Tag Archives: Adventure

When In Wanaka

After spending a few months on the island continent Australia I was itching to spread my wings. I had a semester break at the end of September/beginning of October and I knew where I wanted to go: New Zealand.

The scary part was that I was going to be doing this 100% on my own. I wasn’t going to meet anyone there that was part of my university or study abroad group. I was doing this for me. It was a huge step for me to travel and make plans on my own and it gave me confidence for future travel adventures. In my head I already knew that I wanted to go and see some of the Lord of the Rings filming locations, so I made it a mission to do just that. I decided to start my adventure on the South Island or Te Waipounamu in the city of Queenstown and I booked a day tour that would take me around to various locations used in the filming of the Lord of the Rings films.

An odd connection from Brisbane to an overnight in Melbourne to an AM Sydney flight and running through the Sydney airport to catch a flight, then a few hours staring out a Qantas window, a movie about a Scottish cyclist (The Flying Scotsman) and a crappy Robin Williams movie (License To Wed) later … I landed in Queenstown.

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I had arranged to be driven to Wanaka via a shuttle bus. the only problem was that I didn’t know/remember the name of the bus. This was before the smartphone era so I had to boot up my laptop and then try and find WiFi at the airport and STILL, I was stuck. I knew when I was going to be picked up, but I didn’t know by who. When the time came to be picked up I wandered around the shuttles and saw one. I guess I looked lost because the driver immediately asked if I was going to Wanaka and if I was staying at the Minaret Lodge B&B. I was relieved that he named the right place! I handed him the money I owed and off I went.

I stared out the window and took in the beautiful scenery. I hadn’t seen anything like it before. Everything was so green and pristine. Truly beautiful.

The bus snaked up a windy road and when we reached the top, I was surprised to see snowflakes fall lightly on the window. It was nearly October. It was supposed to be transitioning from Spring into Summer. Brisbane was warm-to-hot nearly every day. I also hadn’t seen snow fall since I was about 10 or 11 years old. I nearly forgot what it looked like.

One-by-one, and sometimes more, people were being dropped off at their respective hotels until it was me and two other people left. The sun had gone down long ago leaving only the orange glow of the streetlights to cut through the darkness. The bus pulled up to a driveway covered in tiny pebbles and I was let out. I was greeted by a kind woman, who was also the owner, who showed me to my Hobbit-sized room.

After traveling all that way, I had nearly forgotten that I had booked a room that would make me feel like a hobbit.

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After getting settled the owner asked if I wanted to head into town to get some dinner, since she was heading there. I would have to walk back, but I didn’t mind so I took her up on it and she dropped me off right next to the restaurant she recommended to me: The Cow. Situated right next to the Post Office, The Cow Pizza & Spaghetti House, is truly one of the best pizzas I have ever eaten. It’s a warm and inviting place full of history and great pizza. I sat down, ordered one of the local seasonal beers and of course a pizza.

I don’t recall a time before this where I went out to dinner by myself. It was nice. I was able to take in everything around me. I felt the warmth of the wood fire, I heard the locals talk and I saw people young and old enjoying the ambiance, each other and the food. You can’t beat that.

At the end of my meal I noticed a few t-shirts hanging around and I asked the waitress which one looked better on me. She told me the tan one and it’s still a shirt that I own and wear to this day.

On my way back to my room I took the road parallel to Roys Bay and you know what I heard? Nothing. It was a silent, quiet night and I was able to enjoy the serenity of a nighttime lakeside walk on the aptly named Lakeside Rd as I made my way back to my Hobbit-sized room.

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The Biggest Leap of Faith

“What’s wrong John?” asked the man suiting me up.

“Huh? Nothing.” I replied.

“Why are you jumping off a perfectly good bridge?” He asked with a smile and a laugh.

Why am I jumping off a perfectly good bridge? It seems like a stupid thing to do a good way to earn a one way trip to the hospital. Only, it’s not. It’s the most exciting thing I have ever done and maybe the smartest. OK, smartest might be pushing it but it was one of the best decisions I made since I have been in South Africa.

I have a natural fear of heights, as most people should. I mean, you lean over something and look down and see the bottom is hundreds of feet below and your natural reaction is to get back from the ledge. It’s a normal human reaction. But why then would you want to jump off that sound structure?

For the thrill.

It’s that simple. Bungy jumping provides an adrenaline rush like nothing else I have ever done. I’ve bungied twice in my life (the first time being off Auckland Harbour Bridge in 2007) and each time I was afraid to jump but went ahead with it because I knew it would be the thrill of a lifetime. Having jumped off Bloukrans in Plettenberg Bay, the world’s tallest bridge bungy, I can say that I have lived.

One thing I will say is that the walk out to the jump platform is the worst part of the entire experience. The metal grate walkway bends with each step you take and you wonder “When was the last time this bridge was tested? I can feel it bending and that’s not normal.” It also doesn’t help if you look down and see the ground below. Bad idea.

If I have one piece of advice to give about this bungy it’s this: Don’t look down. It will ruin the surprise. Pick a spot out on the horizon that is at your level and don’t lose contact with it. This is exactly what I did. I stared straight out and when the bungy guys behind reached 1 and yelled “BUNGY!!!” I bent my knees and pushed off as hard as I could and I flew. I flew through the air and as my body plunged toward the ground below I couldn’t help but flail my arms a bit because the fear inside me took over but I didn’t regret doing it. Not. One. Bit. And as I dangled under the bridge, the mantra of Face Adrenalin popped into my head and reaffirmed my decision: “Fear is Temporary. Regret is Forever.

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Swimming With Sharks

Just off the coast of Mossel Bay, South Africa there is a great white shark population that calls the bay home. You might be able to tell by just looking at the surface but they are there.

Now, any sane person would tell you that you should not venture out into the water since the sharks live there, but I am not a very sane person. I told myself that I needed to do this in order to cross a few things off the old bucket list and to make sure I made the most out of my time in Africa.

I know what you are thinking right now and trust me I was thinking it too. Is it scary? It’s not scary. It’s just not. You jump into a cage secured off the side of an anchored boat and the seasoned shark divers bring out the chum and bring the sharks to you. You are completely safe, that is, if you keep your hands and arms inside the cage at all times. If you don’t then you shouldn’t even be near the boat or any boat for that matter.

Waiting for the sharks to come is the worst part. The shark guys chum the water to bring the sharks to you and it could be minutes or it could be hours before a shark shows up but once they do, it’s go time.

Once in the water, everything else fades away. Nothing else seems to matter. Not the bills, the sunburn on your neck, or the fact that you’re about to jump into the water with one of the most dangerous animals on the planet. All that matters is seeing the shark. When the spotter yells “DOWN!” and the direction from which the shark is coming that’s when things get exciting.

Pushing and holding your body underwater while you’re wearing a wet suit is not easy but it’s worth it when you see the shark charging the tuna head and, on some occasions, the shark thrashes at and rattles the cage as well as your bones. The thrill of being mere inches away from an apex predator made me laugh with excitement and I wanted to go under again and again to see the magnificent animal on its terms.

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