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Queenstown Travel Blog

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Dart River Safari: boat ride & walk in the woods .


Extreme sports enthusiasts knock this activity as being a bit on the tame side. But I think they must be missing the point. After all, this corner of the world is so awe-inspiring it was chosen as the setting for Lord Of the Rings; it would be kind of a shame to miss out on the magnificence because you’re busy watching your life flash before your eyes instead.


However, that said, the safari’s hardly a drive with Miss Daisy! The jet boats that speed you down the river are powered by 8-litre V8 engines which easily reach 40 mph over the water, and can spin on a dye.


The 8 of us, plus two random Kiwis were ushered into a boat manned by (quite cute) Gavin; he really didn’t need to say much because the landscape says it all:


The river’s shallow and wide, broken up into streams & small rapids that twist through rocks and bone-white driftwood.

Snow capped mountains sit serenely on the horizon with waterfalls gushing down their sides. In some parts the river is banked by swaying meadows of yellow & pink flowers (lupids?), in others parts, the mountains shoulder up close to the river & tree roots reach into the waters’ edge.


For about 45 minutes Gavin sped us along the Dart. We’d been told to remove our sun-caps because the wind would whip them away, so the girls got birds nest hair whilst the boys ended up looking distinctly Top-Gun. Every now & then Gavin would stick his hand in the air and wave it in a circular motion and we’d brace for a 360 spin. These were awesome, he’d whack the steering wheel on full lock and the boat would bank heavily, soaking everyone inside.


The last part of the safari involved a small hike through the woods in which we learned a bit about the unique landscape and the successful battle to eradicate possums & stoats (pesky buggers eat all the pretty birds).

It seemed weird being in a forest that had no mammals at all: Wonder if this is what the Garden of Eden was like mid-way through creation?


The Safari was the perfect introduction to NZ’s South Island. It had a taster of everything to come: Beauty, speed, exhilaration and an introduction to long-drop toilets, which were to become regrettably familiar.




Have to say didn’t like this much. Basically it involved running off a the top of a hill  with a large beanbag & a parachuted man strapped to one’s back. It’s remarkably un-scary. Once over the edge you sit back on the beanbag and the parachute man tugs on his strings making you feel sick. The view is not dissimilar to looking out of a plane window except it bobs & sways a whole lot more and nobody brings you peanuts.

Gavin - part of the attractive scenery!
After landing I clung to the grassy floor for a few minutes trying to keep lunch down where it belonged, before hopping back in the bus with the others. Glad to have done it. Won’t do it again.


Horse Riding in Glenorchy


The Gee-gee gallivant happened in the same place as I described in the Dart River Safari, so I won’t bother doing the ‘Awesome, Sublime, Breathtaking’ thing again. Although it was. Just as much as first time.


I’m quite an experienced rider, having spent almost as much time on horseback as off horseback during my earliest years. I looked after my own pony since I was twelve, broke in novices for a stud, was on the show jumping team for Cheltenham pony club (how Ra!) and rode for my uni team.


So it is with immense shame that I have to confess to hitting the deck TWICE on this ride! This first was the worst because I fell off the mounting block! (If she’s reading this, my mum will have disowned me at this point) I have no excuse, all I know is that when I raised my foot to reach for the stirrup I totally lost balance and fell waving & squawking onto the dirt below. The Instructor looked horrified at such incompetence. God know what the poor horse thought.


The second time was when I pushed my horse (forget his name, how awful) into taking the lead in a canter. I’d been given the most difficult horse in the stables on account of my assurances of experience. Horsey’s particular ‘difficulty’ was to spook when there are no other horses ahead of him.

Now, I can handle a spooky horse. No sweat, bring it on! Except that in reality I could handle spooky horses back in the day when my body was in reasonable shape & my legs and arse had the strength to ‘keep a deep seat’. But now, with laziness having turned my firm bits soft, I had no chance. So when Horsey took an unexpected step sideways & backwards mid-canter I took flight over his shoulder.


