By the time I reached Queenstown in New Zealand, I’d already spent three weeks in the country exploring various tiny towns as well as large cities. The country pulls in adventure tourists, promising adrenalin-rushing activities for wannabe thrillseekers, but to be honest, I was visiting for the stunning scenery more than anything else. Over my time there I had been caving, hiked on a glacier and been on many a boat trip, but the more I saw my fellow travellers indulge in increasingly crazy shit, the more I found myself wanting to try something too.
After passing up the chance to skydive in Franz Josef (partly down to my rapidly dwindling finances, partly down to unadulterated fear), I knew that I wanted to try something in Queenstown, home to the majority of New Zealand’s mile-a-minute experiences. It was two things that led to me booking a seat on The Nevis Swing, otherwise known as The World’s Biggest Swing:
1) FOMO. I watched new friends jumping off the most famous commercial bungy at Kawarau Bridge, and although I couldn’t bring myself to do that, I suddenly got the urge to do something.
2) An over-enthusiastic friend. I met a wonderful woman called Hilary on my travels, and she proposed that we could do a tandem experience, meaning that we could be total wimps together.
Seemed legit. Seemed safe. So off we trotted to the booking office to get our place on the swing. The name sounds serene; who’s ever felt their life flash before their eyes on a swing? I’m a wuss, but I’m not that much of a wuss. Yeah, sure Miss Booking Lady, you sign me up for that swing and take my non-refundable £70. We booked in for a 9am ‘drop’ so that we couldn’t freak out about it during the day and cancel last minute, and told our bus driver what we’d done.
This is a guy who has done every crazy experience in New Zealand. Except this. He looked at us as though we were mental.
‘You didn’t want to do the canyon swing in town?’
‘Uh, yeah. *rolls eyes* That’s what we’ve booked!’
‘No, darling. You’ve booked onto the Nevis. It’s the highest swing in the world. I haven’t even done it, you must be mad.’
Cue a frantic attempt at cancelling, or even part-refunding our booking. No can-do. We’d signed a waiver form that said no money would come back to us and also that we couldn’t sue them if we got maimed or paralysed or died. GREAT. HOORAY. DEEP JOY FOR CHARLIE.
So, we put up with it. We tried to forget what we’d done and reminded each other that we were in it together. Sisters before misters, ovaries before brovaries, and all that. In fact, I managed to forget it so well that when I had a successful phone interview for a job back in the UK later that evening, I drank allllllll the drinks to celebrate. Waking up at 7am, still drunk, ready to throw up and walking through Queenstown on my way to certain death, well. I don’t think I’ve ever regretted anything so much in my life.
Driving up, up, up to the swing, we sat in silence. I hated Hilary. She hated me. I don’t do this sort of thing. I take photos of sunsets and eat street food and visit temples. THAT’S how I travel. This was god damn madness, but we set off regardless and walked over the world’s wobbliest bridge towards the world’s biggest swing. We waited whilst two other couples went ahead of us and I refused to look down. I started to feel excited until the woman before us screamed so loudly, I evolved into one giant goosebump. When she returned I asked her if she’d do it again. “NO. NEVER.” So that put my mind at ease…
Our time came. We stumbled over to the staff who helped us into our harnesses. I so clearly remember hearing Jamiroquai on the radio, but the rest is a bit of a blur. We chose to drop backwards so that we didn’t have to look down at all, but we knew what was down there: a 160m drop into a canyon, followed by a swing that would take us the length of three rugby pitches.
We were told to sit down. I screamed. We were winched out from the balcony. I screamed. We were told to look at the camera ready for our souvenir photographs. I screamed. Hilary was silent. She refused to look up at the camera until I screamed at her to do it. We held hands.
The countdown started.
I said every single swear word I could think of.
And we dropped.
HOLY CREEPING JESUS.
Weightless, stomach in my mouth, my legs flew behind my head as we plummeted down. The swing took us up and gently, but bloody quickly, back down. For a few minutes, we swung above the canyon, absolutely hysterical with laughter. THAT is what a true adrenaline rush feels like. My hangover was gone, every single part of me was shaking, my eyes stung from the wind and ohmygod it was THE BEST THING I’VE EVER DONE.
We were pulled back up, unharnessed, and I was congratulated on having the most inventive swearing the staff had ever heard. We wobbled back to the registration cabin, still hysterically laughing at the batshit crazy thing we had just done; bewildered but proud of ourselves, whilst also swearing down that we’d never bloody do it again.
Except, I loved my time in New Zealand. And now I’ve done it once…
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