Fellowship of the Swing
10.12.2010 20 °C
We left the Franz Josef area on December 4 and continued south with our next destination being the town of Wanaka. What we were absolutely amazed with was the scenery on this 4 hour drive. Going through Haast Pass and into Mount Aspiring National Park provided use with stunning views of rugged mountains, strickingly blue lakes, waterfalls, and yes, there is still a bit of snow on some of the peeks. Two of the lakes that we passed on our drive were Lake Wanaka and Lake Hawea. Those of you back in Ontario, if you think you have lakes you should “Google-Earth” these two lakes in South Island NZ. These are glacier carved lakes that are over 1000ft deep and very long. Lake Wanaka is 46km long. They are a sight to behold on their own, but they also have mountains surrounding them. It was simply beautiful. During our drive we stopped for a picnic lunch in Mount Aspiring National Park at a Department of Conservation(DOC) campsite. If we had room to pack stoves and cookware, we would love to camp at places like these, but you can’t have everything.
This Could be Mt Cook ????; Mountain View; We See Some Snow; Nice Scenery. Road Follows the Lake; Part of Lake Hawea, North of Wanaka
Wanaka (wana – ka) is a tourist town with the main street running along the edge of the lake. When we arrived it was around 30-32 degrees Celsius and sunny. The mountains around the town we all visible, a welcome change from the cloud cover of Franz-Josef. The campground we stayed at was nestled into the side of a mountain providing us with a great view of the lake, surrounding mountains and town. The other big bonus about this campground was that it had a swimming pool which Ayden and Claire enjoyed immensely due to the daytime heat. We spent three days in Wanaka browsing in the shops, eating lunch at the beach getting haircuts (no, the standard of haircuts is not improving!!) and relaxing in the beautiful summer time weather. We also went to Puzzling World, where the kids outperformed the "parents" at the lifesize maze. We were dis"illusion"ed inside in different rooms. It was fun and cheap, so a very good day for us in Wanaka.
Ayden and Claire Using the Roman Toilets; Wow the Kids are Growing.; Wanaka Campground View; Another Wanaka Campground View; Picnic at Lake Wanaka (Cool Day 20 degrees); Lookout Enroute to Wanaka
The drive to Queenstown was only just over an hour long. Of course we were surrounded by mountains the entire way and were greeted with another pretty town/city; Queenstown. We are camping at Shotover Top 10 caravan park which is 5km out of town and contains what we believe is our ‘best’ camp kitchen of this trip so far. We booked in to this camp spot for 5 nights.
Paul’s ankle is still sore but mending and no the eye is OK. That being said, we asked the camp owner if he could recommend hikes for someone recovering from a sprained ankle. He recommended the Sawpit Gully walk in Arrowtown. “It’s and easy walk, it’ll take 2 hours, but it’s easy”, he says with conviction. So we headed to Arrowtown (one of NZ’s prettiest small towns) and start the walk which is a dirt road . . . to start. It quickly turns into a 3 foot wide path that goes up and up and up and, did I say up. After an hour of ascending, with not too much pain, Gwen and Paul decided to summit one of the nearby peaks, a mere 30 minute side trip. After the summit was attained we head back down the mountain on the final part of the walk. This part became a narrow footpath not wide enough to stand with your feet beside each other. This caused some concern as it was hard to place a sore foot down easily. After being forced to cross a small stream 6 or so times and spending an hour and a half on the decent, the parking lot came into view. Surprisingly later that night Paul’s ankle seemed to be doing fine. Glad that this hike did not further aggravate Paul’s ankle, we should say that it is a beautiful hike and one we would recommend to anyone who is not recovering from a sprained ankle!! There is something to be said about being in the mountains and stopping and just listening and hearing only the sound of bees, the wind, and the odd cricket. It is incredibly peaceful. The views are also amazing. Every direction that you look you can see mountains or valleys with lakes and small communities.
Drive To Shotover Pano Mt Benton; That's No Snake, That's the Highway; Drive To Shotover Panorama; Gorge Near Walking distance to Campground; Camp Kitchen; Lupins at Sawpit Gully; Summit of a Peak Near Arrowtown; Can you see Ayden and Claire down there?;
View From Sawpit Gully Walk
You might not know this, but Queenstown is considered the adventure capital of New Zealand. They have a wide assortment of activities one might call a little crazy. You can bunji-jump of course as New Zealand is where that sporting activity was invented, you can speed up and down gorges in a jet-boat and you can jump off a cliff attached to a wire that will swing you across the gorge. Of course, we could not be in New Zealand and not try something the kiwis think of as fun, so instead of hiking we decided to get driven up a mountain and out to a cliff so we could swing on a rope over a gorge. You can see some photos here, but if you want to see the actual video follow these links to the youtube proof of the Allores doing a kiwi thing.
Click to see Claire and Gwen Cutting Loose
Click to see Ayden and Paul Jumping
Shotover Canyon Swing (Claire’s Perspective)
It is very scary, but fun. You feel like you are falling to your death, but all of a sudden you stop falling and scoop up into a swing. In the end when they bring you back up to the platform you are totally pumped with adrenaline, but very scared. I felt safer doing a tandem jump with mum than by myself. Without her there I wouldn’t have jumped. It makes you feel much safer jumping with someone you know.
