Chris' 1994  R100GS/PDChris' new bike, a 1996 F650ULTIMATE JOURNEY Erin's 1997  F650
Living a Dream . . . 2 Live-N-Ride

August 26, 2001

Leaping and Leaving Queenstown

-- Story by Chris --

Winter in the southern hemisphere is coming to an end – it’s all really quite sad. Yes, we’re excited about getting to South America – truth be told, I can’t wait! But the other side is that we will miss NZ, along with all the great people.

Saturday, August 18th: It was a rainy morning, but I was up early and excited – my new ’96 F650 motorbike finally arrived from the North Island! Erin and I unpacked it, and we were pleasantly surprised. We bought the bike sight unseen, and it came to us as promised – in good condition. It cost me NZ$190 (US$80) to have the bike brought down from Levin on the North Island, some 1,000 kms away -- I couldn't have brought it down cheaper if I went up and got it myself!

Spoke with Don back in Seattle -- my R100PD arrived safely, and he promises to take good care of her until my return.  He said the bike seems in better shape than he expected, and feels like it has more power than his PD -- go figure!?!

There was a break in the weather on Sunday morning, so we took the bikes for a nice ride out to Glenorchy. It was nice to go out for a ride, and Erin and I switched bikes a few times riding out. It’s so much better having 2 bikes we can trade and either of us could ride, comfortably.

Monday, August 20th: Today represented 2 years and 3 months since we began our journey – a milestone worthy of something special. It was time for our bungy jump. Erin has always wanted to do a bungy – and she always wanted to do it in NZ, where the sport was born. It didn’t hurt that NZ used to be such a far-away concept, and the threat of the act was therefore far away.

There are two companies that offer the adrenaline pumping experience:

  1. AJ Hackett is the more famous, with 3 different facilities: 42 meter Kawarau Bridge – a popular spot for tourists to stop for photos (we’ve been there a few times); 47 meter Ledge (jumping off a platform next to the gondola station, overlooking town); and the new 134 meter Nevis highwire, which is a suspension pod strung across a gorge. AJ introduced the world to bungy jumping in the early 1980’s when he bungyed off the Eiffel tower in Paris.
  2. Pipeline Bungy is the other company, a family operated business. The bridge is 102 meters up from the river, and located in historic Skipper's’ Canyon. They run off-road safaris, jet-boating, and of course, the bungy bridge. Next year they are going to start operating a bungy from a hot-air balloon, to offer the highest bungy in the world – some 250 meters above the river!

We went back and forth, trying to decide. Erin wanted to jump off a bridge, leaning towards the "small" Kawara bridge, and I was leaning towards the Nevis – the highest in the world.  In the end the decision was easy; we had been to Skippers on a few occasions (Chap 51) and preferred the people and scenery at Pipeline -- we made our reservation with them.

Eight of us piled into the Land Rover, and headed into the mountains. The dirt track we rode the bikes through a few months ago was now a giant mud pool. The track runs along the edge of the gorge, about 100 meters up from the river. The 4-wheel drive ride was scary enough to keep your mind off the upcoming leap.

The sky was clear, and the day was cool without being too cold. The second Rover pulled up, and we gathered around to be weighed in. The guys working the jump were relaxed and very friendly. Because they don’t have huge groups of people coming through, the staff makes it a point to know everyone’s name, and help you feel calm and relaxed. Erin jumped before me, and she looked quite confident while standing on the edge of the platform. She later told me she was shaking like a leaf. When she jumped off, you could hear the scream all the way down, and throughout the many rebounds.

I felt completely relaxed through the whole thing, sitting in the chair getting strapped in. I was talking to Al and Graham, just enjoying the day. I was surprised I wasn’t frightened, and guessed it was because I’ve been to a few bungy bridges, and seen a couple of dozen people jump. Getting from the old barber chair out to the platform was a little tricky, as your ankles are bound together. I got out on the platform, and was surprised I wasn’t panicking. The cord was lowered down between my legs, and I peered over the edge – no problem. When most of the cord was lowered, Al let go of the cord, and I felt a pang as the weight of the cord was pulling down on my ankles. Suddenly, I was scared.

I tried to find my calm, but it seemed to have run back to the safety of the house. I turned to the guys and said, "hang on, I’m scared". They smiled (having heard this a few million times), and replied, "you’ll be right, mate". I took several deep breaths, and listened as they counted down 5… 4… 3… 2… 1… GO!  I jumped out as far as I could go (with my feet bound), and ….. I don’t know – I completely blanked out. Next thing I felt a yank on my ankles, as the bungy caught. I was back, and rapidly approaching the river. The rocks were getting close, but I could feel the force on my ankles, rapidly decelerating my decent. My downward motion eventually stopped, and I felt my body being pulled back up in a recoil. "Yaaaaaahoooooooooooo"! What a fantastic feeling. I bounced up and down a few more times, and eventually was lowered to a waiting jet-boat.

Definitely a worthwhile experience – and can’t recommend the team at Pipeline enough. The 45-minute ride back to town was quieter, as everyone was lost in their own world of reflection.

Friday, August 24th: It was time for our farewell party – a potluck, Latin theme… Party dress was optional. About half of the 25 who showed up were dressed in costumes. They also showed up with a variety of chilies, tacos, quesadillas, dips, chips, casseroles, sushi, and deserts. The bottle of Tequilla didn’t last long, but there was a huge supply of beer and wine to keep us going until 3:30am. A lot can be said about the party, but it will be shorter to just say we will miss everyone, and look forward to seeing each of them again.

Chris, Stu, Sharlene, Erin, and Andrew

Saturday, August 25th: We were up at 7:30am, only 4 short hours after we went to bed. We tried to pack during the afternoon, but friends who couldn’t make the party came by to say farewell. At 6pm, we headed down to the Queenstown Lodge to secure good seating for the upcoming rugby match. We pulled together some sofas, ordered a bunch of pizzas, and got a few pitchers of beer. There was about 16 of us, everyone was a little fragile from the night before. NZ was playing South Africa in the continuing Tri-Nations series, and we needed a big win. A few changes were made from the game we saw in Dunedin, and a different team showed up. It was a great game, and the All Blacks won 26-15. After the match, we again had the task of saying farewell to some terrific people – more folks to add to our growing list of eternal friends.

It’s now Sunday night, and we’re pretty exhausted. We spent the last few days pulling out our gear, and making piles -- It’s amazing how much junk we’ve accumulated! The tricky part is what we’ll take from here. My bike doesn’t have any panniers yet – we’ll pick them up in Christchurch (500kms away) later this week. This seriously limits our carrying capacity from Queenstown. We have to send a box of stuff up to Auckland, which we’ll pick up in a couple of weeks.

It will be sad to leave in the morning.

Suzanne, our Spanish teacher,
wishing us farewell at our party

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