Finally…I’ve read my way through the monster of a guidebook that is The Rough Guide to New Zealand, and I feel I have a pretty good grasp of what this immense country has to offer.
Lucky for me – a girl who likes to test her scaredy-cat limits – New Zealand is ‘the place’ to go for high-adrenaline adventure sports, and boy does it know how to host them in style.
As a personal challenge, I’ve decided to take on as many stomach-curdling activities as I can in an attempt to lose my inhibitions (especially when it comes to heights). I want to leave the comforts of vapid Blighty behind and aspire to be more like a brave kiwi. With that in mind, I will be tweeting as I travel using the hashtag #ScaredBritless, so please follow me on Twitter.
What can you expect from my crazy adventures?
• Skydiving – I’m petrified of heights. The most fear-inducing activities I’ve ever tried are paragliding (see below) and rappelling down a waterfall. Jumping from a plane would be on a whole new level of crazy. Then there’s the recent ‘Granny Skydive Fail’ YouTube video of an elderly lady whose harness didn’t hold her in properly. It didn’t fill me with confidence…
• Bungee jumping – If there’s anything that scares me more than a sky dive, it’s a bungee jump. There’s something even less natural about diving head first into an abyss being held only by your feet. I’d like to think I will have the guts to give the country’s bungee jump king, the Nevis Highwire, a go, but only time will tell! In the meantime, my lovely sister has already booked me in to leap from the 192-metre Skytower in Auckland (aka, New Zealand’s tallest building). And my nerves about the trip have since skyrocketed!
• Jetboating – The jetboat was invented by a guy called Bill Hamilton who needed a way to navigate the braided rivers surrounding the Canterbury sheep country where he lived. These boats can reach speeds of up to 80 km/h in water as shallow as 10 cm.
• Canyoning – The gloworm-studded caves of Waitomo offer the perfect place to take on some canyoning. Kitted out in a wetsuit, rubber boots and a helmet, caving trips may include huge abseils, tyre tubing, jumping from underground waterfalls, a little bit of rock climbing and even an underground picnic!
• Diving with sharks – There are a few places to experience these frightening predators up close and personal. In Auckland, the Kelly Tarlton Underwater Experience allows groups of divers to lower themselves into a tank filled with sharks, while in Gisborne, you can travel 15 km offshore and climb into a metal cage for half an hour of viewing 80 kg mako sharks through the safety of the bars.
• Skiing/snowboarding – As I’ll be in New Zealand during their winter, there will be plenty of opportunities to try out some winter sports, and it will be my first time ever on skis or a snowboard. In Peru and Chile last year, I tried my hand at sandboarding. Some tough love from my instructor meant that I eventually got a halfway decent technique and I’m ready to progress onto the white stuff.
• Rafting – Rafting is popular across both islands. The Kaituna river has a 7 m waterfall you can drop over the edge of, while the Rangitikei is one of the toughest in the country. Although the rafting season ends in May, I’m hoping there might be a company willing to take me out. When I rafted in Costa Rica I was the only one of 60 people to fall out, so I could do with improving my skills.
• Sledging – This is probably the one I’m most psyched about. I’d never heard of sledging before. It involves resting on a board with handles on the front and manoeuvring yourself through white water rapids while kicking with fins to avoid any particularly treacherous sections of river.
• Quad biking – My very limited experience of driving an ATV in Costa Rica proved that I totally lack the ability to steer in a straight line. So, a guided trip through local countryside could be challenging for me. Practice makes perfect though, right?
• Flying a plane – Yes, you read that right. Remarkably, there’s a place on the South Island where it’s possible to take a plane out and, with no previous experience, do loops, four-point rolls and Cuban eights. I get nervous when a commercial jet leans to one side to change direction, so my mind is not made up as to whether or not I’d be able to handle this!
• Tramping – This is the kiwi word for hiking, and with such beautiful scenery in the country, it’s hardly surprising that there are so many trails. Time restraints mean that I’m unlikely to be taking on any of the 4 or 5 day monsters, but my walking boots are already packed and I at least plan on taking on the 1-day Tongariro Alpine Crossing. Weather conditions in winter mean that I will probably need crampons, which I’m sure will add to the adventure.
I’ve planned a rough route through New Zealand from Auckland in the north of the North Island down to Queenstown in the South Island. I’ll be travelling independently by bus, since car hire doesn’t lend itself so well to solo travel. The highlights will include:
– Jumping off buildings and checking out the zoo in Auckland
– Exploring the thermals and geysers at Wai-O-Tapu near Rotorua
– Visiting the stunning Huka falls by jetboat from Taupo, and experiencing the haka and a traditional Hangi meal
– Exploring the Te Papa museum in Wellington and learning about Maori culture
– Flying a plane around Motueka in the South Island, before paddling a kayak through the Abel Tasman national park
– Ice hiking on Franz Josef/Fox glacier
– Joining hoards of adventure sports enthusiasts in New Zealand’s adventure capital, Queenstown
I am by no means a fearless daredevil. I hope to share with you what it’s like to experience this fascinating and beautiful country while conquering some of my biggest fears. And so that you can see, through my eyes, how affected I am by some of the activities I’ve mentioned above, I’ll be videoing some of the best using a GoPro camera. I can’t promise there won’t be blood curdling screams and I might need to learn how to edit out the occasional obscenity…