Extreme Sports Start Early in New Zealand

Driving along Jervois Quay, Wellington, at a weekend it is difficult to keep ones eyes on the road when children as young as three are hurtling skyward on a Vertical Bungy. Today it was our wee Charlotte’s turn for an adrenaline rush. She proudly told the operator she was nearly four and he took one look at her wicked grin and daring glint in her eyes and said, ‘No worries, you can do it,’ (but maybe he was thinking of the $10 he was going to pocket for her 10 minute thrill!). In fact there is no age restriction for this thrill ride, though there is a weight restriction: one must be between 10 and 100kg (Charlotte just weighed in on the lower end of the scale).

New Zealand is well known for it’s reputation as a thrill-seekers paradise. I wonder if this spirited need of Kiwis to get their kicks through adrenaline sports is rooted in their gene pool from the early European settlers, as they were certainly an incredibly brave (or crazy!) people.

The whole ‘bungy’ craziness was started hundreds of years ago by the people of Vanuatu in the Pacific. Local legend has it that a woman initiated it when she dared her abusive husband to follow her in jumping from one of the tallest banyan trees. He didn’t noticed the vines tied around her ankles and on seeing her land on her feet he was taunted to follow, only to fall to his death.

Today there are hundreds of bungy sites around the world and AJ Hackett Bungy is the King in New Zealand.

Family Lee’s history with bungy jumping started when ‘Chinese Grandma’ (Dan’s Mum) visited New Zealand way back in 1998. Holidaying in the South Island the inevitable conversation of, ‘Would you dare to do a bungy?’ raised it’s head. Dan was the only one to say he’d love to. Dan’s Mum and I were absolute non-starters. However, when put on the spot, it’s amazing how circumstances can influence decision making. After riding up the Skyline Gondola in Queenstown, Dan jokingly said to his Mum, ‘Well, now ‘s your chance, I’ve bought you a ticket for The Ledge Bungy jump,’ and she called his bluff! If she was going to do it then I wasn’t going to say no – this was, at the time, my prospective mother-in-law! She insisted on going first and after such a daring, no hesitation jump, I was not left a shred of room to show fear. I have to say it was an ‘awesome’ experience. No other word can describe looking out at the horizon, 400-metres over stunning Queenstown and taking a leap of faith (in a manner of speaking).

Of course Dan wasn’t going to get away with not doing one, but he’d already decided that Kawarua Bridge Bungy, the world’s first commercial bungy, was going to be his initiation to the thrill of bungy. This is a jump with a difference as you can choose whether to bob above the water, touch it, or be fully immersed (Dan went for the fully immersed option!).

And it looks like little Sophie (close to 18 months) has her fair share of adrenaline genes bubbling to the surface too: