Maybe it’s the bucket list item you’ve been putting off, hoping it will someday disappear. Maybe taking a leap of faith and plunging hundreds of feet down to earth sounds like your idea of a fun afternoon. Whatever it is, you’re committed to the thrill, the fright and everything else that comes with bungee jumping. But we’re not talking about bungee jumping just anywhere. We’re talking about bungee jumping in New Zealand, one of the world’s great adrenaline destinations. We’re talking about the highest jumps, with the people who practically invented the sport.
To bring this experience to life, AllTheRooms sat down with Rowan Thompson, a traveler who spent four and a half months taking on all New Zealand has to offer in the world of extreme sports. From bungee jumping to skiing to downhill mountain biking to snorkeling with humpback whales, Rowan saw it all.
Where did you jump?
We jumped about 20 minutes outside of downtown Queenstown over a canyon. The platform is called Nevis. It’s 134 meters (440 feet), 8.5 seconds of free-fall, third-highest bungee in the world, highest in New Zealand. The platform is suspended by high-tension chords and you use a lateral gondola to access the jump space.
Check out this video to see what a jump from Nevis looks like.
What was the motivation?
Queenstown is the adrenaline capital of the world so this seemed like the time and place. I had been skydiving before and wanted to compare the two of them.
Walk us through jump preparation.
You take a bus from downtown to the jump spot. On the bus, you don’t really feel much. It doesn’t really hit you ’til you get out on the jump spot, then you start to sweat a little bit. You get off the bus and have a view of the platform and you get your first feeling for how high up it really is.
The scary part about it is that when you skydive you’re 13,000 feet in the air. Whereas with this, it strikes you as high up but you can see the ground right there. It’s kind of bang bang. You have very little time to absorb that you’re plummeting to the ground.
What was going through your mind immediately before the jump?
I mean, “holy shit”. That’s basically it. When you’re going out on the cables there are people jumping and it’s scary. They weigh you and give you the appropriate chord that matches your weight. When you’re going out on the gondola, the floor is grated so you can look down the whole time. Definitely some fear, a little apprehension, mostly excitement.
Describe the fall
When I lined up for the jump I picked a spot on the hillside in front of me and looked at that the whole time. [One staff member] counts down “three, two, one” and you can feel his foot behind your ankles. There’s a river that flows down in the ravine so when you’re looking down you’re looking right at that river. Imagine rolling the window down in your car as you’re driving down the interstate and then amplifying that like five times but on both sides of your head.
What was the staff like?
A lot of foreigners. A couple of Americans. Very much a young group. They’re not reassuring. It was me and four dudes and they were trying to fuck with us the whole time.
So there’s the initial fall and then you bounce around for a while. Can you describe that?
You bounce three or four times. The first two you still get that roller coaster feeling in your stomach. The last two are kind of mellow. The first fall is really disorienting. After the initial fall, you can look up and appreciate how far you’ve fallen. After three or four bounces you have to do a bit of a sit up and yank a release that rotates you into a sitting position.
And then what?
They hoist you back up. On a lot of the smaller ones they lower you into a boat or something but because of the height of this one, they haul you back up.
How close are you to the water?
Good question. I honestly don’t remember. It feels mad close. There’s another in Queenstown where they give you a water touching option where they dunk you. That’s at the Kawarau Bridge Bungy at the Kawarau River. That’s 43 meters (141 feet).
When they’re hoisting you up, are you thinking about the hoist breaking?
When you pull the release you kinda lose tension for a half second and it feels like you’re about to fall. So that part’s a little sketchy. But on the way up it’s not sketchy at all.
What did you think of the AJ Hackett company as a whole?
They do this stuff all day long, every day. You can only feel so secure jumping off a ledge on a cord but you definitely get the feeling like “hey we’ve done this a million times”. I remember one of the guys was like “I watch hundreds of people go off this every day, you’re gonna be fine”. That was to a young Italian girl not me.
Me and my buddy were the heaviest guys to go that day. They were like “you guys are the heaviest of the day we’ll see how this goes”.
As we’re taking the gondola out, we saw some teenage Italian girls jump. They were like 16, 17 and they came back up so excited that they just went again without hesitation. So I was kind standing there like “yeah, I gotta do this”.
Would you do it again?
Oh yeah, for sure.
Advice for people going for the first time?
It’ll be a great story after you jump — unless you die — then it’ll be a great story for your friends. Just kidding, bring an extra t-shirt cause you’ll sweat through the one that you’re wearing.