A morning having our heads turned upside down in Wanaka's Puzzle World, before having our entire world turned upside down by the third highest bungee-jump on the planet. Today was all about THE NEVIS…

Friday 04/04/08

(Writing on the 5th)

In the previous entry, I had forgotten to mention that the bungee-jump sheet had been passed around the bus, and I had signed up for “The Nevis.” The 3rd highest bungee in the world, 134 feet, 8 seconds of free-fall at 80 mph. Good stuff.

But before all of that, we awoke with hangovers (yet again) and drove 20 minutes up the road to Wanaka’s Puzzle World. We had driven past this the previous day, and I had read a little bit of intriguing information in my Lonely Planet book. I was a little worse for wear though, more through lack of sleep than anything else. We went into Puzzle World after having pictures taken with the ‘leaning tower of Wanaka’ and we signed up for the optional bacon butty.

Puzzle World was intriguing, but done rather quickly, discounting the maze. The Maze would normally have been the kind of place I’d love, but I had about a minute of youthful abandonment, before I realised just how big and complicated it was, and then spent the next five minutes cheating my way back out.

Inside, there were some holographs, bizarrely including Bananorama pointing a Magnum at us. They had a tilted room, which was very weird. They had a sliding chair on a staircase which ‘fell upwards’ but Laurence pushed Niall on it too hard and took it off its hinges. Luckily no [permanent] damage was done.

There was a spooky room full of those concave faces that look as if they ‘pop’ outwards. But what they did here was have a 3x3 grid of each face, all at a slightly different angle so that as you walked round, all the faces would ‘follow’ you around the room, without moving. A bit freaky to say the least.

(Note: Writing this in a pizza restaurant in Te Anau, and I have just seen one teenager go by on a Unicycle, followed by a younger kid doing the same, in a Cowboy hat. I had to write that down.)

They also had one of those rooms that distort perspective. When viewed from the outside or by a camera, the people inside the room appear to be stood side by side, but one will appear taller than the other through optical illusion. They had a camera setup on a 2 minute delay so that I could watch myself shrink and grow longer as I walked from left to right.

That was more or less all of the attractions in Puzzle World, so I headed for my bacon butty; which was on bread, not toast, was cold, and had almonds and nuts in the bread itself. If I was going to manage any food, it would have to be done to my usual fussy standards, so that butty was left mostly untouched as I whittled away the time trying to complete a Rubik’s tesseract or something similar and failing miserably.

Back on the bus and more disturbed sleep later, we pulled up to a bridge which was home to AJ Hackett (bungee pioneer) and the world’s first commercial bungee site. This is where our bungee education began.

We were shuttled into a small auditorium to watch “The Secrets of Bungee” documentary, detailing how AJ Hackett and his mate were inspired by a tribe who performed a bungee of sorts, as part of a fertility ritual, using jungle vines. Seeing tribesmen throw themselves at the floor and bouncing (or slamming) into the ground at speed was not a good start. We were then shown how the bungee ropes were made, by layering natural rubber over and over. Laurence later said that he overheard the staff saying that AJ Hackett make all of the world’s bungee ropes - talk about owning the market! We got to touch some actual bungee-cord, and some folks sat in a fake harness to get the feel of hanging off a rope whilst safely indoors, only a few feet off of the ground.

We then went through to the bridge-bungee area, to pay for our own later bungee jumps, which did not happen here, but rather at the other ‘Nevis’ bungee-site). We also gathered to watch two girls who had recently joined our coach do the bridge-bungee as a tandem-jump. I signed up for the DVD and photo-package for my own bungee straight away, I knew I would want a record!

We also found that Tom preferred to do the bridge-bungee as opposed to the Nevis one. He needed a lot of persuasion and reassurance from Koru and Laurence (who assigned himself as Tom’s personal psychologist) to get up to the platform, and he was having a long wait for his turn, which probably made it worse for him.

The two girls were just gearing up for their tandem jump, but one of the girls started freaking out on the edge. This was the first bungee I had ever seen, and so watching the smaller girl totally freak out was a bit of an eye opener. After five minutes or so, the pair of them eventually jumped, but didn’t go in the water.

