South Island: Karawua Bridge Bungee and Cowboy Bar (Yeehaawww)

Part 2 of Sunday the 15th

I made it back to the van after my awesome horseback ride with Amanda just in time for a quick lunch before I had to head back into town for my next moment of insanity: the Kawarua Bridge bungee jump. This was AJ Hackett’s first commercialized jump and is the only one with an option to touch the water! I was the only person to book this particular jump, everyone else who was doing a second bungee was doing the Ledge (that’s the one my sister Carrie did when she was in the South Island!). I was pretty pumped to be doing my own thing and I felt good about doing what I wanted to be doing instead of just following along with the group. Although, it would have been nice to have someone come with to take pictures (don’t worry, it was so epic I got the photo pack AND the DVD)! Since I was doing this alone I knew that it would be my unique piece of the South Island that I could keep selfishly to myself. But anyway, I made it to the AJ Hackett base with plenty of time to spare. This time I didn’t have to get weighed because they would just do it at the bridge; sweet! So after I got all checked in I grabbed a bean-bag chair and watched videos of the different types of bungees and swings that you could do in Queenstown. It was a good thing that I did have to wait too long for the shuttle to pick me up because the more I watch the more seriously I contemplated doing every single one of them.

It took about half the time to get to the bridge than the Nevis jump. The building was awesome, to get down to the main floor you walked around this huge ramp that encircled the interior of the building. There was a cool waiting area with a giant screen that was running a loop of cool jumps people have done and a history of AJ Hackett, how he came up with bungee, and his super-successful business. In the center of the room ther was a media center where you could look at your photos and movie before you buy them and then behind that was my favorite part of the building; a giant glass wall that led out to a deck area and a viewing deck so you could watch everyone’s jumps! Some of the staff had pulled out a grill and were selling sausages for charity (I decided it would be better to wait until after my jump to partake in any kind of food). I queued up with the rest of the group I had travelled with to get all of my paperwork in order—aka signed my life away—got weighed, and then was ready to go! I stored my stuff and headed out to the bridge. The line was short and since they were going by weight I only had to wait for a couple of kids to go in front of me because most of the other people were jumping in tandem. Once it was my turn, I handed my ticket to the nice guy in the t-shirt, we chatted, he asked me if I wanted to touch the water at all and of course I said yes! But I preferred not to get completely submerged (plunging into water that I could clearly see the rocks through was a little too extreme for me in that moment), just touch the surface. He said he would do his best but that I was probably too light to touch the water. The only way he could guarantee I would get wet was if he set it to dunk me. I passed. Next time.

One of the best parts of the bridge is that there is no harness. They do the whole thing old-school. So, instead of giant ankle cuffs that attach to the cord I got a towel wrapped around my ankles; he put it on the ground, I put my legs in the middle of it, and then he wrapped the left and right sides around my respective legs. Then a rope was tied around the towel between my legs and secured the cord on with a carabineer. No self-releasing my legs this time! I waddled over to the edge, looked down (again) and felt that surge of fear start to take over my spine. I was directed to smile big for the camera on the observation deck so I did; I smiled, and then I did my best “crazy-person” impression and gave a little dance, stuck out my tongue, and waved “surfs up”. Excellent picture. I took a deep breath as I got counted down and on 3 I did my best swan dive over the edge and screamed my heart out. I went with the old-standby “BUNGEE!!” since it worked so well for me last time. The crowed loved it. Since this jump was only 43 meters I didn’t feel the same kind of heart-clenching dread that I had made a horrible mistake like I had on the Nevis. This was way too fast to be that scared. The rush was fantastic. I guess the way I jumped the camera guy had a hard time getting a shot of my face so one of the other crew members shouted for me to give him a wave. On my next bounce I twisted around, pulled myself up as best I could and gave a giant yell and wave.

But the hard part isn’t falling; it’s getting back to where you jumped from. Once I stopped bouncing and was just swinging the little raft with two guys started heading in my direction. I was slowly being lowered down. The object of the game was that, while swinging upside-down after having just jumped off a bridge, I had to grab onto a long rod that one of the guys was holding out to me to guide myself onto the boat. Awesome. I only missed once though! On my second swing I was able to grab onto the skinny life-line and I was pulled onto the boat. Again I was instructed to smile for the camera. Ha! Smile, they say! At that point the adrenaline had been kicking for a while so instead of smiling and waving like a normal person, “crazy-person” Emily was back and I did some kind of yell/whoop/wave/face. You NEED to see these pictures. They are special and I love them. Once the raft made its way to shore and unloaded me I hauled butt up the hill to see the photos and video. I was still shaking when I reached the top. I hadn’t made it two steps into the building before one of the crew guys came rushing over to me. I got a very enthusiastic, “Dude, that was awesome!” before he gave me a bear-hug and picked me up. I was a little surprised to say the least! He told me that it was him who got me to look at the camera as I was falling. I was very impressed with my confidence and enthusiasm. Apparently looking like an idiot is held in high regard with these people. Oh yeah, and by the way, this guys name was Buzza. Buzz for short. Be my best friend please? Thank you. Anyway, Buzz and I practically skipped over to the computers to watch my video which you can clearly hear him on. He grabbed my photos and there were some really good ones! I was wearing my Relay for Life tshirt from a couple of years ago so I’m hoping I can come up with some way to incorporate a photo or two into one of meetings next year.

After I bought the pictures and collected my swag for doing the jump I grabbed my stuff and started taking my own pictures. It was a pretty grey day but of course that didn’t matter at all. New Zealand seems to shine no matter what Mother Nature throws at her. The bridge boasted a pretty fantastic view with the slate grey sides of the valley covered in yellow colored foliage that led to the dark turquoise water that was so clear you could see the rocks and the reflection of the landscape in it. Walking around and taking my photos helped me to focus and come back down to earth just in time to catch the shuttle back to town where my friends were waiting at Ferg Burger (for round two I decided to try something alittle more adventurous off of the menu: the Bambi burger!) to swap stories. Most of them did the Ledge Jump where your feet are free and you are harnessed in only by your waste so you can run and jump or flip or do whatever you can think of as you go over the edge. After we had devoured our burgers (it’s amazing how hungry adrenaline rushes can make you) we decided to head right to a bar we had heard about the night before. It was actually kind of suiting because I still smelled like horses from that morning; we were going to the Cowboy Bar, complete with complementary cowboy hats when you walk in, barstools made from saddles, and awesome drink specials. And, of course, a mechanical bull. We tried all night to tame that beast, but to no avail. The pictures are hysterical though. I only tried it once, and when I was sober and I only lasted 8 seconds. Well, you can imagine what the scene looked like a couple of hours into the night.

I had been feeling better, but still not 100% so I didn’t last the whole night with everyone else. But I had a great time and I think I would rather a little early than stay too late. So I rounded up a few friends that wanted to get some sleep to and we walked back to the van at Qbox, reveling in our excellent last night in Queenstown.
Fun Fact: In all of its time in operation, AJ Hackett Bungee Jump has never had an accident.

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