Swing

About a year ago I was living and studying in New Zealand, not blogging because internet was such a hassle and my laptop was fritzing, and this week specifically, I was in the middle of Spring Break Fall Holiday; a road trip around the South Island counter-clockwise, the same way water goes down the drain in lands down under.

One stop on this journey was Queenstown, popularly recognized as the adrenaline capital of the world. It is my personal opinion that whatever element puts the extreme into any X-treme sport was first divined in Queenstown soil. But I don’t usually hit the adrenaline too hard, so I tuned out when Anne read this in our Lonely Planet guide:

The new Shotover Canyon Swing is touted as the world’s highest rope swing (109m), where you jump from a cliff-mounted platform in a full body harness and take a wild swing across the canyon at 150km per hour.

Everybody else made reservations before we even arrived in Queenstown. “Four for white-water rafting, just three for the canyon swing. It costs $30 just to watch your friends, so I figured I’d spend the morning wandering Queenstown and save my energy for an afternoon of rafting.

We arrived in Queenstown the night before and proceeded with our choreographed hostel-arrival ritual: grocery shopping and package store followed by cooking, eating, and showering, and sleeping tight. Except I was the only one who slept tight that night. The others lay awake, or had strange dreams, or slept fitfully with the Canyon Swing on their minds.

By morning, my travel buddies were staving off panic attacks and anxious nausea. I was quite chipper and having second thoughts about just how extreme I could be. If I’d decided to go for it ahead of time, I probably wouldn’t have made it to the jump because I would have given myself a heart attack just worrying about it the night before. But on a sunny morning in the adrenaline capital of the world, I found myself at the counter asking to add another person to the Canyon Swing list.

And an hour or two later, I was barefoot, strapped into that full-body harness, loathing the tears welling up in my eyes…and then willing myself to step off the platform.

You know how people always say, “What a rush?” What a rush. My pony-tail was swept across my face, my hiking pants billowed with cool air, I swayed between the jagged, steady walls of the canyon and fell in love with white goats grazing on the slope. Those 2 1/2 minutes were probably the most rapturous and satisfying of my whole two weeks on the South Island. The nearly 200-foot freefall felt like bravery, the 650-foot arc felt like grace, and the breeze between my toes felt like freedom.

I was furious at myself for being so scared to begin with. But in that moment, I knew I was going to make it through.