Free Fall into New Zealand
Last issue it was White America, this issue he talks danger down under. Raymond Lee continues his quest around the globe. There’s nothing like the smell of fear.
Tears in Heaven (Part I)
"Look straight ahead. Imagine there's a big apple juicy apple out there you're trying to grab." That's easy for him to say, I thought. "GO ON RAY. DO IT FOR WALES!" roared the now expectant crowd. They've all done it already.
Looking down, there are in excess of 174 metres between my good self and the valley below. To put it in to perspective, the vertical distance between me and those rocks down there is the same height as Sydney Harbour Bridge. I was bricking it. Having already stood motionless on the ledge for an eternity, the only thoughts in my head were not: "Where's the apple?" or, "Do it for Wales!" or indeed, "Can I do it?". It was more like: "What the fuck am I doing here?".
My instructor was unmoved throughout by my prissy state. He had even refused my plea to shift his weight ever so slightly in my direction to force me over the edge. I had to fend for myself. Fend for the people back home.
This was my introduction to adventure sports in the adventure capital of the world. Kia Ora to Queenstown. Kia Ora to New Zealand. Should I die, I…well, my next of kin won’t even get a penny as I had already put pen to death waiver. My travel insurance won’t cover it either. Would that even matter? The jump pod could be my last resting place.
Yellow Submarine (Part I)
"Hard right now!" I barked. Our arms pumped in unison. They’re not going to beat The General Lee (the aptly-named water “Waka-Maori”, which is Kiwi for a vehicle of any sort I chose) was the only thing on my mind. The ice cool waves crashed into our protected bodies. Stroke after stroke, we moved in perfect motion. Fluid. The first time we had done so all day. The first time I had took the driver seat, controlling our rhythm, controlling our direction with the pedals welded to my feet.
Fly Away (Part I)
“Almost there”. My strap-on bereted above the harsh engine noise. He nodded to his wrist. The dial swept to 4. A moment later, 5. Then, 6, 7… This was absolutely the one single thing I had wanted to do from the very beginning of my exploration. Just once. Ever. The world beneath marginalised with every passing moment. I had only arrived less than 2 hours ago! Lake Taupo had gone from a vast lake to a mere puddle. Rolling into the sunset, the sky was easing into a beautiful reddish orange hue. Nothing specific was on my mind as we climbed upwards. Not even fear.
Tears in Heaven (Part II)
As they wrenched me back up the jump pod, I was in absolute hysteria. I had just thrown myself off the 2nd highest bungee jump in the world, The Nevis Highwire Bungee, purpose built for the pleasure of thrill seekers with a death wish. My now new-found fans were patting my back, giving me high 5s, saluting my endeavour.
For that night, I told tales of legendary proportions. The small leap for man, but the giant step for mankind. How I told of the way the world changed as I quantum leaped to earth at over 128kph. How those 8 precious seconds of freefall stretched to gut wrenching hours. My dinner companions that night sat in adoration of my bravery. They quizzed me on the physical exertion on the body and on how the ground looked at that speed. In fact, my eyes were shut all the way down. Open my eyes, are they mad? Travelling at that speed, you won’t be able to keep you eyes open even if you had matchsticks on their stalks!
My initiation to all things extreme had begun in this magnificent city in the south of New Zealand. What next? Speed. Danger. Adrenaline. All were on the menu. Be it sky, solid ground or water.
Yellow Submarine (Part II)
Our kayak flowed into the waves as I squeezed the pedals leftwards. Along the coast of Kaiteriteri, in the northern tip of the South Island, near port Nelson. This beach has often been voted as one of the top-10 water spots in the world. The water was an amazing bluish green. Fine silica sand. The kind of picture perfect images you see on the cover of travel brochures. Despite moving into the winter season, the sun was still out watching over us.
I called for my front man to ease up as The General Lee was now so far ahead of the competition; there was no point in steaming further ahead at full speed. We bobbed on the water and smiled at each other. We exchanged no words at all. A distance of about a 100 metres was a long way for the others to play catch-up in the conditions we were in. Loved it.
Fly Away (Part II)
“Ready?” The strap-on quizzed. “Bonsai.” We were out. He didn’t wait for my response. “Motherfuckerrrrrrrrrrrr.” The rush of air was immediate as we fell out backwards at 12,000 feet above Lake Taupo, North Island of New Zealand. The hurricane force-like winds flowed through our not very aerodynamically bounded bodies.
It was pure exhilaration. I yelled. Throughout. The world began to loom larger and larger again. The colour of the sky was nothing but brilliant. I flew, or rather dropped at a jaw breaking velocity of 200kph. The 45 seconds of freefall passed in an instant. As the parachute opened, I was in overdrive. Appreciative of the spectacular snow-capped volcanoes in the backdrop.
On approaching the runway, I remembered the one thing I had to do as part of the dive. Straighten my legs into a sitting position as we hit the gravel. Precarious position to land in I thought but it was the one thing I won’t forget. Or else, my balls would have been dragged at a very painful speed as we made contact with the gravel.
Perfect landing. Relieved. Everything still in place.
From the moment I arrived in New Zealand, my aim was…actually I didn’t have one. Despite my Lonely Planet being filled with every conceivable fact there was on this country, I didn’t read it. That was the luxury travelling afforded me. Freedom. Real freedom. The freedom to be anywhere, anytime. Do anything I so desired. Spontaneity. I was only going to spend 2 weeks in this country. I actually spent 4.
Four weeks of boundless beauty. Four weeks of pure action and jet fuelled moments. From the bungee jump to the skydive. From the glacier walk to the challenges of the Tongariro Crossing. The amazing beauty and variety of landscape of the world famous 17-kilometre terrain. At points, I was amongst the clouds, climbing ice-craters, walking on multicoloured rocks, strolling under forestation. Majestic.
New Zealand to me will always be a place of unspoilt bounty coupled with the sole occasion, on the ledge of the jump pod, where I had surprised myself.