You hang at an angle, feet still reassuringly touching the launch pad, suspended 130m above the floor of the canyon carved by the Nevis River in the mountains between Queenstown and Cromwell in New Zealand. The only thing stopping you plunging to a very messy end all those metres below is a harness connected to the release mechanism above you.
You are wired up to the Nevis Swing, one of Queenstown’s must-dos for adrenalin lovers.
It’s not too late. You can still chicken out and the A J Hackett crew will winch you back inside to the safety and sanity of the launch pad.
But at this moment you understand what they mean by “feel the fear and do it anyway”.
Even getting to the launch pad is an adrenalin junkie’s happy place.
It starts with a ride on a 4-wheel drive bus up a winding, twisting narrow gravel road with a precipitous drop on one side, both sides in some places. The driver calmly assures you that he’s done this before. Once. Yesterday. During his induction training.
(He is kidding, btw! Like all tour bus drivers you never believe a word they say.)
Then, having been given the safety briefing, signed a document that basically says whatever may happen to you next is just one of life’s little dark jokes, and been fitted with a safety harness, you get to walk out across the 70m swing bridge to the launch platform suspended above the valley way, way below.
A swing bridge too far?
I imagine there are plenty who, faced with a walk of fear like this, decide that they’d actually, really rather be in a nice warm bar somewhere. Somewhere, anywhere else.
The launch crew at the platform are very good. Cheerful, yes. Reassuring, yes. But totally focused on the process. The process of making damned sure you really are safe. Everything, every clip, every rope, every carabiner is checked. Then checked again. Then someone else checks it. And just before you lean out into the void the launch master runs over the equipment one more time.
You can swing facing backwards, forwards, hanging by your feet. On your own or together with a friend.
Then comes the moment.
“Lean out, lean out”, the launch master says. And against every instinct born of half a million years of evolution you lean out, suspended at an angle. Held only by the release mechanism.
“Three, two, one, GO!”
The voice behind you counts down to the instant you terrifyingly freefall 70m towards the valley floor before the steel wire, your only connection to health and safety and life as you knew it, begins to swing you out in a long, zooming 300m arc.
Longest, biggest, fastest
It’s the longest, biggest, fastest (and scariest) swing in the world. And right now you believe every word.
Then the exhilaration kicks in, if only because you know you are still safely tethered to whatever it is that is holding you up, making this ride a mega buzz.
At the end of the arc you get the deceleration/acceleration effect that is the physical basis of most “rides”, be they bungy, swing, catapault, roller-coaster or any other fast-moving, direction-swerving equipment designed to scare the hell out of you.
For a few moments you oscillate, pendulum-like on the end of the wire as the adrenalin lights up every cell in your body before the crew winch you back to the launch platform.
“How was that?” you get asked. Not by the crew but by the person next in line, a hint of anxiety in the question, maybe?
“Mind-blowing” is the only tired old cliché you can think of, your brain still trying to sort out what just happened.
Was it a true hyper-experience? Absolutely. Would I do it again? Absolutely. Any day you like to name.
And I will.
Because, having faced the fear and done it anyway, for a while you know you are really are 100% alive. And damned glad of it.
To get a feel for the experience go to the A J Hackett website.
Declaration of interest. I got the ride for free. Not because they wanted the publicity, such as it is, but because being of a certain well-matured vintage they let me go for nowt. Nix. Nothing. I assumed I would have to pay and proffered the credit card but the extremely helpful young woman looked at my date of birth and gave me the most welcome news that it would be on the house, as are any of the A J Hackett experiences.
So there you are you old buggers, wake up and take up the challenge of a lifetime.