You feel pretty brave, standing there on the edge, your toes dangling in the void, the river moving lazily 100 metres below.
Everything’s a bit surreal, the sights and sounds all slightly heightened – the emerald river, the great, stony chasm of the gorge splitting the red-brown tussock, the mountains standing aloof against an equally pitiless sky, your mates making chicken noises and yelling ‘Jump! Jump!’
You know in theory what you’re supposed to do. You go on the count of three, right? And if you don’t, they’ll give you a gentle push.
Fine in theory. But in reality, the moment you topple beyond the point of no return, a little voice begins shrieking in your head: ‘You bloody idiot! I spent all this time keeping you alive and look what do you go and do! Throw it all away!’
That’s your survival instinct, overruled and despairing as you gain a wholly new and intimate appreciation of gravity. You gather speed, and all sensations become a blur as you prepare to watch the playback of your life that all the press about your final moments has led you to expect.
Then, just as it finally hits you that all is lost, you’re heading in the opposite direction, jerked on the end of your giant rubber band back into the air. You will live! And you will live with something new inside you, an unforgettable glimpse into the infinite.
That’s bungy jumping for you. It all began right here, in Queenstown, the bungy and – let’s face it – adventure capital of the universe. A J Hackett was the first to risk it all leaping from a bridge, trusting only to his faith in the theoretical elastic qualities of the giant bungy cord he had devised. Now anyone can do it, but why they would want to do it anywhere other than in Queenstown, where the only thing that can match the thrill is the scenery, is anyone’s guess.
Jet-boating began in a commercial sense here too, and you can do that too if you’re so compelled. You can go rafting on any one of a number of rapids, ranging from the restful to the ravening. You can take the jumping-to-certain-death thing to another level by trying tandem skydiving, or tandem hang-gliding or parapenting, or you can try the world’s largest swing, 109 metres over the Shotover River.
The sky’s the limit, and you get the impression it won’t be long before the nutters down here push that, too – all for your adrenaline-charged pleasure.