Backpacking in New Zealand: Jumping off Auckland Harbour Bridge

Backpacking in New Zealand: Jumping off Auckland Harbour Bridge

Its the last day of June 2008, and this time last year I was embarking on a 19 country world tour. During the first month, I found myself in New Zealand and in its capital city of Auckland. It is hard to believe that almost 12 months ago I jumped off Auckland harbour bridge one morning attached only by a rope. It was never my intention to do a Bungy Jump, it just happened, as things do when you are travelling and living life to the full. So the story begins in a pub called the Salutation in London’s Hammersmith about 2 weeks before I was due to set off on my travels. I was in the pub that night with Steve Jones, my New Zealand work mate at the time, and Jody Casey, ex work mate and house mate. Steve was going on about how New Zealand is the home of the Bungy Jump and Jody was talking about how he had just come back from New Zealand having done a few Bungy Jumps. I was intrigued, but on a whistle stop round the world trip, I wasn’t sure if I’d have the budget. I was pretty sure I was nuts enough to do it though.

In New Zealand adventure and mad sports are the key. Sky diving, Volcano surfing, Willy fighting etc. etc. they make up new sports and ideas all the time! I was quite intrigued, and I had remembered a conversation with my old housemate Steve Compton from 2004. Steve had spent a year in Australia and New Zealand doing the works, all the Bungy Jumping, Sky Diving etc. Steve told me that AJ Hackett was the one to do. Steve did the huge one “The Nevis” and I watched a video of him doing that in our old house at Holdenhurst Road in Bournemouth’s Springbourne district. Three years later and I was in New Zealand.

I stayed in the YHA International just off Queen Street (pretty much the main street and so central for Auckland). Having been jetlagged and unsure of what day, time of day or country it was or I was in, I was in a state of confusion. After getting out at Auckland airport (from Los Angeles) I got a Sky Bus to the Hostel, where I unpacked, then washed some clothes and chatted with some guys in the lounge. I also enquired about trips round the city, places to see, things to do and it all fell into place from there. I was still jetlagged and unaware of the time, so I put my name down for the next morning’s 8.45 am FREE Bus Tour of Auckland (and Devonport), which included a 10 am visit to Auckland Harbour Bridge and the chance to do a Bungy Jump. There and then I decided I was doing it. Just after this I had a walk through the city and by the harbour, taking in some sights and a visit to a pub called The Fox, near the seafront. Then I popped into Groovy Music, which is on the main street and is a fantastic CD shop. In there I appropriately bought the limited edition CD copy of the current Crowded House album ‘Time on Earth.’ I didn’t have a CD player to play the songs, but thought I’d buy it in New Zealand, since the band were from there. Great band, great album and already I was finding Auckland a great city.

After that I had another pint in a pub on Queen’s Street , which was The Queen’s Head. At this point the jet lag hit me and I went back to the hostel and konked out. I didn’t have any alarm, so relied on the sun shining through the window to waken me up for my 8.45 am Bus Tour. I still have no idea what time it was, looking back I think it was last orders in the pub on a Thursday night, either way I woke up around 7.30 am, had a shower, had some local tea and wheat biscuits and waited outside for the FREE Bus. Not only was the 5 hour bus tour free, but it also included FREE entry to walk along Auckland Harbour Bridge, which was normally 30 Dollars or something. I met a young Alaskan lady called Adrienne waiting for the bus and also noticed some Southern Ireland accents around. Adrienne was a very pretty lady, with a nice smile. I chatted to her about doing the Bungy Jump, but she wasn’t doing one. Once on the bus, the driver, Matty (a local lad) gave us some great insight into areas of Auckland, with an indepth commentary and sense of humour in between song exerpts. There were only about 20 people on the bus. There was a maximum of 6 per hostel, and luckily I had taken the last place from our hostel. We stopped at other hostels, but they didn’t fill their allocations. Near the start of the Bus Tour, Matty asked “Who wants to do a Bungy Jump?” Straight away I gave a big cheer and was the only one on the bus. Well I was surprised nobody else was up for it!! Then before I knew it we were at the AJ Hackett centre by Auckland Harbour Bridge and I signed a form and got into the Bungy Jump gear. The girls in there were very attractive so that took my mind off it, and for once I left my watch, jewellery and hat off and put it in a locker. I was worried they would fall off when I bungied! Looking back, my hair underneath was a mess, perhaps I should have kept the hat on (the one I’m wearing in the photo with the pint in hand).

I went first as I was the only Bungy Jumper out of the group, it was a nice morning, strangely not too cold for a New Zealand winter day, the sun shone over Auckland and the view of the harbour was amazing. One of the best sights I’ve ever seen as I walked along the bridge attached by a rope and a hook. I also had the yellow strap round me, which would be used later. It all happened very quick and I was totally still jetlagged when I went to do it. Once at the ‘Top’ of the Bridge, or basically half way along, from where you jump off I looked down and there was the water! I got a bit scared as everyone watched me get the stuff on. I had a voucher which entitled me to a DVD, Photo CD, Photo Book, T-Shirt and the jump itself for 107 New Zealand Dollars, which at the time was about £34. The two guys on the bridge got me ready and I reached out for a rope for some reason, when one of the guys said “there’s nothing to hold onto out there!” I realised I was on the edge of the platform and had to jump now!! Well in 5 seconds after the count down, a wave to the camera, and a very scary look downwards!

