Mrs. Luhaney-Thomas, my kindergarten teacher, would be proud. I'd
done fine in kindergarten, doing whatever it is kindergartners are
supposed to do, except for one thing: skipping. My report card
actually had an unsatisfactory grade for gym class because I couldn't
skip. Today, I make up for it. Climbing to Ben Lomond saddle,
skipping along a snowy path at ~1,200 meters above sea level is
actually a fairly efficient way to make my way down the mountain. I
decided it would be smart to do what's listed as a 6-8 hour hike in
the <3 hours I've got before my appointment with a bungee cord, so I
power walk / jog up and skip / slide / scramble my way down. It's an
amazing view of the town lake and surrounding mountains, and I pull it
off in ~2.5 hours. Call me Buddhist, but a mantra helps: I say and
think "you can rest when you're dead."
Which brings me to bungee. To do just the highest (134 m) jump would set me back $199 NZD, and I can do 3 different jumps, the other 2 at 47 m and 43 m, for $299 NZD. I think of it as 2 more bungee jumps at $40 USD each, so it puts a large dent in my wallet but becomes a no-brainer.
Who thought extreme sports drew large crowds? I can't get a spot on Nevis, the highest, until tomorrow. Entirely unintentionally, I end up working my way up. Early afternoon is Kawarau Bridge, 43 m and the world's first commercial bungee site. The weirdest part is the efficiency of the whole thing: I'm weighed, signing an "if you die" form, in a rock climbing harness (backup safety measure), bound with a towel and rope around my feet, attached to a thick bundle of thin rubber threads, diving off the bridge, skimming the water with my hands, grabbing the PVC pipe hoisted by the recovery raft, and trying to be sold a DVD of the whole shebang before I know it. The entire experience has to be faster that the ~20-minute bus ride to the site.
The actual jump wasn't too scary. It definitely helped that I've been skydiving and have jumped off rocks into water for years. With a river of indeterminate depth below the bridge, it's scary but not shit-your-pants scary. If I had to, it wasn't head-first, and the water was deep enough, I feel like I could jump bungee-less and survive. Freefall is supposedly something like a second and a half, but it feels a hell of a lot longer as I'm waiting to feel the bounce.
Jump number 2 is at the top of a mountain by Queenstown. The bungee attaches to my side, so I'm allowed to be more creative than the previous jump's swan dive. It's dark but well-lit enough that I can see some pretty uncomfortable-looking rocks far below. Scared but still overconfident, I duct tape my camera to my hand, start recording, and flip off the platform. Being slowly winced back up seconds later, I'm flooded with adrenaline and anxious to return to solid ground. I don't but the overpriced DVD, so you'll have to trust the spinning of Queenstown's lights or the my rather low-quality attempt to discreetly videotape the TV monitor as they show me the footage of myself.
I've had my share of expensive excitement, so I do little more than try a few new beers with the rest of the night.