So, then we were all up waiting for Tom. In the meantime, either hangover or nerves (maybe both) caused Stephen to change his mind and pull out, as did two of the trio of Irish girls. Normally, I suppose you’d give him a lot of stick, but Niall and Laurence were both freaking out themselves. I was worried then, because I WASN’T scared. It was the same as the skydive, I was going through the motions. Even when I was in the plane, I never really had the chance to experience that ‘moment’ of revelation, because so long as you keep your mouth shut, you are more or less thrown out of the plane (by the jump instructor). At that point, I honestly imagined I would be fine on my bungee, because I was so de-tuned to it all.

Anyhow, we watched Tom through a TV set in one of the waiting areas, stepping up for his jump, and complaining about the music. “This tune won’t get me in the mood! I need something a bit more banging!” He took his time getting to the plate, but once he got there, he was straight off, no messing about. It was worth the $20 to see it happen, and to also see the look on his face afterwards. Bafflement, excitement and disbelief all in one.

I was starting to feel the burn, and slept on the bus for the half hour drive into Queenstown. It was raining, but the place looked exciting. Big-city familiarities and conveniences, with the looks of Wanaka, none of the chaos of Wellington, or run-down appearance of Auckland.

Typically, a quick KFC lunch saw me and the guys waiting at 3pm for our bungee-bus to arrive. Apparently, AJ Hackett were putting on an extra shift just to get us in, as there were so many of us. It was about an hour’s drive to the bungee, I think, as I fell asleep again. There was a very solemn and silent mood on the bungee-bus, none of the usual loud hijinks from Laurence. In fact, he seemed the most scared of all of us once we got up there. I woke up just in time to experience the bus go up the steepest and dodgiest road I had ever seen – that road was the thing that finally got my nerves going!


I am currently sat in a pub in Te Anau, having an evening drink, a slow pint of ale. Monteith’s, which is very Guinness like. I am finding the prospect of writing about the bungee a bit of a burden. I think that’s the word? No, it isn’t, I am just tired and want to write lots about it and with gusto, but I think I have diary overload. Strange I know, and I don’t have much else to do in this pub, but seeing as I have a whole day tomorrow, I think I shall write it up then. Which means I am two days behind yet again, and I still have to fit Milford Sound in from today, but nevertheless, it seems I will have time to kill tomorrow.

I’m also worried that my decision to do two days “everywhere” and possibly losing the chance to bond with anyone on the way up North will drive me mad. It has been good to get away on my own today, and maybe I just need ONE good sleep, but this being on your own lark is strange, and I am already slipping back into the odd mind-set I was in at the start of this trip. I am really learning a lot about the state of mind a person being alone. How no contact or familiarity affects you, or rather how it affects you when there is nothing to do or no direction to head in.

I think I should pick definite things to do in each location from now on. Tomorrow (in Queenstown), I think I will hire a bike and go for a long ride. That way, when I am on my own and writing again, it won’t be about how odd it feels to be on my own, but rather because I have done something on my own, that I wanted to do, and am capable of doing.

I had a wee moment in Milford of crystal clarity, knowing that the only thing holding me back, is me. Carpe Diem it seems. Anyhow, diary break. Will continue writing about yesterday, tomorrow.

I miss Hazel.

(Writing Sunday 6th)

Ok. Continuing on with where I was up to. Quick note just to say its Sunday in Te Anau and the bike shop is closed. So, booked a LOTR tour for Queenstown tomorrow, and watching a film later at the cinema to kill some time.


So we get to the Nevis bungee operation. A large ‘hut’ full of monitors, video editing equipment, and a BBQ. We get out of the bus and into our harnesses. The ginger guy, Ashley, who had jumped into a glacier pool naked back in Franz Josef, had decided to also go nude with his bungee rope. We get strapped up and re-weighed, then proceeded through the shed to the viewing platform.

That’s when we realised how high we were going to be. We could see people jumping already, but to me, the reality was still divorced from the fact that it would happening to me very soon. The fact that the jumps happen out of a huge “pod” connected by a flimsy looking cable car, was itself quite scary, as well as an engineering marvel. So why after 10 years they can’t improve the road up there, I don’t know! We were told that the bungee ‘pod’ had deservedly won all kinds of engineering awards.

