2013 Spring External Programs Jacob Innis New Zealand

From Such Great Heights

I’ve been doing some fairly dangerous activities lately.  Most of these involve throwing my body off of some safe area into a dangerous free-fall, with my life being rescued by some piece of fabric or rope.  This is also known as ‘fun’ in New Zealand.

“It’s not about the destination – it’s about the journey!” said several of your elementary school teachers.  It should be noted that these venues of potential-horrific-fatality are not within walking distance.  That means that we’ve had to employ the use of rental cars to get to them.  Just a reminder – THEY DRIVE ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE ROAD HERE.  When both the destination AND the journey are life-threatening, it may be time to reevaluate your life choices.


We survived every drive we’ve taken over here,  without inflicting any damage on our bodies or the car, which I think deserves a gold star and a Congressional Medal of Honor in itself.  However, we weren’t about to get complacent with ourselves.

The Nevis Swing – Think of that swing you used to get pushed around on as a kid.  Recall how the warm spring air powdered your face as you declined from the swing’s peak.  The scent of fresh cut grass and stray rays of sun creeping out from behind an overcast sky create an atmosphere of security and freedom.  This is the stuff of happy memories…..

Now, invert all of that, and you have this:


That’s a 120 meter (or 130 yard) drop, which casts you out 300 meters toward the other side of that rocky canyon.

Sky Diving– Whilst up in Auckland over Easter Break, we decided it was an opportune time to jump out of a plane.  After an hour long drive, we arrived at ‘Blueskies Skydiving.’  I guess the pleasant name is meant to make you forget that you’re about to plummet 13,000 feet towards earth from an airplane.  Before we knew it, we were all suited up and flying up to optimal altitude.

Diving Suit

What a cool looking dude!

Once we hit 13,000 feet, they announced that Sam and her highly-trained-professional would jump out first.  They evaporated out of the plane, leaving myself and Tony to start securing all of the straps and bracing for the leap.



A fun little detail about this particular skydiving agency (and from what I gather others): they dangle you out of the plane before the jump.  That’s right, it’s not a simple “1,2,3 – GO!” sort of thing.  You see, your back is attached to the front of your own jump-instructor, and there’s not a whole lot of room between the two of you (you get to know each other VERY quickly).  This being said, you can’t just head out of the plane whenever you like.  The exit requires coordination, and this is established by the person in the front sitting on the edge of the plane’s open door, and then slowly scooting out of the plane, with your partner taking the place of where you were sitting.  So for a few seconds (or was it a few hours?), you just sort of hang outside of the plane, until your partner decides to jump.  This was really the only scary part of the whole ordeal – the rest of the way down is a truly amazing and beautiful experience.  You can watch my descent here:


We met a 60-year old woman who had just did her first jump when we landed.  She plans on returning and getting her certification so that she can jump without someone on her back.  Amazing.

The Nevis Bungy Jump – Yes, this took place at the same place, on the same day in Queenstown as the Nevis Swing.  The Nevis is the name of the river over which you are doing these foolish tasks.  We actually did the Skydiving about a month before our day at the Nevis, but for the sake of variety, I’ve arranged them out of sequential order.  Sue me, Jack.

New Zealand’s A.J. Hackett commercialized bungy jumping in the 1980s.  Though he was by no means the inventor, he did popularize the activity worldwide, which this area of Queenstown is named after him, with all of it’s big-dropping glory.  Naturally, the largest bungy jump in all of ‘Australasia’ is run by A.J. Hackett, and I did it.

After a long bus ride up a rather large mountain on one of the narrowest-winding roads I ever did see, we were put into harnesses, and taken over to the bungy.  The Nevis isn’t simply a ledge that you jump off of – you have to take a cable car over to a much larger suspended cable car which hangs above the river.


Yeah, that thing all the way out there.

Once you’re aboard the mother ship, you have to wait your turn to jump.  They have the heaviest people jump off first, which made me wait and steep in anticipation as I was second to last, clocking in at 73 kilograms of pure, unadulterated muscle.  One person out of the ten on board chickened out.

It was finally my turn.  I tried to brace myself as…..wait, I’ve got a video of this too (isn’t technology great?)!  You can watch the whole thing for yourself here:

I’m not sure if participating in such activities is the exhibition of immense bravery or the display of sheer stupidity.  Regardless, it was all good fun, and considering I never really do anything particularly dangerous, it was a nice change.  Though I am exaggerating certain aspects of all of these experiences, I really did feel safe in each one, and would recommend you to try them sometime!

Take care,

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