I start the day off wrong: as I'm taking my time with breakfast and
slowly making my way to the 134 m jump's pickup point, the bus is
leaving. I thought it was at 10 but my ticket clearly says 9:30. Go
With a $35 NZD rebooking charge, I get a spot at noon. I'm there early. I must be starting to crash from too much travel coupled with having to get up in the a.m., because I manage to conk out for most of the partially 4-wheel-drive ride to the site.
Getting out of the bungee bus, I see this is a whole different ballgame than the others. It's literally a custom-built gondola suspended over a canyon by wires running from the tops of mountains. I'm at least as nervous as I was for my first jump as we reach the suspended bungee platform. I'm almost too intimidated to duct tape my camera to my hand. I jump after the 3, 2, 1, scared witless but loving it for the long freefall and the deep, relieving bounces. It's creepy pulling a pin to unbind my ankles and turn myself rightside-up after the second bounce, but it's reassuring that the winch quickly pulls me up to the relatively firma terra of the jump platform. Even though I'm in a rock-climbing harness, I'm holding the rope so tightly that my knuckles are white. Watching the video, I can't see much: basically the ground rushing towards the screen, bouncing away and spinning around. However, the soundtrack is entertaining: I'm so nervously reassuring myself that "it's OK, everything's OK" that I sound like a very scared little girl.
I've really enjoyed the bungees but, like travel, it's more opened up possibilities than made me feel satiated. For starters, I've earned a discount to jump from the Auckland bridge; I'll have to do it if it seems at all different than the ones I've done. Sorbing is rolling down a mountain in a giant rubber ball and definitely high on my "to do" list. However, I'm more interested in the other possibilities I see. Why not something like a zorb ball but more padded, so much so that you can drop it out of a plane and let it hit the ground without slowing down? Wouldn't a long bungee cord high over water make for a doubly safe flight testing system for crazed backpack-based gliders deployable in mid-fall? AJ Hackett helped start modern bungee by jumping from the Eiffel Tower. Could I be the first ever to jump from the Statue of Liberty? What about Golden Gate Bridge? Would this get me into the Guinness Book of World Records? When I get arrested, would I be released as quickly as AJ was (a few minutes)? Are these very bad ideas to even be entertaining?
Back to reality, or at least a dream vacation. Despite the old woman at the tourist information desk's advice, I will be driving my over-priced and underpowered Toyota Corolla rental car to Franz Josef Glacier at least partially in the dark. Without radio reception most of the time, I chug liters of Diet Coke to stay awake. But the quiet of doing 120 km/hr down a road I've never seen through the sunset in a country I love gives me time to think (warning: ignorant ramblings rampant rest of paragraph). Whether it lasts a day or a dozen decades, life's far too short to waste time being anything but happy. Yeah, that's easier said than done. But, what's really stopping you, and how dare it? How dare you let it? I'm gonna live a long time, and if I'm not living dreams and defying death I'm wasting time.
Which are good thoughts as I drive this car on this road. "GRIT / ICE" signs (not sure what it means but it often slips), at least half a dozen bridges where traffic from only 1 direction at a time will fit (nerve-wracking even if there isn't much other traffic), and strange little animals that seem about to dart in front of my car ("What ARE you?" I exclaim to one. It just sits there with its brown, bushy tail and possum-sized body, but if it could talk I think it would make fun of me for not knowing. In a New Zealand accent, of course.) are the main highlights of the drive. I wrap it up by pushing the piece of shit car to the point of slides down the last mountain before my destination.
Franz Josef Village, population ~360 but a heaven for me. Blue Ice Cafe has good beer on tap, filling pizza, and a free pool table. My hungry, beer-guzzling ass is content; talkative other backpackers and a large Fijian woman who I can't really understand but who shoots well becoming my pool partner are icings on the cake.