We were then shipped across to the pod, just as someone jumped. Because we were virtually over the jump site, it made the fall look insane. Worse still, the angle made an almost optical-illusion that the bungee-rope was too long, so the jumpers appeared to just keep, on, going… Of course, they never did hit the bottom, but then all the jumpers from that point on, to me anyways, looked as if they were mere inches away from death.

We got inside just in time to see one guy off of our coach get pulled back up after his jump, with the biggest adrenaline-rush grin on his face I have ever seen. Mark was up next, but being the avid skydiver, he appeared to jump before the countdown was even done with, and he proper let it a shout too - that man was loving it! When he got back up, his hands were shaking, and by then Laurence was looking very nervous and ill indeed - which of course made me feel fine. I’m always ok so long as someone else is more nervous than I am!

I was strapped up then, and lead into the chair. The guy chatted to me for a second, but as the bungee cord was being put on, that is when a day’s worth of fear slowly began to creep in. I had a quick look over my shoulder, DOWN, but it still didn’t seem real. I had been looking OVER the cable car and glass floor for ages. But now?...

I stood up, and he said that in a second he would release the rope and that I would feel a pull from the weight of the rope itself. He wasn’t kidding. THAT was when it hit me. I can’t imagine what it would be like standing on an edge like that without a weight, but I imagine it would have been slightly better. With the rope’s weight added to the scenario, you have a total mix-up and pile-up of directions and instructions coming from your brain. Consciously, you want to make the decision to jump, to walk to the edge, to do the bungee. But looking down from the edge and making the decision to jump is made worse by the rope itself pulling you out the pod, against your will, and making you instinctively want to pull back.

At this point, the fella told me not to look down, and I knew that was a good idea, as at that point I was petrified, and Niall got a picture of me showing as much.

The guy said, “Look ahead” so I did.
Nice mountains. Nice, high, mountains.
“Tiptoe forward.”
I did.
“Tiptoe a bit more, to the edge.”
I thought I had.
“A little bit more.”
Awfully sorry, obviously I hadn’t gotten to the edge.
“A little more.”
You mean this isn’t it?
“A bit more.”
“A little bit more… There.”

I mentally uttered a long “Oh Shiiiiiiiiiit…” I didn’t want to jump, it was all I could do standing up there on tiptoes to not be pulled out by the rope. I still hadn’t looked down since I had gotten out of the chair. Whether I could feel it, or if it was just imagination, I imagined the handler’s hand on my harness, holding me secure. Any thought of a witty “smoke me a kipper” or a Spider-man dive were gone and forgotten. I wasn’t going to jump, it felt INSANE.

But I had our driver’s voice in my head saying he had a 100% jump rate from his coaches. And I couldn’t let myself be more scared than Laurence, who was current number one in the fear stakes. Those two things helped, a little. It wasn’t so much a decision to jump, more of a grabbing hold of a lifeline, a way out, a crazy successful way out, offered by those tried and tested words… “3, 2, 1, Bungee.”

I leapt.

The first few seconds are utter disbelief. Acceleration and your brain and body trying to work out what on Earth is going on. The last four seconds, you Fly. Or Drop, to be more accurate, but you really enjoy those last four seconds.

I didn’t go as close to the floor as I feared, but it was only a good 15 metres or so away. Bouncing up and down was great, so much so that I forgot to pull the chord to flip myself upright again until my 3rd bounce. I should have held onto staying upside-down a bit longer, as the headfirst bit is what makes you feel like a flying lunatic. At one point, I honestly don’t know if it was the 1st or 2nd bounce, but I had to scream something to let the adrenaline out. The only thing that honestly came to mind was a long “Fuckiiiiin Helllllll!” It felt better having said it. Not profound, but a bungee isn’t about saying profound things. A Bungee is about getting it done.

Back in the bar, Mark was telling us all that the Bungee was a life changing experience for us all. It sounded weird and cheesy at the time to hear him say it, but Ozzy was on a buzz too, saying the same thing. Two days later, I do sort of see their point.