Didn’t hurt anything but my pride, although thankfully the mounting block incident had pretty much diminished that anyway. So with much grunting & creaking I clambered back on board, pushing aside memories of a time when I could jump vault onto any equine beast from a standstill.


For the less eventful parts of the ride we trekked over flat bits & foresty bits.

The best part was wading though the river, deep enough for the water to wet our feet so had to lift our legs up high.


Bini was my partner in crime for this venture as the others had all gone quad biking. She was as endearingly enthusiastic as ever, jabbering away about her ‘mad horse’ as he tried to eat up every last leaf of the surrounding scenery. Her child-like energy is infectious and all the other riders adored her company. (Me included)


In terms of the bigger picture, this riding experience has reminded me how strongly I would love my own pony again. When I finish these travels it’s going to be high on my priority list.


AJ Hackett Nevis 134 metre bungee


Waiting at the gathering point in town for a bus to take us to the jump site.

New Zealand’s Most Arrogant Man cuts his way through the assembled thrill seekers, glancing about contemptuously from above his sucked-in cheeks and a Brazilian bikini wax goatee.


Yo! Nevis People follow me!


Turns heel and swings his shoulders in the direction of the bus whilst we all scrabble about after him gathering our bits & pieces. Once inside & on the road Most Arrogant Man ignores everyone as he inflicts aural abuse by playing some junglest breakbeat garage shit, which could only ever be enjoyed by delusional clubbers post 3am……. Playing it top volume whilst driving in the afternoon through posh little Queenstown is positively knobby.


Absolutely delighted when M-A-M gets our bus stuck on a hairpin bend near the top of the Nevis canyon: Personal safety not much of a consideration compared to knobber’s likely humiliation.

Once rescuers have successfully hauled us out of the perilous position, all focus switches to the jump ahead.


Three of us from Anna’s Crew are doing the jump: Jonny, Bini & me. The others have all passed it up on account of having bungeed before (except for Tom who has some academic reason for going mountain biking instead.) Jonny’s the first person of everyone to jump & he faces the challenge with quiet courage. Holds out his arms & steps coolly off the platform. Bini & I scream as we watch him through the glass floor. It looks like he’ll hit the bottom for sure, but just as it seems like he’s a-goner he’s heading back in a huge bounce. After a couple more pings up & down, he pulls a release strap & swings into a sitting position as he’s hauled back towards the gondola.

Emerges over the edge buzzing:


Awesome! best high ever!


It’s a while before Bini & I take our turn and with every person who goes before us & comes up smiling it’s less & less intimidating and more & more exciting. Bini’s getting increasingly wired and is bouncinging off the aluminium walls talking at a hundred miles an hour to anyone who’ll listen. When her turn comes & she’s ushered to the edge, feet bound like a dead man walking, everyone claps & cheers in admiration of her spirit. She puts her arms out, yells and falls forward.


Then it’s my turn, I’m undergoing final instructions when Bini completes her ascent & as she's being unhooked she calls out to me:


It’s easy, don’t worry, it’s amazing!


Standing on the edge I’m hyper aware.

Adrenalin surging. Everything bright and clear; the rock walls; the river below; the nothing in-between! Think to myself ‘so this is what it’s like….’ And then dive.




Freefall with no resistance: Intense head rush. Ohmygod i'm actually doing it and it feels amazing. No irrational fear of hitting the bottom, just realisation I’m heading upwards again, flip like a rag-doll & back towards the ground.


Fan fucking tastic! I love this, really love it.


Back on the gondola & I’m grinning with the others, we do the big hug thing & head back towards solid ground on top of the world.

Kliffy says:
i am sure must be a surreal experience :)
Posted on: Mar 12, 2010
mfmcp1982 says:
Would you bungy again though?
Posted on: Apr 03, 2008
glennisnz says:
Very brave!
Posted on: Jan 25, 2008
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Gavin - part of the attractive sce…
Gavin - part of the attractive sc…
Wading in Dart River at Glenorchy
Wading in Dart River at Glenorchy
photo by: genetravelling