You're The Action Hero In New Zealand

17 January 2015

I never really grew out of my boyhood dreams to become a real-life James Bond or Indiana Jones. Unfortunately, everyday life doesn't usually deliver those heart-pumping moments – running to make the train doesn't cut it.

Yet, on a recent trip to New Zealand I was able to take full advantage of the North Island's adrenalin activities to turn myself into the action hero I'd always idolised.

Although there weren't any erupting volcanoes, jet-plane rescues or dodging missiles in cars, the combination of bungy jumping, four-wheel driving, jet boating and plenty more made for a constant flow of euphoric adrenalin.

The Water Chase Scene

Hukafalls Jet

It was hard not to picture myself as the dapper British spy, James Bond, while skipping across the water on the Hukafalls Jet Boat. The driver maintained exhilarating speeds while performing 360-degree spins and nearly hitting the sides of rock walls, partially submerged logs and birds. I was as close as I've ever been to Bond giving chase through the London canals.

After being splashed, whipped and spun around the river, there was a pause in the high-octane proceedings to marvel at the thundering Huka Falls. Feeling the boat fighting against the power of the water gave me a deeper respect for the strength of the waterfall.

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Defying Gravity

Zoom Zipline at Skyline Rotorua

I didn't have to perform Spidey's trademark wrist flick while shooting past the trees, but I was able to let the harness take my weight and lean back upside down to get the full effect of the thrilling experience ziplining at Skyline Rotorua can provide.

It was a straight shot down the side of Mount Ngongotaha. As I picked up speed to about 80 kilometres per hour, the initial view of Rotorua was quickly replaced by towering redwood trees. I swept past them with seemingly less than one metre between the branches and my body.

The glide was over quickly, a result of the zipline's fast acceleration, but I wasn't on the ground yet. To reach dirt and grass once more I was given the option of a guided free-fall or taking the stairs. What kind of action hero would take the stairs? The free fall was about 10 metres and the first second provided a heart-racing panic from doubting the ropes would catch me.

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Get out and about in Auckland. Auckland's Great Outdoors

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Seeing Queenstown from above. Take To The Sky And Explore Queenstown


 

Taking The Leap

Bungy Jump at Agroventures

All the big action heroes have taken the leap; some with a fire hose as their only support, others aiming for the water and the craziest hoping that whatever breaks their fall doesn't break their bones.

When I visited Agroventures Adventure Park in Rotorua I couldn't leave without putting myself in a similar situation and placing complete faith in a bungy cord to stop me from face planting the ground.

At 43 metres high, the Agroventures bungy jump was a good height for my first time. I told the guy in the cherry picker that my screams would probably be squashed by the fear, but those initial few seconds of freefall brought out the first genuine scream I've had in years.

It went against all natural instinct to lean forward and go over the edge, but like my heroes before me, I hardened my nerves and leapt. Afterwards there was this profound sense of accomplishment of facing the fear and overpowering my instincts to curl into a foetal position.

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Leave No Land Uncharted Four

Four-wheel driving at Off Road NZ

Did Indiana Jones sweat at the sight of the untamed wilderness he was often faced with traversing? Not a chance. He pushed onward, as I would too during my four-wheel driving safari at Off Road NZ.

This was a two-part experience, the first being a self-drive tour where I was directed through the off-road course by experienced guides.

The brunt of the course was made up of angled roads, deep mud puddles and bumpy terrain, but every now and then we would pull the cars over and inspect one of the more difficult challenges. There were two: a sharp drop into water that threatened to send the vehicle vertical and a seriously steep slope that required the use of both brakes to stop the car from careening through the fence at the bottom.

The next phase put me in the passenger's seat under the care of a professional driver who performed 'crabwalks' (driving sideways), flew over hills at speed and sent us spinning in a mud pit that gave most of us free facial masks.

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Downhill Racing

The Luge at Skyline Rotorua

A luge is a rather simple vehicle; you have the brake and steering, the former's frequency of use being completely up to you. The thought I replayed in my mind while hurtling down Skyline Rotorua's three luge tracks was that no one ever won a race by sitting on the brakes.

The three courses varied from scenic to advanced, but the addition of fellow racers made each one as exciting as the other. As the slope steepened and the speed picked up, the fight for first place intensified and I found myself entering turns with too much speed and grinding the side of my luge against the side rails.

There were moments when the track opened up and cutting across the grass was all that was needed to jump a few places, but in the end it was the one willing to risk a spill who triumphed, like the fearless racers of old.

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Ben Stower

I love the kind of travelling that is one part strategic planning and two parts spontaneous adventure. Whether I'm exploring my local city or a small town in the middle of nowhere, I'm always hoping to find something no one else has discovered.