Traveling with disabilities poses its own set of challenges. However, challenges can be overcome. That’s what makes this video so inspiring. Not one to let her paralysis keep her from enjoying an adventure, this paraplegic woman bungee jumped – with her wheelchair – off a bridge in Whistler, BC. The next time you’re feeling skittish about hitting the road, trying something new or testing your limits, remember this girl. I’m pretty sure she could kick my ass.
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Queenstown is a seemingly quaint town that resides in the shadow of the Southern Alps on New Zealand’s South Island. Walking its streets, one could easily mistake it for Boulder, Colorado. But like the American town that it resembles, Queenstown’s quiet appearance belies an adventurous spirit that pervades the people and activities that make this hamlet a popular tourist destination all year round. I spent roughly 36 hours in Queenstown and was consistently amazed by its natural beauty and friendly population.
How does a town of 10,000 people become a mecca for tourists? The proximity to some of New Zealand’s best ski fields certainly helps. But Queenstown is also the self-proclaimed “jet boat capital of the world” and the birthplace of commercial bungee jumping operations. For adrenaline junkies, Queenstown is a playground for the imagination.
Queenstown experienced its initial boom after a gold rush in the area during the 1800s. When the region had been picked clean of the precious metal, the population dipped below one thousand. The residents, in need of income to survive, capitalized on the local geography and turned Queenstown into a tourist hot spot. Now, Queenstown relies almost solely on tourism to survive and does so quite well.
So, how can you enjoy the the great outdoors and scare yourself silly while in Queenstown? Simply get out of bed and you can’t help but stumble upon any number of activities.
Million Dollar Cruise – Queenstown borders Lake Wakatipu, which is a boater’s paradise. For an entertaining lesson on Queenstown’s history and stunning views of both the town and the mountains that dominate the horizon, Million Dollar Cruise offers 90-minute sightseeing tours that provide a wonderful introduction to Queenstown. Owned and operated by Wayne & Betty Perkins, the cruise feels more like a day spent with friends telling you about their hometown than a commercial tour. That, by the way, is a good thing. Bundle up, though. I was there in the Spring and it was blustery out on the deck where the best photo ops are found.
Shotover Jet – Queenstown’s winding rivers through steep canyons made it the perfect place to become the “jet boat capital of the world.” Jet boats have flat bottoms which allow them to spin 360 degrees and seemingly move laterally. Shotover Jet operates in the Shotover River and has an office right in town, making bookings quite convenient. At $109NZ for adults and $69NZ for children, it’s a tad overpriced. But they have to pay for the 40 liters of petrol they burn every 30 minutes somehow. If you need a good family friendly activity that will impress your kids, go for it. Otherwise, I wasn’t convinced that it’s worth the money.
A.J. Hackett Bungy – Queenstown’s most famous adventure activity is also the world’s first of its kind. A.J. Hackett opened the first commercial bungee jumping enterprise on Kawarau Bridge in Queenstown in 1988 and it still operates today. A.J. Hackett now has other jump locations and Kawarau Bridge is by no means the highest, but it’s the original and that’s a draw for tourists. While the boldest of visitors may opt to jump off A.J. Hackett’s gondola 439 feet above the Nevis River, first-time jumpers will want to start at Kawarau and it’s 141-foot jump. That’s what I did and their friendly staff helped me overcome my fears and take the plunge. Would I bungee again? I’m not sure. But I am glad that I did it at the birthplace of commercial bungee.
Skiiing – You can get from Queenstown to a ski field in under 20 minutes. Coronet Peak and the Remarkables are the two closest ski fields and require nothing more than a short drive. Cardrona is only 40 minutes out of town and Treble Cone is a mere 90 minute drive. All four ski fields offer an abundance of ski and snowboard trails that draw visitors in hordes from June through October.
Whether you want to walk Queenstown’s quiet streets and window shop or trick your brain into thinking that you’re plummeting to your death, Queenstown has something for everyone (assuming you like the outdoors). After a whirlwind tour of the town, I was a tad disoriented but no worse for wear. Queenstown may have traded its gold rush for head rushes, but it’s absolutely worth a visit. Just try to have better form than I did when you leap off Karawau Bridge.
Mike Barish traveled to New Zealand on a trip sponsored by Air New Zealand and Tourism New Zealand. No editorial content was guaranteed and Mike was free to report openly on his experiences. He never spit out the wine and managed not to cry during any of the death-defying activities that Kiwis love. At least not in public. Read more of Gadling’s In the Corner of the World series here.
Now the Sky Tower is offering the chance to walk around its summit on a 1.2 metre wide walkway. Of course it’s safe as houses with more harnesses than a bondage convention, but the idea of wandering around in the open being battered by Auckland’s maritime breezes gives me the willies.
Mind you, I also write a regular column on Auckland urban adventures for a local magazine, so I’m just waitiing on a call from my editor to make the highrise journey myself.
Most American readers of Gadling probably can’t get too excited about the upcoming Rugby Wold Cup, but in New Zealand’s adventure sports capital of Queenstown, an event that should inspire interest from around the globe is just weeks away. Most travellers head to Queenstown to throw themselves off bridges on Bungy cords or zip about lookalike Lord of the Rings riverscapes on jet boats, but after the daytime excitement the bars and clubs of the lakeside town really take off. It’s kinda fitting then that the 2007 Cocktail World Cup is being held in Queenstown from September 9 to September 16.
“Mixologists” (an official term apparently…) from 15 countries will descend on Queenstown to wow the array of international judges. A special bar is even being constructed high in the snow on the peak of the Remarkables mountain range. And of course you just know there’ll be plenty of time for partaking in adventure sports (sounds like a dangerous combination…)
So New Zealand is well-known as the spiritual home of bungy jumping, but travellers to the globe’s most adventure packed country soon find out there are loads of other exciting ways to get the most value out of their travel insurance policy.
The world’s most extreme flying fox. Tucked away in the middle of the North Island, the ride at Mokai Gravity Canyon (watch a video after the jump) launches at a height of 175 metres and gets up to speeds of 160 kph. Afterward there’s the North Island’s highest bungy jump (of course…)
An underground flying fox. Only Kiwis would think of setting up a flying fox in a limestone cave. To reach the St Benedict’s Caverns at Waitomo you’ll first need to abseil. Having fun yet?
We’ve showcased Zorbing (here)before but it’s crazy enough to deserve another mention. Strap yourself into a giant see-through ball and roll down the hill. Why didn’t someone think of it sooner?
Ever wondered what would happen if you fell into a giant vacuum cleaner that was switched to “blow”? OK, it’s not a common fantasy but you can find out at Freefall Extreme. Recreate the feeling of skydiving but stay close to the ground.
Most travelers experience bungy jumping at the South Island adventure hub Queenstown but you can also leap off the Auckland Harbour Bridge in New Zealand’s biggest city. It may look like I’m jumping naked in the photo above, but I was wearing a weird coloured jumpsuit OK?