This piece was contributed by Matt Officen of Tourism Media.
The heavy crunch of coach tires on the hotel gravel forecourt signalled it was time to take a last swig of coffee, grab our daypacks and head off into the Taupo sunshine. I was part of a group of travel agents invited by Tourism New Zealand to experience North Island’s top attractions, from the cultural to the natural, the chilled out to the adrenaline-inducing.
Our driver, John from Leisure Time Tours, greeted us with his usual jovial good cheer. “Morning folks, all ready to take the big leap?” My nine companions and I nodded with varying degrees of enthusiasm, ranging from mild to none at all. I was hoping for a long bus trip to prepare myself, so was a little alarmed when the bus turned off Spa Road after only a few hundred metres.
“Whaaa…we’re here already?” our expressions seemed to ask. The previous night we’d all been around the bar enjoying some after-dinner pinot noir bonding. Last night we were all in. Now, as the airbrakes snorted to a stop and the door hissed open, I wasn’t so sure.
We filed off the bus and towards the reception centre at Taupo Bungy, feeling the cool breath of the Waikato River just beyond the tree line. Then we heard it—the scream. And it wasn’t just any scream; it was the kind of echoing go-on-forever scream that froze you in your tracks. By the time the scream had faded, four of my colleagues had turned on their heels and were heading back to the coach. “Hey! All in, remember?” one of us called after the scaredy cats. But they were gone.
By the time we’d weighed in and signed our waivers in the reception centre, the monitors replaying footage of previous jumpers had discouraged another three of our party from jumping. By the time we’d reached the cantilevered platform jutting out from the 47-metre-high cliff above the Waikato River, our number had been reduced to one—me!
My travel companions may have been long gone, but I wasn’t alone. The thoroughness of the three crew members who each took turns in checking me over inspired some confidence, as did their dry sense of humour. One of the staffers explained that their two years of training required them to make their own personal bungy cords from scratch; a pretty good motivation to get things right!
As the gee-up music pumped from speakers and my anxiety climbed into the red zone, I focused on my breathing as instructed. Time seemed to slow to a crawl as the river waters coursed far below and the city of Taupo stretched away into the hills.
In a moment of bravado, I’d opted for the ‘water touch’ option rather than just the standard jump. Now the doubts were racing through my head; were last night’s dozen oysters such a great idea? What if they’d messed up my weight? What if the crew had had a big night out and were all hung over?
“Toes on the edge, arms up,” the jump master instructed, “three, two, one…” A gentle pat on the back and I was in free fall! A lifetime of blurred seconds later, my head was dunked into the Waikato’s five-degree waters before I was wrenched back into the air again. I rebounded three or four times, and my heart slowly resumed its correct position from my throat to my chest.
A Zodiac cruised to within reach and I was pulled aboard by gentle arms and cheery Kiwi smiles. As I reboarded the coach with my souvenir T-shirt and USB loaded with video and photos, I was greeted with cheers, backslaps and plenty of questions. Was I terrified? Absolutely! Would I do it again? Hell yeah!
We pulled out from the car park and headed out of town, our driver’s voice announcing our next stop: the Huka Falls Jet. “Alright!” I called out, my fist pumping the air, “all in?” “All in” came a mumbled chorus of sheepish smiles.