New Zealand was the most popular place people suggested I go. I now know why. It is beautiful. It is a country of mountains, clean water, wonderful people, and ADVENTURE. I landed in what is known as the “Adventure Capital of the World”, Queenstown, New Zealand. One of my goals is to see and do things that will be a different experience for me in the future. I also want to use social media creatively. There were so many choices of things to do, I left it up to my social network. I compiled a list of ten activities and put it to a vote on Facebook before I went to bed the first night. I expected skydiving and bungee jumping (which was invented in Queenstown) to be the winners. I woke up the next morning and immediately there were three top things I was going to do: Canyon Swing, Paragliding, and Zip Trekking.
The Shotover Canyon Swing received the most votes. I wasn’t horribly crazy about this, but I felt the weight of the social network pushing me forward. After a trek up the mountain and watching others jump, it was my turn. I was all geared up and ready to go. Just a simple jump and swing. However, I took one look down, and it shook me to the core. My guides (the ones who push you over when you’re freaking out) were encouraging me to just go. My hands wouldn’t stop sweating. I measured out my step and suddenly I was headed off a cliff. Once I was down and swinging, the view was fantastic. The worst part of the whole thing for me was the creaking in the equipment as I was being hoisted up. I trusted the people running it, but I was reminded how often we put our trust in equipment.
We were offered a second jump. Feeling the pressure to do something crazier. I and another person jumped again. This time, I went off on a tricycle. It turned out to be a great picture to use in a caption contest. See the winning captions here. I also have video too!
The second adventure of the day was paragliding with SkyTrek. The idea of flying in the air sounded fun to me. The take off was very casual. We went to the top of a big hill. My instructions were to simply keep running until I no longer could, then sit back and relax. The take off was easy. The “sit back” happened, but the “relax” DID NOT. Paragliding was the single scariest thing I have ever done in my life! I felt very insecure. The wind has so much control and I did not know what was going to happen. I fully expected us to lose control and crash. About five minutes into flight, I wanted off and down. It was 15 minutes of pure terror for me. I trusted my guide… it was the wind I did not trust. You will notice, in the video my teeth are clenched and my hands are bolted to the straps!
On my second day it was off to Ziptrek Ecotours! I did a series of six zip lines that took me down a mountain. The guides were great. This adventure also had a conservation focus. The guides talked about the environment around us and how we can maintain it. It was simply fun to just jump into the air and zip to the next location. The fear factor was much lower than the previous day.
My next destination in New Zealand was Auckland. Once again, I compiled a list of the top activities. I posted them on Facebook for voting. When I woke up, Rainforest Canyoning dominated the vote tally and off I went. Rock and water are two things I love. I grew up on a lake with a rocky shoreline. I always felt I had great feet/eye coordination. After a drive up to Piha Canyon, we suited up and received some training. Going off the side of a cliff was never easy. Once again, I trusted my guides fully, but with my back horizontal to the ground, it was the equipment working I had to ultimately trust. I could do everything right, the guides could do everything right. You never know, things break.
My favorite part was repelling down a narrow canyon with a waterfall in my face. I slipped and slided but kept getting my balance back. It was fun.
My final New Zealand adventure was the least scary, but nonetheless thrilling. I went on a Whale and Dolphin Safari. I love boats and water. The tide was rough but this played out to my advantage. When the other passengers sought shelter to avoid getting wet, I stayed out on the bow. I felt like I had the boat to myself. I was bouncing around and getting wet. Isn’t that the point when you are on a boat? We saw a lot of dolphins. They are amazing and fast creatures. They kept up with the speed of the boat and jumped around. I had never seen a whale in person before. It took a while but we finally managed to find and observe a couple of whales. Very cool. The Explore Group captain was very knowledgeable about wildlife. It was a wonderful visceral and educational experience.
Thank you for the adventure, New Zealand!
My time spent there however, was not all play. In Auckland, I also met with New Zealand’s Blind Foundation. Coming soon will be a blog about what I learned from them.