Feel the Fear and Ecozip Anyway.
My hot date is an adrenaline junkie and in my hand was my Ecozip Adventures ticket. How did this happen? I never go on theme park rides and I abhor heights. I don’t even like standing on a chair.
We arrived 20 minutes before our scheduled time as requested to sign the disclaimer and be weighed. These were the best scales ever because the hidden screen was only visible to the Ecozip staff member, the delightful Stacey. Once it was confirmed that I was within the required range of 30kg and 130kg, I did my best to enjoy the panoramic view while processing the huge expansion to my comfort zone that confronted me. As our group slowly congregated, Johnny was setting up the equipment. We were ushered into the area ready to get into our harnesses. By now I was terrified. We were given clear instructions by the friendly, confident and professional Stacey and Johnny. Putting on the harness was a multi step process during which the guys were told to put all their “furniture in the same room” and then we were ready for our group photo. We were to go down the Zipline two at a time. To my horror, after the Adrenalin Junkie volunteered, we were up first. Why me? How did I get here?
Stacey carefully explained as she was clipping us onto our ziplines, what the process would be and warning that we should not put our hands anywhere near the metal lines. No worries there, I was gripping onto my mesh lanyard for dear life. We were advised to stretch out limbs to slow down and curl up into a ball to speed up. On the count of 3-2-1, I cautiously pushed off from the step. The first Zipline is relatively flat, and low over the vineyard. It was noisy, fast and I couldn’t control what direction I faced. After about half an hour (translation: 30 seconds) I was swinging to a halt, Johnny was passing me the rope, and unclipping my harness. I clambered down the ladder and was a bit shaken up to be honest. Conversely, my Adrenaline Junkie was beside himself with excitement in anticipation of each subsequent Zip featuring a progressively higher gradient. He was very vocal in his enthusiasm. With a feeling of dread and butterflies in my tummy, I glanced longingly back at the Ecozip HQ. It wasn’t too far to just walk back and wait for the others to return later. But No, I had come this far and even if I wasn’t going to enjoy the experience, I was not going to give up. The others in the group started zipping down. Some of them had experienced Flying Foxes overseas and been stopped abruptly at the end by tyres or trees. They marvelled at the sophisticated magnetic braking system designed right here in New Zealand. Stacey showed us how to holler and yahoo properly as she came down last. I had a thought. Maybe adrenaline is not the enemy? Maybe I just had to accept it?
After walking the short distance to the next platform, we were first up again. This zipline, City View, was over a much greater height. I stepped off a little more confidently this time and hooped and hollered as I flew over the forest canopy. Unbelievably, I actually looked down and appreciated the beauty of a huge nikau from above. The last little bit had trees close on both sides. Then it was time to tuck my legs in ready for the landing. I climbed down the small ladder a bit more assured this time and we waited for the others to enjoy their turn. As they zipped down two at a time, amid much yelping and yahooing, I found that I was actually looking forward to the third flying fox.
Once we were all congregated again, it was time to walk through to the third and final zipline, Kurinui (translation: the big dog). By now I had morphed into a seasoned professional. Stepping forward ahead of my Adrenalin Junkie to be first to have their harness clipped on, I looked across at the panoramic view towards Auckland and marvelled at the huge area of forest way below me. I stepped off the platform and this zipline was very high and very fast. I screamed like a banshee. It was great fun! As I climbed down the final ladder - I promise I am not making this up - I proclaimed that I wished there was a further Zipline. [Apparently, subject to availability one can repeat the experience on the same day at a reduced rate]. After everybody had completed their third Zip it was time for lots of photos, both scenic and of each other.
Then it was time for the guided bush walk. I’m ashamed to admit that beforehand I was a bit blasé about this phase of the experience due to focussing on the flying fox. With New Zealand’s large number of reserves and bush walks, locals do get to enjoy the beauty of native forest on a regular basis if they choose. However, through the eyes of the international visitors in our group we were able to re-appreciate the uniqueness of our amazing environment. No wonder it was used as the inspiration for parts of the movie Avatar. The half-hour walk back was easy due to the path (designed and hand dug by Tony King-Turner) meandering in zig-zag pattern through the shady forest. Some parts had wooden boardwalks. Stacey stopped at regular intervals to enlighten the group on various native trees and plants that we encountered. Some keen photographers lagged behind with Johnny pointing out this and that. Everybody was enjoying themselves, it was just so informative and interesting. Stacey pointed out which plants were edible if we were ever stranded in the forest. The blokes behind overheard, caught up and were worried they had missed out on a feed! Time flew by so fast and suddenly we were in a sunlit clearing and back where we started. After handing in our equipment, there were bottles of chilled drink available for purchase and bbq tables to sit and enjoy the view. Three women who were celebrating a birthday were headed to popular Peacock Sky Vineyard, within walking distance. Others were off to Charley Farley’s at Onetangi, another highly-recommended choice.
So that’s my Ecozip story, what will yours be?
- Book in advance. It’s cheaper and you don’t have to worry about missing out due to lack of availability.
- Sunblock and sensible shoes are essential. More detailed information is provided on your e-ticket.
- The harnesses have a pocket to hold small things (eg. cellphone). I left my good camera at home thinking it would be too bulky however two of our group had sizeable cameras. Someone mentioned that helmet-cam could be fun.
- During the walk, appreciate the opportunity to hug “The Chief” of the forest. If you’re a guy you can give him a man-hug.
- Ticket price includes transport to and from several locations including Matiatia Wharf, or you can take your own car. For more details visit www.ecozip.co.nz