Nothing changes as a result of the Bungee except the gap between decision and indecision. Something I had had a problem with, which subsequently has narrowed dramatically. There is a pre- and a post- bungee self. I am now The Guy who Jumped. I did follow the countdown like a moth to a flame, but on “one”, it was me who bungeed.

I am quite chuffed that on the DVD it looks as if I hold my dive after all, I kept my position as I fell, in the dive shape I chose and wanted as I plummeted to Terra Firma. I want to do it again!

By heading back to Queenstown to upload the bungee video to the interent, and to get ready for the group picture, meant that I missed a decent tea. I wanted a curry or at least a Fergburger that everyone raves about, but I had to settle with a bowl of wedges, nuggets and onion rings. Healthy diet eh?

I had to take it very easy that night, as I was up for my Milford Sound trip at 7:30 am. Still, managed to stay out long enough to get to the World Bar (read about it in our guide book, but a bit pants I thought) for a share of the 100 free drinks we’d been offered. Not wanting to get hammered, but still wanting something more than beer, I settled on Gin & Tonic. Three of them. Still, chatted to a few different folks off of the bus, gave our film details to Amy from Warrington (local support and all that, but she was hammered!) said farewell to Mark and Stephen, and potential farewells to Koru, who is still crazy (in a good way) but he bought a drink for me and the others. Then the idea was to be in bed at 12:30pm. I think it was probably much later.

Oh, totally forgot! Before World Bar, the others were doing the usual drinking in the room thing, but this time I thought I would join them. Knocking on the Manchester lad’s room yielded no results, so I went upstairs to find half the hostel in a singalong. Grabbing some Goon, I joined in. Eventually Niall was egged on to get his guitar and add that to the mix. I was of course itching to have a go, and one of the three guitars on show was just standing there. The guy who had been playing signalled Niall over to play a tune, which had turned out to be “Don’t Look Back In Anger.” I had the guitar in my hand and was playing along within three seconds. It went on from there, Niall doing a few Beatles tunes, then I lead the crowd (with Laurence’s help) into the only non-Oasis singalong I know - “Hit Me Baby One More Time.” Which I suppose now I am writing should be the soundtrack of the day. Although now I want “Bring It On Down” by Oasis. Sod it, I’ll have both.

SOUNDTRACKS: “Bring It Down” by Oasis and “Hit Me Baby One More Time” Britney Spears (Covered by Travis)


That was probably the longest diary entry of the whole trip, and so I am not going to add much here. Some of the grammar and sentence flow above is a bit confusing, but I haven’t tidied it up too much, as I want to preserve the ‘diary voice’ I had at the time.

Puzzle World, a Bungee Jump, and a Gin & Tonic fuelled night out, all in the same 24 hours. Exhilarating and exhausting. The madness of this day was soon to be balanced though, with a tedious 24 hours in Te Anau on the horizon… If not clear from the above, I had booked an excursion trip to Milford Sound (consistently rated one of the most beautiful places on the planet) with a stay overnight in Te Anau. This meant leaving ‘the gang’ for a few days, where their own Queenstown adventures lasted a bit longer.

I have written a fair bit about the skydive earlier, and I don’t really go into too much about the post-bungee vibe above in this entry. Looking back almost ten years later, I can honestly say that Mark was 100% right – that bungee changed my life. Whenever I get stuck, or have doubts, or have that little voice of fear whispering in my ear, I only have to think back and remember that on that occasion I “3-2-1” bungeed myself into thin air, and flew for eight exhilarating, death-defying seconds. It really is as simple as knowing that if I can do THAT, then any challenge which requires self-assurance is a straightforward win, as that Bungee jump gave me a permanent power-up in the confidence department.

In the ten years since, I’ve been looking out the corner of my eye for another bungee opportunity, but must admit to not having actively chased one. I’m itching to do another (and should have done more whilst still in New Zealand) as I know I could do it again. I’m curious to see how long a second adrenaline boost would last, and if I could indeed “level-up” even further.

Bungee Power. Cannot recommend it enough.