My face was flushed, my cheeks scorched by the wind — after all I had just come racing down 192 mts off the tallest tower in the southern hemisphere (dangling off a cable that stretched from the tip to the bottom at that). I was thrilled to bits with myself. “You did it,” said the petite sky jump assistant. I was on a total high. Then my colleague and I asked her (a tad smugly) if she had ever jumped. “About 600 times. I’m still at training stage,” she replied. My jaw dropped.
But I consoled myself. I may not be a Kiwi with adventure sport running through my veins but damn it, I’m an average Mumbaikar. In fact, I’d put jumping off a tower right up there with being able to cross a road in Mumbai without getting killed or getting in and out of a local train and staying in one piece.
A trip to Mt. Cook gave me an idea of what New Zealanders do for fun — they go mountaineering, challenging themselves to ascend slopes that veterans like Edmund Hilary did! If it’s Friday and you’re in Auckland, you’ll see the harbour teeming with yachting enthusiasts, hoisting their sails, spending the weekend riding the waves.
To the Kiwis, age is literally, just a number. Look around and you will see the elderly actively participating in everything from driving trams to manning gates at a stadium to cycling, not to mention bungee jumping (notwithstanding the white hair standing on end). At a detour we took in Rotorua at Agroventures, an adventure sport centre, we were informed that the oldest person to jump the 50 metre bungee was 80.
It’s not for nothing that New Zealand is called the youngest country on earth — it’s in their attitude, it’s in the air, it’s everywhere. Who else would think of inventing something like the bungee? Or the zorb (New Zealand orb) — a ball that takes you down a hill just for fun? Only a New Zealander.
A boat ride to the open-air hot spas (via a stunning bird sanctuary) was another eye-opener. We docked, got off and I almost walked past a sign that said, “Honesty box — it pays to be honest”. For those not in the know — an honesty box is a box that is placed next to goods or services that are for sale. In the event that there is no store owner/shop owner available when customers want to avail of the service, the customer is expected to take what he needs and put in an estimated amount of what it costs into the honesty box. I stared at it in wonder, thought about whether we should try it in India but stopped myself — the mind boggles.
On my last day in Auckland a walk down a street to buy some groceries turned out to be really entertaining. Bang on the sidewalk (besides a traffic stop light) was a reverse bungee set up for anyone willing to take the shot. A couple decided to give it a try and I could hear their excited shrieks/screams long after I turned the corner. Adventure sport while you wait for the lights to change, anyone?
So the next time you think of getting a face-lift — buy a ticket to New Zealand instead. It will take years off you, give you a guaranteed adrenaline rush and do the trick.
(The writer’s trip was sponsored by www.newzealand.com / Tourism New Zealand)