5-4-3-2-1-and off I jumped!!! Well it is a Bungy Jump so I just jumped off and wanted it to last as long as it could! I didn’t dive like most people do, or I didn’t go backwards like some people do, I went straight, just jumped and looked down all the way! It was incredible, as you fall further down you see the water, the world spins round you and you just pray that the rope is attached properly. It’s a great feeling of adrenalin, but obviously everyone will say that. The emotions flow through you and once you reach your arms out (and in my case try to touch the water and just miss) and feel the rope doing, you know you’re safe, you’ve fallen as far as it goes! After that you can check out the view and look up or down. I did all that in the second and third bounces on the rope, after which a pull or tug on the rope releases your feet from the strap and has it round your waist. This bit was also scary and I hung to the rope during this, as I didn’t trust letting go of my foot strap would be safe! As I hoisted this up, they pull you back up on the rope. Another moment to savour in life, this was, as James Bond style I’m hoisted up knowing I’ll be safe and taking a good look at the world around you. An amazing view of Auckland, with the sea still down below.

Before I jumped I remember hearing the Arctic Monkey’s song “When The Sun Goes Down” on the radio, its obviously just random what songs they play, but I liked this tune, and its on my CD (You Tube link below) as I’m getting ready, which is nice. Appropriately the sun was out and I was going down. A nice touch. Once back up I looked up at the video camera without realising it and I looked dazed, scared, exasperated and confused all in one!Its funny watching it. My long term memory is always vivid so strangely I remember it very well 11 months on, but wouldn’t have recollected so well the next day. My next memory is seeing an extremely gorgeous girl in a pink top come over and hug me, this was Ornella Lupo, who I had loaned my camera to, as she kindly took photos of me jumping off. Ornella was an Irish Italian, with a nice Southern Irish accent (I normally hate the Southern Irish accent mind you…) and she asked me if she should do one, as they still had the chance. Straight away I said “Do it! Don’t hesitate! It’s scary but amazing!” Then Ornella’s other two Irish mates came over and were talking to me, they were Laura Carroll and Shauna. They both wanted to do one, so I again said “Go girls go!”

This gave me the opportunity to watch three girls do what I had just done. I offered to take photos of them as they jumped off, I watched the first jump, Ornella from where I had jumped and then I moved down to the lower platform for a different angle. Watching was great too! After that nobody else wanted to do one, so from our bus of about 20 people, only 4 people did a jump, all 4 were from the island of Ireland, and just me from Northern Ireland! How mad. Then after that I got my DVD, watched my jump again and waited for the photos and t-shirt. It was all over in a flash, then the Bus Tour resumed! I remember the Killers song ‘Somebody Told Me’ coming on in the next part of the bus journey, which took us north to Devenport. There I spoke to two English ladies from Surrey, one was Katie, the other Vicky. We stopped for a traditional fish and chips at the chippy in Devenport and after the adrenalin of the Bungy Jump I needed a pint, so popped into The Devenport Pub for a quick Tui. In there they had a football of the 1986 Mexico World Cup, with the Northern Ireland fleg on it. Every thing was in its right place on a sunny July morning in New Zealand’s capital.

Of course the Bungy Jump I did was off Auckland Harbour Bridge and run by AJ Hackett, but it wasn’t a massive one! It was 47 metres which is enough for anyone. At the time I looked at the photo card, and there were four other AJ Hackett Bungy Jumps. The others all looked much scarier, with one being 134 metres over a canyon!! Not over water, now that would scare me. That is the Nevis Highwire Bungy in Queensland. Well I’d done my Bungy Jump, who knows if I’ll ever want to do one again. Maybe I’ll do a naked one someday. After the Bus Tour ended, I think I slept off the jetlag at the hostel. I had already said goodbye to the three Irish ladies. They were really good fun and I fancied all three of them! If we’d have gone for a drink together perhaps we would have found some love…or a bungy of a different kind.

That night I met Vicki and Katie (who were on the Bus Tour) in the First Base Backpackers which had a FREE All you can drink bar for residents/lodgers from 7 – 9 pm. I gatecrashed that enjoying the free beers, accompanied by Alaskan Adrienne from the hostel and chatted away to two lovely Australian ladies, Louise and Victoria, before getting drunk and resting my head after a crazy day on planet earth!

By 8 am the next morning I would be at Auckland Coach Station and on a coach to the wonderful city of Rotorua, where bizarrely enough I would meet Ornella, Laura and Shauna just a day later again. As I ironically spoke to Englishman Garth and Scottish girls Emma and Vicki ABOUT the Irish girls and my recent Bungy Jump, the three of them strangely pulled up in a Campervan. Random little end to the madness of jumping off Auckland Harbour Bridge on July 20th 2007…

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