SYDNEY – Last week my entire article was about how beautiful New Zealand was, and how I wasted a golden opportunity in the country. However, New Zealand as a whole was not a wasted vacation. It was anything but. This is the story of how fantastic–albeit terrifying–New Zealand, “The Adventure Capital of the World,” was.
On the list of ways that I’d like to die, being crushed by rocks has got to be near the bottom, somewhere around drowning or falling to my death. The reason that I mention being crushed to death is because of the amazing, albeit terrifying, hike up an unstable, constantly moving glacier that I took on my second day in New Zealand.
Before we even got to the Fox Glacier, we needed to attend a safety briefing. The staff warned us that there had been rain earlier in the week, so there was a strong possibility of rock fall, or when part of the dirt on the mountain gives way, letting loose tons of earth. It’s like an avalanche, minus the snow. Our tour guide even pointed out a rock that had fallen earlier that was about as big as a house! However, after overcoming the fear of rockfall, the glacier was absolutely magnificent
From the parking lot we were surrounded by ponds that were created by the glacial runoff, the temperature about 1 degree Celsius, or about 34 or 35 degrees Fahrenheit. As we made our way towards the glacier, we could see the rainforest surrounding us. It was a little surreal hiking from a rainforest into a canyon that used to be full of ice years ago, but it was none the less beautiful. Because of the high rockfall risk we couldn’t get too close to the glacier, but that did not take away from its beauty. From where we were stationed we could see an ice cave, recently created by the glacier receding and collapsing inwards. At the top of the mountain we could see helicopter tours landing, transplanting people thousands of feet up in the air to view the mountains. There was nothing about Fox Glacier not to love, except the hike up. As it turns out, hiking up the glacier is an excellent substitute for leg day!
After departing the glacier, we went to Queenstown, one of the most beautiful towns in the world. Surrounded by mountains on all sides, Queenstown is an elegant, well hidden place at the corner of the world. They know this, and so the people of Queenstown have made the city the hub of adventure. Bungee jumping was invented there, and they offer countless jet boating options, skydiving and tons of other attractions. One of the coolest parts about the city is the Shotover River, home to many attractions, mainly the Canyon Swing and Fox, along with white water rafting. I did them both the same day
As previously mentioned, heights and me don’t get along. Despite that, for some reason I thought it would be a great idea to pay to be thrown off the cliffs and then go zip lining across a canyon over 200 yards in the air. Fun, right? Already on edge, the staff at the zip line Canyon Fox decided to pull a cruel prank on me. As I started to launch, they pulled the emergency brake, stopping me just before the edge of the canyon. They warned me that something had gone wrong before letting me drop, scaring the living daylights out of me. As Deadpool would say, I should’ve brought brown pants.
Despite the utter terror, I loved the zip lining. It was incredible flying over the river, looking out across the rapids, knowing that I’d be on them later that afternoon. As I got across the canyon on one side, they politely reminded me that I’d have to go back. They then made everyone wait on the edge of the cliff for nearly 30 minutes, looking down 150 meters to what would be their doom before sending us back across. I couldn’t have been happier to be on solid ground after
Hours later, I was back in that same canyon, just further upstream. The way there was perilous, as we had to travel on the world’s second most dangerous highway. One lane, hoisted hundreds of meters above certain death below, it was not a pleasant experience. Our guide politely reminded us that nobody had actually died on the road, “They all died when they hit the ground below.”
Decked out in a heavy duty wetsuit (the water wasn’t even 50 degrees), we ventured out on our rafts, ready to conquer the river. The first hour was relatively relaxed, getting us ready for level five rapids, the highest possible class available for amateurs to go on. As we got to the rapids our guides warned us that we needed to paddle hard so we wouldn’t flip and hurt ourselves. After what must’ve been two seconds we had been turned around, with our guide screaming at us to hold on for dear life. After not flipping, all of us were laughing… except the guide, but that’s besides the point.
Those two days were among the most fun days of my life. I know this article was more blog style, but adventure like this needs to be seen through the eyes of those who lived through it. New Zealand is just a fantastic country, and if you crave adrenaline, this is the place for you.