Zorbing in Rotorua.
Bungy jumping not for you? Fear not, there are other 'extreme' activities you can do in New Zealand with a lower fear factor, Kylie McLaughlin reveals.
Confronted with the horror of undertaking a trip around New Zealand with a bunch of adrenaline-junkies, I, a self-confessed wimp, deemed it my duty to seek out activities I could undertake that would make me appear more fearless. Alternatively, fellow wimps, you could call this a list five ‘adventure’ sports I tried, so you don’t have to.
Black water rafting inside the Waitomo Caves, New Zealand.
Rolling downhill in a large inflatable plastic ball while being sprayed with warm water sounds harmless enough, right? Embryonic-like, even? As you’re in New Zealand, adventure capital of the world, don’t bet on getting an easy ride.
In Rotorua, you’re given the option of doing a wet or dry zorb (for wimps) and you can even choose between four track options and eight ride variations. If you stick with the shortest and slowest of the tracks, you can experience something more akin to a cheap thrill, rather than a terrifying ride on the world’s first natural rollercoaster over the rollicking green hills of NZ’s north island. If you do it with a friend, you’re only brush with death may be from laughter. Fear factor for wimps: 3/10 www.newzealand.com/au/plan/business/zorb-rotorua/
2. Blackwater rafting at Waitomo Caves
Emerald Lakes at the Tongariro Crossing, New Zealand. Photo: Jacqueline Tomlins
Although this sounds like whitewater rafting’s evil doppelganger, blackwater rafting is much, much tamer. Planting your butt into a rubber tube and floating through a dark cave in a wetsuit with nothing but a head-torch and glow-worms to guide you almost qualifies a unwinding experience, that is, if it weren’t for your 20 colleagues, of which you are gently reminded when you accidentally bump tyres. There is one small hitch: you have to plunge into the cave’s waters by jumping backwards off a rock ledge into your tyre. Good thing they let you practise the jump first, outside the caves. Fear factor: 2/10 (an extra point for the scary price tag). www.waitomo.com/black-water-rafting.aspx
3. Flying Fox at Gravity Canyon
When friends said we were heading to something called ‘Gravity Canyon’ and described a ‘bungy swing’ that happened in a massive water-containing canyon, my resolute points of "you’re insane", "over my dead body" and "there had better be a bar" were fired off in quick succession.
About 30 minutes later I was strapped into a contraption 200 metres up the side of a canyon wall with a friend on a ride that, once commenced, promised to give me the closest experience one could have to flying. At this stage my heart taken such a plunge I thought I was going to have to retrieve it from the bottom of the canyon later, after I had fallen into it, but once we set off exhilaration overpowered fear as we flew through the kilometre-stretch of canyon at a speed claimed to be 160km/hr. Surprising, mostly to myself, I had such fun I agreed to go again (only because I didn’t have to climb up the canyon wall a second time). Fear factor: 5/10 www.gravitycanyon.co.nz/activities/fox
4. Tongariro crossing
I don’t care if a team of wily sherpas can carry me to a peak, nothing will convince me climbing mountains is a fun idea. In Borneo, ‘brave’ meant flying smugly past Mount Kinabalu’s peak in a small plane. I’ve heard the horror stories of the march up Maccu Picchu and when I finally get there, it will be on the train. However, a volcano fascination lured me to Tongariro and although it was a good eight-hour hike and a decent pair of hiking boots is required to traipse through volcanic scree at the top, I managed to exchange foreseen death-plunge for mountain-top views of emerald lakes. Warning: going down may feel easy at the time but your legs will suffer later. Post-hike beer is well-deserved. Fear factor: 2/10 www.tongarirocrossing.org.nz
I was unusually calm about this activity until I realised that trees were quite tall in New Zealand. But by the end of the six-track zips I was heartily disappointed it was all over. You’re well strapped in and at each point you are sent off and collected by burly men who ensured you forgot whatever it was you were worried about in the first place. Fear factor: 4/10 (points are for nasty height) www.newzealand.com/au/zip-lining/