The sun on your back, wind in your hair, your heart thumping faster than a trip-hop drum beat and the thrill of adrenaline pumping through your veins. If this is what you’re looking for Queenstown in New Zealand should be your destination.
Known as the world’s capital of adventure sports, there are a few death-defying experiences in Queenstown that allow the average Joe to feel like an intrepid dare-devil.
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So if you’re looking for a vacation riddled with countless shivers, bring a sturdy pair of trainers, sunglasses, swimsuit, a thirst for adventure and loads of moolah (apparently staring fear in the face comes for a pretty penny.)
Kick in the air
For starters, I’d recommend air activities, I’ve had the most fun with the sky as my playground. Start with bungy jumping. A.J. Hackett Bungy at the Kawarau Bridge is considered the spiritual home of bungy.
The free fall is a quick, ephemeral experience of weightlessness before you bounce upside down a couple of times. The temptation to feel smug of your leap is soon quelled, when you see a few geriatrics make the leap without blinking an eyelid.
But for a really heart-stopping bungy experience, the Nevis Highwire is highly recommended, as it’s the highest jump in NZ at 450 ft above ground. At Nevis you plummet for 8 seconds, surrounded by cliff and rock — an incident I guarantee you won’t forget for a while.
Your next adrenaline fix could be paragliding or hang gliding (the difference is in the type of equipment used.) You’re driven to one of the highest peaks in South Island, Coronet Peak, (3,800 ft) and take off in either a glider or parachute.
While paragliding allows you a slower, more scenic experience, hang gliding is swifter, speedier and has more scope for acrobatics — so pick your poison according to your needs. But as a beginner you would be strapped alongside an expert, who’ll be controlling the glider/parachute.
Now for the most visually spectacular and breathtaking of all air activities - sky diving. Here, you’re driven to the local airport, where you hop on a plane that flies to a height 15,000 ft. You then simply take the ultimate jump of your life, free falling at 200 km per hour for about 45 seconds.
It’s a little disconcerting when, before the jump, the trainer asks you to bend over with your head between your knees. “For safety reasons?” you ask. “Nope, it’s the easiest way to kiss your butt goodbye.” The rush is surreal, and the view is singular in its beauty and vastness. Your first flight will be tandem, so it’s not as scary as you might think, but it’s still an experience of a lifetime.
Shaken ’n’ stirred
If you’re a water baby, then Queenstown has some rapid thrills. River rafting on the river Kawarau is ideal for first-timers as the stretches of white water allow ample time to practise paddling techniques, admire the exceptional scenery and indulge in a water fight.
If you’re a seasoned rafter, then challenge yourself on the Shotover river, where you shoot through mighty river canyon walls at breakneck speed and land on a small pool called Skipper’s canyon. Bring your swimwear along and wade through its crystal splendour.