.
It just seemed economically sensible that I
should do two! They have ten different styles
of jumping, rated on a scale of one to five
underpants, one underpants being the mildest
and five being the scariest, (and thus
soiling the most underpants. Get it?) Perhaps
I should have known better than to pick the
Pin Drop, with a rating of five, for the
style of my very first jump, but having
survived that one, I certainly couldn't go
down in underpants for my second jump, so I
chose the Backwards Jump, also a five.
Besides, this way I figured I wouldn't have
to look down first...
I stepped to the edge of the platform and
got in position, precipitously balanced, with
crazy guys 1 and 2 making more small talk.
They told me to look over the edge toward my
right. "No way." You have to, they said,
because there's sharp rocks you need to see
so you can jump far enough to avoid them.
Great, like blunt rocks wouldn't be bad
enough. So I looked, jumped anyway, and it
was awesome! This time I was in the zone. I
laughed and screamed all the way down. Now I
know why Queenstown is the adventure capital
of the world!
Like everywhere else, pictures of the
event were available afterwards, expensive of
course, but I got some anyway. On the
forward-style jumps all you could see was the
back of our heads, but when I jumped
backwards, the photos were great. I paid up
for the pics, and we loaded back in the van.
I was exhausted. I don't know why; all I did
was take two little jumps. I guess all the
adrenaline really takes it out of you.
"Gravity is a toy, come out and play..."
Returning to Queenstown, we elected to
ride the Skyline Gondola to the top of Bob's
Peak to ride the Skyline Luge. The gondola
carries passengers up 450 meters (about 1,500
feet) above Queenstown, giving an outstanding
view of the town, Lake Wakatipu, and the
Remarkables. At the top there is an
additional ski lift to take you even higher,
where a luge ride is available for an extra
Queenstown, Kelvin Peninsula, and the
The luge is essentially a little, plastic,
three-wheeled cart you ride down a winding
concrete track at ludicrous speeds. This is
great fun and we bought five rides each.
There are two tracks, scenic (i.e. beginners)
and advanced, each lasting 800 meters.
Everyone is required to do the scenic track
for their first ride to get used to the
Skyline Luge track
Tom and I both did the scenic track twice
and the advanced track three times. The
advanced track has some fairly steep drops,
banked corners, and even a small tunnel. The
luge is pretty safe if you keep control and
quite dangerous if you don't. As we were
getting on the ski lift to go up for our
first ride, we saw two girls leaving the area
with blood dripping from their hands and
arms. You'll be happy to know Tom and I
behaved ourselves and left with everything
intact. This was an absolute blast!
In the late afternoon we drove to the
historic 1880 Kawarau Bridge outside of
Queenstown, site of the world's first
commercial bungy jump in 1988. We got there
just in time to see a bloke plunge 43 meters
(140 feet) face first into the river. They
had the tension set perfectly so that he was
dunked exactly to his waist. The jumper was
then lowered to a boat in the river and
brought to shore, where he had to walk 43
vertical meters of stairs back up. It didn't
look so high after this morning's Canyon
Jump, and if someone else would have paid the
fee, Tom and I would've gone for it, but we
weren't going to pay NZ$130 for the honor.
They could at least winch you back up!
Kawarau Bridge bungy
After watching the bungy, we drove over to
Kelvin Peninsula, which we'd had a great view
of from Bob's Peak, then we inadvertently
drove to Kingston, at the southern end of
Lake Wakatipu, almost running out of gas in
the process. The gas station in Kingston was
closed when we arrived, but they had a
credit-card pump for after-hours petrol.
After a slight struggle, we were quite
relieved when we finally got it to work. When
we returned to Queenstown, we stopped for
some refreshments at Beaver Liquor.
Get the t-shirt
We had a fantastic dinner at Golden
Elephant Authentic Thai. I had the phad khee
mao with prawns. Delish! I ordered it medium
spicy, and it was just the right amount of
too hot. Tom loved his meal, too. We had
Canterbury Draught to drink. An excellent
Sign our guestbook
View our guestbook