Shotover Canyon Swing (Ayden’s Perspective)
It is the day after I jumped into a canyon with only a rope holding me up. Here is how it happened. It all started when we booked in to the 5:30pm tour with Shotover Canyon Swing in Queens town. After arriving at the pick up spot around 4:50pm we all filled out some paper work then got in a bus with 3 other peoples. After leaving the main road, the bus driver drove on a really small dirt road taking us to the canyon where we were to ‘jump’. When we got to the parking lot we were given a small talk about what to do follow by a small walk to the main building. In the building we were given a safety briefing and then we all got our harnesses on and got ready to jump or fall. Unfortunately I went last with my dad. We decided to step off the platform. When our turn arrived we where clipped onto a safety wire on the jumping platform. We walked to the jumping off spot and then at the count of four we stepped off the platform. The falling is hard to describe until you have done it but here is my go at it. For the fist 3 seconds it is like you are weightless then when you start to swing back and forth over the gorge it felt like I was flying. We went back and forth in an arc for 7 -10 second then the workers pull you up to the platform. When I was back on the platform I felt relief, glad that I had done this and also proud of myself. After that we were driven back to the pick up spot in Queenstown and we then drove back to the camp ground. We got back around 7:45pm. So tomorrow I go on the Routeburn track. More on that later.
Shotover Canyon Swing (Gwen’s Perspective)
The decision to actually ‘do’ the canyon swing was one that our family debated about considerably. In the end we felt we should just go for it. Admittedly in the 3 hours between when we booked the jump and when we actually did the jump there were many times that I thought we were all slightly bonkers but still, I was very excited about this adventure.
I was VERY impressed with the Canyon Swing Company. They were very well organized and very skilled and professional. They were experts at keeping our minds off the idea that in a short period of time we would be jumping off a cliff! In the van ride to the canyon we were able to watch videos, at the canyon the employees were great fun...very chatty, kept us busy, joking around etc. Claire and I were doing a tandem jump which means that our harnesses were linked together and we did the jump together. It was great to be sharing this experience with someone else. I was somewhat nervous when we were waiting for our turn. Thank goodness they had music playing on the platform so that we could not hear the previous jumpers scream as they went down. Once it was our turn, the works move very quickly and expertly. They kept us talking, and distracted from what it was that we were about to do. They were clipping this, unclipping that...it was mind boggling to try to keep up with their movements to make sure that we were indeed connected to the cable that was running across the gorge. When they swung us out over the gorge I was actually very calm until they said “ we will cut you loose when you answer the first question wrong...what is the name of the river running below you” Our minds were blank. BOOM....down we went. How do you describe that feeling? One, two, three, for that long it feels like you can’t breath, you are weightless, like you are about to die, and then, ever so smoothly, you start to swing. That felt awesome. I had thought that I would get the same feeling in my stomach as when I go up or down on an elevator or when I am swinging on a playground swing. Not so. It did not feel anything like that. In fact I did not feel sick or nauseous at all (none of us did). The swing part was actually very enjoyable. Maybe that is because I had made it through the terrifying part of freefalling down the edge of a canyon at the speed of 150km/hr!!!
Shotover Canyon Swing (Paul’s Perspective)
Ok. I think I was the most scared person in the family. Due to lack of balance, standing at the edge of the platform looking 109m down into rocks and a fast moving river got me a little unnerved. I knew that thousands of people have done this without incident so I reasoned that death was not knocking at the door. We had to decide what way we wanted to jump before we were lead to the edge, so Ayden and I chose the forward jump. We actually just stepped off instead of jumping, but the result was the same. I heard that going backwards was the most scariest way to go, and I had to know what was coming at me at 150km/h.
The workers all acted like they wanted you to have a good experience. It was a nice feeling to know the people in charge were excited by what they were doing. It gave you confidence, but still it was “scary as ... “.
Here are my thoughts as I went through the jump – When I was harnessed up it was apparent that they knew exactly what they were doing. The harness felt substantial and I was glad for that. Ayden and I were linked together with one carabiner. It was a big strong looking one though. We were both connected to a line as we walked out to the ledge. I was getting a little terrified as I sometimes stumble on even ground due to my balance problems and did not want to fall before they had me properly secured to the wire. Gwen informs me that at no time was I unconnected to a safety device. I thought I was standing there unconnected for a couple of seconds, but Gwen repeatedly assured me (afterward) that I was not. We were given a countdown Guava, Dragonfruit, Mango, Kiwi. The workers were a bunch of jokers so they wanted to count with fruit. I was worried that if I did not go as soon as I heard kiwi, then I wouldn’t go. So as soon as I heard kiwi I stepped off taking Ayden with me. The feeling was surprisingly fantastic and not the sensation of falling. I looked down at the river and rocks and it was as if a there was a flip chart of a hundred images showing the rocks and river getting closer. At the bottom of the 60m drop we started to swing, but the transition was so gentle, that I could not exactly determine when the fall ended and the swing started. I let out a loud yell as I fell and a word or two that I probably shouldn’t have said. When you watch the video, turn down the volume of your speakers if you have sensitive ears. At the end of it all my heart was still pumping and legs a little wobbly long after I was back on ground walking back to the bus.
It was a great experience. I’m glad I did it, but I won’t be doing that again.