New Zealand majestic
Before taking off from Queenstown airfield, Peter, the detached pilot, warns in a thick kiwi accent: “I'm not going to ask you what you want to fly over. They will see that everything is special.»
As soon as the little Cessna gains altitude, the green valley around Queenstown begins to unravel. With him, the bluish expanse of Lake Wakatipu. Gradually, the icy peaks of the Remarkables set against the sky.
From the interior, towards the Pacific, there are more and more mountains and lakes where the sun, too weak to melt the snow off the peaks, reinforces the golden tones.
Finally, the Tasman Sea. It invades the until then absolute space of the mountain range. In deep arms from which vertical cliffs project. Some are covered in shallow vegetation, others are too polished to accommodate any visible form of life.
Gentle waterfalls that linger for hundreds of meters rush from the top of the ravines until they dissipate in the gusts of wind or sink into the sea.
We are in southwest of the south island of New Zealand. For almost an hour, this dashing airplane flight revealed to us the unique landscapes around Queenstown.
Queenstown's Gold Period
It wasn't just the imposing scenery that made this city famous.
Until the fashion of the radical take, the biggest emotion provided by the small colony had been shared by two sheep shearers when, in 1862, they found gold on the banks of the Shotover River and provoked a strong influx of professional prospectors.
A year later, the gathering had become a mining town with a population of several thousand. Sometime around this time, the government of New Zealand inspected it and proclaimed it "fit for a queen”. In this official way, it set the tone for its definitive name.
These days, more than ready to welcome any royalty, Queenstown has become an undisputed domain of teenage adrenaline.
Queenstown's Contemporary Mine: Bungee Jumping
Bungee jumping there was born in commercial terms. In the 80s, a restless kiwi named Alan John Hackett developed it. AJ grew up in Auckland, the capital of the North Island, where he attended Westlake Boys High School.
At 16, he left this school for good. He devoted himself almost full time to snowboarding, skiing and many other radical activities that he was attracted to.
Inspired by Naghol ceremony of the island of PentecostOn Vanuatu and in the jumps practiced in the 1970s by the Oxford University Dangerous Sports Club, AJ developed a kind of super-elastic.
He demonstrated it with only a media impact, when he launched himself from inside the Eiffel Tower, in 1987, without any warning or authorization, only to be arrested by the police, wearing a blazer and camouflage pants.
Already in handcuffs, AJ was stopped by a Welsh reporter who asked him if he thought he was going to get into trouble with the French authorities. Calm and smiling, he replied: “I don't think so. I think they are very reasonable people. I'm sure you will see this as an inspiration to the people of France and the world.".
It couldn't be more right. From then onwards, the practice would be repeated over and over again, at heights that were always frightening and, at times, adorned by artifices that ensured permanent innovation, such as jumps on unicycles, introductory pirouettes, among others.
Unlike the strings it was made of today, AJ Hackett's empire only expands. Aj operates Bungee jumps all over the world. World.
The Historic Leaps of Karawau and The Ledge
For the more knowledgeable aficionados, however, the dives from the historic Karawau bridge (43 meters high) and day and night dives from the panoramic platform The Ledge (47 meters) continue to have very special meanings – and prices –. Adventurous souls over 65, in particular, can make these jumps for free.
As we pass the high banks of the Karawau River, the bed below flows at great speed. It drags rafting boats maneuvered by ecstatic crews. Ahead, teenagers in series launch themselves from the famous suspension bridge that crosses the homonymous gorge, with open arms over the frigid blue waters.
Are followers of the adaptation of old melanesian cult that AJ and partner Henry van Asch first tested there in 1988.
Even after trying out all the varieties of bungee, Queenstown has an inexhaustible supply of other extreme activities.
It's another reason why your youth hostels and inns are almost always full. In high season, several thousand visitors and seasonal workers join the city's mere 9.000 inhabitants.
Beyond Bungee Jumping
While the energy and mood do not run out, in addition to bungee jumping and rafting, Queenstown entices them with its jetboating, river-surfing and white-water sledging, canyoning, paraflying, gliding, skydiving and the mountain biking.
Once winter and snow take over the region, there is still skiing and snowboarding that are preserved in Queenstown and neighboring Wanaka its New Zealand capitals and, to mention only the most popular and conventional sports.
We had already had our dose of radical experiences in east coast of australia. Even the fact that we appreciate so many others in this inner confines of the southern kiwi island did not deter us from finally giving our worn-out bodies some rest.
So, instead of ascending on foot, we got into one of the Skyline Gondola cabins. At a glance, we reached the top of the hill that housed the park and radical complex of The Luge, a kind of mountain kart track adapted for sledding.
By that time, the circuit was already closed. It didn't take long to find a viewpoint that reveals the houses of Queenstown. And the imposing scenarios around. Gradually, twilight sets in. It brings out the warm lighting of the city against the dark blue water of Lake Wakatipu and the closest mountains of the Southern Alps.
An Unexpected Bungee
There was a peace that we hadn't felt in those parts for a long time and we took the opportunity to enjoy it. For a short time.
Without our having yet detected her presence, a teenager suddenly launches herself from the lighted platform surrounded by pine trees that the natives called The Ledge. We hear the shrill scream that the young woman doesn't avoid and the echo produced by the surrounding amphitheater. We only see her again, semi-anesthetized with panic, when they haul her back up.
It was the last jump of bungee-jumping of the day. For a few hours, Queenstown regained energy.
Early next morning, he would return to his fearless routine.