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Bungy Team America

NEW ZEALAND | Thursday, 28 May 2009 | Views [1036]

I am sitting in an internet cafe in Dunedin right now around 10 p.m. on Thursday (5 a.m. Houston).  I love these places in New Zealand.  There is a group of students in the aisle next to me all playing an MMORPG.  Sample dialog: "Use stun.  Stun!  Such a bullsh*t team!  I'm out of mana!"

I was in Queenstown this morning as I had scheduled a bungy swing with AJ Hackett at 10.  The site is at the top of a hill and it has gorgeous views of Queenstown and Lake Wakatipu, and also has luging.  But when I walked to the gondola - which you need to get up there - it was under construction.  So I was incredibly disappointed (although maybe slightly relieved) because I wanted to end my trip with a bang (scream).  So I walked to the Station (bungy headquarters) and found out that they take everyone up in a 4WD up the hill.  So yay(?)

I went up with 2 other American girls.  One of them asked where I was from, and I said US.  She said, "Where?"  I said Texas and she said, "Where?!"  I said Houston and she said, "WHERE?!"  Yes that's right bros, I met my first Houstonian while in New Zealand.  Ashley and Janelle were both studying abroad at different campuses throughout the South Island from Penn State.  When I told them I was just here on vacation, they told me I was lucky since I didn't have classes and stuff.  Right, lucky... wait 'til you get OUT of school kids!  But I didn't tell them that since I figured they should remain optimistic as long as possible.

It was a pretty rough ride up and down the hill since the track was pretty narrow and steep and windy (and probably more dangerous than the actual bungy).  I opted for the swing instead of the jump.  The swing is a freefall and then pendulum movement versus the jump's freefall and up and down movement.  Just more appealing to me (and also cheaper).  Not sure about the fear factor.  I assumed the bungy would be scarier because it's more expensive, but the other girls who were doing the bungy jump said they wouldn't do the swing and Janelle said she once went on a similar swing at an amusement park and was "scared sh*tless."  So I guess it just depends on your preference!

Since I was doing the swing, I reluctantly volunteered to go first (also the camera was already hooked up towards the swing).  I was very nervous - more nervous than when I did it the last time because I remembered being, well, "scared sh*tless" the last time I did it.  And, I swear, for a few nights after the first time I did it, I dreamed I was freefalling in my sleep and jerked awake at night.  So all I could think about was what I remembered it feeling like the last time, whereas the last time I did it, I had no expectations.   Janelle had asked if anyone ever got injured doing the bungy here, and the woman frowned and said, "No one's ever died."  The important thing was she didn't say, "No one's ever been injured." 

The bungy crew is all cool though; they ask you what you do back home and crack corny jokes to make you feel more relaxed.  Or if you're feeling too confident they'll make some remark to up the fear factor.  When they found out that we were all Americans one of them (Ozzie - the American crewmember) said, "Team America!" 

I stepped into my harness and the guy tightened everything up and then I followed him to the swing release site.  There's only one release for this swing, where you pull the cord.  When everything was hooked up and I sat down and put my feet over the ledge and he pushed me out, that's when I got really nervous.  I could feel nothing but cold air underneath me and I could feel the tension in the ropes above me.  The guy told me to go for it and I asked for a countdown, and the girls counted down from 5.  And then I pulled the cord and WHOOSH!  Behold the awesome power of gravity!  I screamed like bloody murder.  I think I shouted, "Holy crap!" at one point too.  But, the good news is that it wasn't AS scary as last time, and I was able to enjoy the pendulum more.  So it was all good!  And I could actually appreciate the views this time too.  When they pulled me up the guy said, "That was a pretty good scream."  YEAH!  You're bloody right it was!

Ashley went next and did a running start.  Janelle took a while and I could see the workers trying to make her feel more relaxed.  She looked out and then retreated.  The driver on the way up said that the Ledge site had the highest backout rate out of all of them, which if he was being honest and not trying to scare us more, I can see being attributed to the fact that the site is in the center of Queenstown.  You're not being driven out to some out-of-way site like the other places so you probably don't feel as pressured.  I thought Janelle was going to back out, but as she was standing with her back to the drop and was being nudged ever closer and closer, I could see the guy gently pull her hands off him and away she went - so gently pushed, in a way.

After we ate our barbeque sandwiches and looked at our pictures and video, the 3 of us just stood quietly and serenely appreciating the view.  It was like we were all in the zen zone.  I felt great afterwards.  It's great to feel scared - legitimately scared - about doing something.  After having done both now, I can say without a doubt that bungy is definitely scarier than skydiving.  I hope I sleep well tonight!

After finishing up and eating lunch and doing some light shopping (this is definitely not a souvenir trip), I caught my 3 p.m. bus to Dunedin.  I had a freakout moment when I went to the hostel where I had left my bags after checking out, and seeing that the guy was on a break until 3:15.  So I panicked about missing my bus, but luckily after calling the guy twice on his cell phone, he came back and unlocked the room for me.  I liked that the hostel was all relaxed and stuff, but in some cases it's nice to have 24/7 reception!  I had to start jettisoning some stuff from my luggage, and the first things to go were my Australia guidebook and Angels and Demons, which I had bought at LAX but hadn't had time to read yet.  And wouldn't you know, 12 hours after I had donated it to the bookcase, someone took it already!

When I arrived in Dunedin I got all giddy and couldn't stop smiling.  I had forgotten how much I missed this cold wet little city.  And since I lived here for 6 months, I know the streets really well and finally set my Lonely Planet aside for once.  A lot of the chain stores on the main street changed, but otherwise it is exactly as I remember it.  I ate at this Cambodian restaurant that was one of my faves before for dinner, and then I walked to the Otago Library and bought a hot chocolate and "chocolate fush" and sat down in the Link - where I used to hang out all the time with my mates from study abroad.  It's pretty surreal; I can't believe it's been 5 years already.  I had the same experience when I was in Auckland and I met up with one of my friends, but this time I really felt it since I swear I was JUST HERE yesterday.  The library itself is pretty neat (yes, I know it's a library I'm talking about).  But it's designed really well and the architecture is cool, and it was basically my home while I was studying here.  I probably spent more time in the library than I did in my flat - not to study but just to stay in a place with an actual heater!

I also checked to see if my favorite fish and chips place was still open, and it is!  And this cafe that serves really great banana splits is still there too.  I swear my last full day in New Zealand tomorrow is going to revolve around eating!  I had wanted to go walk up Baldwin Street again (the steepest street in the world), and visit the Botanic Garden, and do this walk to a lookout point of Otago Harbour, but I'm still sick and somewhat exhausted, and daylight is very short now, so I figure I'll chill out tomorrow and visit places closer to city central.  I'm staying at this cool backpackers place called On Top, and it's right above this huge bar/pool hall, but it's all very clean and slick.  I love it.  I was filling out my form for checking in right at the bar counter, and I wasn't there maybe 30 seconds before this kiwi dude went up to me and started making conversation.

Well I'd better sign off now.  I got a busy day of eating ahead!  No joke, but the difference in weight of when I did the bungy swing the first time and today was -4 kg.  I was 10 lbs heavier when I studied abroad.  And based on my eating schedule tomorrow, I can see why!

Here's a youtube link of what I did today - not my actual photos.  I can't access them right now for some reason.  Arghh.  But you get the idea.


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