Entry from my travel journal 28/2/14…
Here’s the thing… I’ve always had this weird thing about heights. At the same time I’m a bit of an adrenaline junkie and first in line for the seriously fast and high rides at the Easter Show…you know the ones- they often have a g force rating and hurl you about and up and down. I love them…I’m not so sure my chiropractor does. In fact, I still hold the Lyons family record for the most number of times in a row on Sea World’s (on the Gold Coast) Corkscrew. In case you’re interested, it’s 12, and I didn’t throw up. Back in the day (we’re talking early 80’s) that one was a mean bugger- and the view from upside down across the water was pretty great.
Anyways, I might like my rides to be fast and high, but I get freaked out by heights- it’s even extended to driving on bridges and flyovers. I think it’s about instability and control, but it’s weird.
And that’s why I decided to try zip lining when in Queenstown- to scare the fear right out of my system. Where better to jump off something than in a town that specialises in finding new ways to jump off things that are perfectly stable or out of things that work perfectly well?
We chose Ziptrek Ecotours for our zip lining adventure partly because we figured the view would be spectacular and partly because my travelling companion had never been up the gondola. We decided on the 6 line zip (the Kea) rather than the 4 line zip (the Moa) for one very simple reason- it finished at the bottom of the mountain, just a short walk back into town. When you finish the Moa, you have a “short 10 minute walk” to get back to the gondola. What they don’t tell you is that it’s uphill. Don’t look at me like that- we’ve just finished Routeburn!
So, the gondola. Amazing views…usually. Today, while we were up there patiently waiting for our zip trek to start, a storm blew in. The wind came up, the rain came down and the clouds came in to meet us, completely obscuring all views.
When the skies cleared, there was fresh snow on the peak behind us, on the Remarkables, and over the lake on Cecil and Walter Peak. And the temperature had dropped to something close to freezing. Thankfully Ziptrek were able to provide us with attractive orange beanies and red gloves.
Ziptrek (founded in Whistler, Canada) are that sort of tourism operation that the Kiwis in general, and Queenstown in particular, do really well- organised, safe, fun…and with a side serve of information. In the case of Ziptrek, the message is one of conservation- and these guys really walk their talk. Wood for the aerial tree top platforms is chosen for both resilience and sustainability, and is unstained to ensure no chemical run off occurs into Lake Wakatipu. The lake, you see, is remarkably pure- as in about 99pointsomethingpercent pure. I wrote a bit about that last year.
Unusually for a tour company, they don’t offer transfers from your accommodation. This is deliberate- as no additional energy resources are used to transport guests. You have two choices- the gondola (at own cost) or a hard slog up a steep mountain trail (allow about an hour). Given that most visitors to Queenstown would have the Gondola on their list anyway, this isn’t a difficult decision to make.
As for the zip itself- what can I say but wow!
We’re rigged up in full body harness with hard hats. Given that we’re about 25m off the ground, the hard hats are in case we hit our head of a tree or a pole before we actually zip.
The scariest part of the whole process is actually after you’re clipped in, before you actually zip- it’s the walk down the stairs and into the void. Once you run out of stairs the line takes over and gravity does the rest. What a ride! Line 4 is a 250m zip across the front of the lake- offering amazing views as Queenstown is spread out below you, and line 6 is the steepest tree to tree flying fox in the world.
My verdict? Exciting, exhilarating, and would do again in a heartbeat.
Now, what was I saying about heights?
Woohoo factor: High
Fear factor: 5
Don’t forget: Gloves and a warm beanie- yes, even when you think it’s warm, the weather changes quickly on the peak. Don’t bring bags or backpacks with you as you can’t bring them on the tour. Small items such as phones, wallets can be popped in the small bag that the guides snap onto the line.
How Much? Kea (6 line) $179 adult/$129 child, Moa (4 line) $129 adult/ $79 child
Photos? If you have a go pro or a small point and shoot with a wrist band, this can be clipped onto the line- although time to point, shoot is limited! There’s a camera in a tree near the start of the first zip, and one mid way down the last- you can purchase the results at the tour office in town. (All you could see on mine was my huge butt flying through the air.)