Friday, February 24, 2017

Whoa, Nelly! That Was a Really, Really Long Fall! But a Good Show!

I mentioned in a previous blog post that New Zealand is THE destination for adventure sports. Some might say extreme sports. Queenstown seems to be the epicenter.

As I mentioned, Pope and I are mostly focusing on minor recreational drugs--hot springs, boat cruises, waterfalls, gardens, scenic drives--instead of mainlining the hard stuff.
We even did a bus tour--of Fiordlands National Park--a first for both of us.

But here in Queenstown, the pressure is intense to go all the way. Jump, leap, dive, bike, raft, fly. For thousands of 20-somethings here, this stuff appears to be addictive. I think Pope is acceding to the allure.

Yesterday we stopped at a glider school. $250 for 30 minutes in the air with an instructor.

This morning we chased a paraglider in our car, up a mountain on a steep dirt road. He put on a fabulous show for our benefit, dipping and soaring, before landing next to our car. On other occasions, Pope has watched the paragliders longingly for hours. $200 for 2 hours, tandem.
This afternoon we saw the feature presentation.

In an era of fake news, I can testify that those videos of bungee jumping (called bungy here) are real. I saw it with my own eyes. I took video. Their feet are bound together, like a prisoner. They descend headfirst. They fall a long, long way into a deep rocky gorge, 43 meters. Some splash the water--deliberately! I almost wet my pants just watching!
Of the dozen or so people who took the bungy plunge off a historic bridge, between the steep rock walls, before my very eyes, most waved at the crowd, smiling, before swan-diving off the platform in the best Olympic tradition. No one bombed or broke their back (amazing, I thought; they should at least get whiplash). Only one backed out, way up there on the high platform, already trussed up and loaded with gear. Sorry, no refunds! $195 down the drain.

I confess. We were so fascinated, we watched for hours.

Pope was offered the senior discount: free bungy jump after age 75! (He would only have to fudge his age by a few months.) Hmm. From our initial plan to stay here two nights, we have now expanded to four nights while he thinks it over. As a former whitewater kayaker somewhat on the extreme side (first-time runs of some of the world's uncharted rivers, years ago), he doesn't shy away from dangerous, life-threatening opportunities to drown or break your neck.

I, on the other hand, Miss Scaredy-Cat, was perfectly content to just watch. I was happy with my 7-kilometer moderate hike up to the top of a mountain. Very grounding. Tinged with just the right touch of athleticism.
Tomorrow is the fourth day. Pope is still pondering. Dreaming. Imagining flying through the air.

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