Day 4: The Blue Canyon, West of Auckland, New Zealand.
05.22.2010 60 °F
Upon completing my skydive I was feeling euphoric and rearing to go for my next excursion so I decided to pop into the travel shop at my hostel. The Beach Bum tour of Waiheke Island was suggested to me and it sounded like the perfect way to unwind and get in touch with the natural side of New Zealand. Unfortunately 'twas not to be, as the tour would not be running the following day because the guide had to attend a funeral. Then I inquired about "canyoning," something I knew little to nothing about, but a fellow traveler in the shop told me she had a wonderful experience doing it and I would certainly not be disappointed. It looked a bit more energy-exhaustive than I was hoping for, though I held by my motto of saying yes to any activity I felt hesitation towards. So the next day…
Waking up at 7:30 this morning after a mere two hours of sleep, I was far from prepared for the day ahead. A full day of canyoning in the rainforest: trekking through the river, abseiling, going down natural rock slides, and jumping from waterfalls…sounds like a fun adrenalin-filled day, does it not?
Arriving early (for once) at the bus stop, the CanyonNZ van pulled up within minutes and out stepped a tall and muscular mustached man with a somewhat indiscernible accent - all ingredients for a wonderful day. After one more arrival (a young British girl) and a waiting time of 25 minutes…it looked as though no one else would be joining us for the festivities. Our guide seemed concerned as two strapping men were meant to be part of the group and without them we would have significantly less man power to carry the supplies required for canyoning. He offered us a chance to opt out mentioning in passing that we may have difficulty with the backpacks…but as this was my last day, I would not have another opportunity any time soon and off we went into the rainforest of New Zealand.
After getting kitted up and putting on our massive backpacks, we began the hike. It took a mere 15 minutes before I was fully winded and my face had flushed to a burnt tomato-red. The guide began to patronize me, demanding I hurry up because now I was in the "real world," (as opposed to the faux one I had been in previously?). About an hour of hiking in silence passed (I was reprimanded numerous times for chatting) before we reached the point in the river where we were to begin our "canyoning." Once again I was made to feel like a kindergartner as he insisted I look him in the eyes while he gave me his dozenth speech about the dangers of the events to come. To say I was on the verge of punching him in the face is putting it lightly.
Jumping into the water felt like body-slamming an iceberg. With the wind completely knocked out of me, I surfaced the water gasping for breath whilst simultaneously wiping my nose; it was hardly an elegant display and the guide seemed none too pleased with my performance. Apathetically asking if I was alright he then quickly trudged us on to our first natural rock slide…this was a milder endeavor and would have been rather enjoyable had I not swallowed a pint's worth of murky river water.
The further along we went, the more perilous the jump-offs and rock slides became…then we arrived at our first abseil. Though my confidence had increased a great deal, the guide felt I was far from ready to take on this endeavor myself, so he insisted I be lowered down the 20 meter (~approximate) waterfall. He jerkily let me down, making me smash repeatedly into the rock face. On the first ledge I was allowed to stand and he asked that I lean back into the harness, but as the rope had too much slack I feared of falling straight onto my bum. So I informed him that the rope was loose and he was more than quick to oblige and yank it up - slamming me face down into the rock ledge. Cheers mate. Suspicion leads me to believe that he did this intentionally…perhaps as revenge for having to deal with such a nervous nancy?
We completed the last abseil and I was more than grateful to be nearly through with the day…my body was cold and achy and I would have donated my kidneys to get as far away from this man as humanly possible. But as he had been vehemently rushing us throughout the day, I had every intention of taking my sweet-ass time on the last leg of the hike. Hours had gone by without us being able to take a moment to enjoy the lush rainforest canopy and I had signed up for this excursion with the expectation of touring another part of New Zealand in a unique way. Of course, he was not having any of that as he continued to push us along demanding silence and concentration. One of his weak excuses was that if the sun set then one of us broke our ankles this would pose a very dangerous situation and would be near impossible to have us rescued in. He added that just being in the rainforest at all during the night would make it far too treacherous for us to continue. I found these all to be unsatisfactory, as it was only 3.30 in the afternoon and we had a mere 30 minutes of walking left. Additionally when we walked slowly and carefully (as I prefer to do), were we not less apt to be injured?
For a self-professed Yogi (claiming to do Bikram Yoga every day), he is impossibly high-strung. It would not have surprised me if at his breaking point his mustache began to twist and steam poured out of his ears (à la Captain Hook). I would have happily mentioned this to him, but as I am quite certain he would have taken that as an opportunity to throw me from a cliff, so I kept my trap shut.
Arriving back in Auckland at 5:45 with all limbs in tact, I was left with only 15 minutes to shower and change before I was meant to meet a new friend…dilemma. Especially considering I had no mobile phone or means of contact. But all's well that ends well and I was off for my evening's adventures.
May 11, 2010