If New Zealand is known as the “Adventure Capital of the World”, Queenstown would be the heart of that Capital (or the Capital’s capital, if you will). This is mainly due to the extensive number of potential heart-attack inducing activities you can experience in Queenstown. Much like a real heart-attack, you get to pay others for the experience! Seems a little unfair.
Imagine a cool, crisp Queenstown morning. What to do, what to do in this town that offers experiences such as relaxing hot pools, peaceful lake cruises and winery tours? How about jumping off a canyon? Yes, good plan [insert eye roll here].
I would like to introduce my long-term friend and traveller-in-crime, Kaz, who plays a pivotal role in this story as it may have been her idea to jump off the canyon. Or maybe it was mine, but either way it was definitely a mutual decision. For people looking to jump off something, I recommend contacting the Shotover Canyon Swing team. Located in the aptly named “Shotover Street”, their office TV did nothing to reinforce the quality of our idea. Watching previous participants teeter on the edge of a canyon made our stomachs sink and our bladders hyperactive. But the team convinced us that we were doing a good thing, equivalent to achieving world peace, by taking part. Like fools, we believed them and so completed the necessary paperwork and weigh-in (in retrospect this was possibly the worst part of the experience), and drove a bumpy 15 minutes out to Shotover Canyon… or Hell, if you prefer.
Hell is pretty nice actually, but there is only one toilet and it must be used before walking down to the jump site office. Not great for those hyperactive bladders but I guess there is a cap to how many times a person can use a toilet in a 30 minute period. The safety brief that followed was (somewhat) reassuring and the purpose-built jump platform was very secure, except for the opening at one end. I must applaud the “Jump Masters” who were talkative and cool as cucumbers as they fitted us into our harness system and discussed the possible styles of “platform departure”. Perhaps roll off backwards in plastic chair? Hang off the platform and agonisingly wait while they slowly cut away the holding rope? There is even a slide these days. All jump styles have an undies rating – the more undies the higher the possibility you will need a clean pair at the end. Kaz and I picked the classic forwards jump (rated 3 out of 5 undies).
Most pleasing to the undies I was already wearing, the Jump Masters thoroughly checked and rechecked the harness and the attachment to the many wires suspended in the air. But their dedication to safety did not minimize their commitment to mind games. Kaz unwisely told the Jump Masters she was going to jump just to stop their talking; she paid dearly for that bit of cheek.
Once on the edge of the jump platform, things got a little blurry. It was a LONG way down, 109 metres to be exact, with a 60 metre freefall. It didn’t help that Kaz sent me first “just to make sure everything is safe.” Did I mention we are best friends? That one step off the platform when my whole body was resisting was tough but the thought of bragging that I had done the Canyon Swing outweighed my fear and WHOOSH!!!! Off I went! But in all honesty, the jump was AMAZING. Once I got over the freefall, the swing arcs over the Shotover River for 200 metres before being winched back up to the platform. The view while swinging is spectacular and offer a perspective of the Canyon that just can’t be found anywhere else. The intense river colours, cliff formations and purity of the air is unrivalled.
Upon being returned to the jump platform, I was offered a discounted second jump. But my heart was happy with just the one and I was ready to sit back and enjoy the fear on the faces of the following jumpers (Kaz included). It may be comforting to know that new undies can be purchased from the jump site office, but if it was me the shame would make me endure the soiled undies until I got back to the hotel. Not that I did, that’s just what I would do if that circumstance arose. Honestly.
Now, how would you like to “depart the jump platform”?
• Shotover Canyon Swing office: 34 Shotover Street, Queenstown, firstname.lastname@example.org
• Jump site: cliff-face on Shotover River
• 109-metre high platform
• 60-metre free fall
• 200-metre swing
• 10 jump styles
• Clean undies on application at the office