“ Mokai Bridge / P.O. Box 84 / Taihape / New Zealand / Tel: 0800 802 864 (NZ only) / +64 6 388 9109 / Fax: +64 6 388 9106 / Email: firstname.lastname@example.org / Website: www.gravitycanyon.co.nz. „
Mokai Gravity Canyon is a centre for performing a trio of adrenaline sports - bungee jumping, canyon swinging and their world famous flying fox. It is located near Taihape, New Zealand, a couple of hours drive North of Wellington.
===The Canyon itself===
The canyon itself featured in some river scenes of Lord of the Rings, so you may recognise it. The walls of the canyon are sheer and mostly bare with a few lone plants clinging on in a few places. The narrow road leading from the main road to the centre winds back and forth and crosses the canyon by bridge several times. As we crossed each bridge, I noticed that the river was getting steadily further and further below the road, causing the knot in my stomach to grow a little more each time with trepidation at what lay ahead. By the time we got there, I felt like I had had a dozen cups of coffee.
The adventure centre at gravity Canyon consists of a building clinging to the side of the canyon with a viewing platform from which you peek right out over the depths. This centre is the place that you pay for your activities and get weighed. The web pages specify a minimum age of 10 and minimum weight of 45kg for most of these activities and they're rated safe to extremely high weights.
Next to the building is the bridge across the canyon (from which you launch yourself for the bungee jump and the swing) and over which the intrepid voyagers of the Flying Fox must cross.
This centre has cafe facilities and a wide selection of T-shirts. I purchased one that reads in garish capitals "It's not a real sport unless you could die from massive internal injuries" - good taste, what's that? In terms of accessibility and support for people with medical conditions - speak to them in advance about your needs - the centre has disabled toilets, but you won't be able to do the flying fox very easily as it involves a steep climb up a hill with many steps. You do have to declare medical conditions, but unlike in the UK they don't automatically stop you from doing fun things.
At $110 (about £45-50) per person for the first activity, it's definitely not cheap, but if you do more than one activity in a day, then prices drop to $65 (about £25-30) per person per subsequent activity. Why not try all three so you get your money's worth?
This bungee jump is 80m and is the highest bridge jump in the North Island.
As all of us were old crocs with bad backs, we didn't do the bungee jumping here (though I have done this elsewhere before). But we watched several people doing so - this is a fantastic spectator sport and makes me laugh every single time. The willing victim gets attached to a giant elastic rope, shuffles out from the bridge on a narrow platform, a bit like walking the plank, then hurls themselves off into the void. At that point, they swear, scream or remain numb with terror as they drop like a stone. Some people carry on screaming the whole way through the activity. Then they are lowered down to the river, released from their rope and are winched back up again in a motorised chairlift.
This is the main activity to do and by far the easiest and least scary, although it does involve crossing the canyon by bridge then a 20 minute steep trek up a path winding around the edge of the far side of the canyon (which really gets the heart going) until you get to the launch station, then a heart-pounding wait as everyone else in front of you screams their way to oblivion (though fortunately they do come back grinning).
The fox is a huge zip-line which you are harnessed to in a complicated rig to provide streamlining and stop you hitting anything. Then, when released, you "fly" down head first, reaching speeds of up to 100mph as you soar down through the canyon, swooping down close to the water, then up up up again! You can fly by yourself or with one or two friends. We elected to go down as a trio to provide moral support and reassurances to one another.
We were rigged up into the complicated harness which encased our bodies like a coccoon to keep our legs out of the way. Once we were winched up to launch position, only our heads and arms were free. We donned goggles, linked arms as instructed, then as they were taking us through what was going to happen, they sneakily released us when we were least expecting it and away we went hurtling downwards! This proved to be like going on a very fast rollercoaster ride - stupendous fun and very exhilarating but actually quite tame as these things go. We felt a little bit bored as we waited for the ride to stop and for the pulley to drag us (backwards) back up the cliff to the station at the top.
I felt very happy (which was the adrenaline talking) at this point but a little bit let down, so I asked about the other options. They recommended the swing to me as being a lot scarier than the fox. Since I was hundreds of feet above the bridge at this point, the bridge looked very low, so I figured "How bad can it be?" and decided to have a go.
How bad can it be, indeed? Answer: Very, and then some.
I bravely strode out onto the bridge (quaking inside, but determined not to show it), got harnessed up in a contraption that went around my waist and legs and acts like a minimalist seat), my harness was attached to the swing ropes which in turn were was attached to the launch apparatus and then I was swung out over the side of the platform so that I was suspended by my harness in a seated position floating in mid air above the canyon. At this point, I was ready to go, but just had to wait for my photographer (who was being lowered into the canyon on the chair) to be ready to take pictures. I waved cheerily at the video camera above me that was recording my every move for posterity. Then, when they asked me if I was ready to go, I heartily lied through my teeth and said that I was. Then one yank from the operator, and I was falling.
All I had had to go on were that there were some ropes that led over to a pivot many tens of metres away. I could see from the fact that there was a fair bit of slack in the ropes that I'd fall a bit and then do a giant Tarzan-like swing through the canyon.
What I didn't know was that "a bit" was "50m". Now I'm sure you can imagine what 50m of freefall looks like, I hadn't seen it in action before I went on, so I (naively) thought that the rope would catch my weight almost immediately. Ho ho ho.
What actually happened was that there was more slack in the ropes than I had initially seen, so they visibly fell loosely away from me and I went plummeting downwards with the ropes falling away from me. I had time enough to think "OH NO, I'M NOT ATTACHED" before realising this wasn't very likely and discovering that PHEW, I was attached after all. Then *whoosh* through the canyon (missing the side by what felt like inches) forwards and backwards like a pendulum, before coming to a rest and being hauled back up again.
Then back to the centre to collect my certificate and buy a video of the experience. It's on youtube - search for AdventuresInNZ and you'll find my "bold" exploits as I try to pretend that I'm brave.
In conclusion, these sports are fantastic fun and really make a holiday complete. But don't underestimate just how scary they are. Similarly, though, don't underestimate what you are capable of - have a go if you can bear to - if I can do it then so can you! I'd like to pretend that I'd have another go next time I go back, but instead, I'll bravely say "Nah, I've done that before, time to try something new".
(Cross-posted to ciao)
Location: Mokai Gravity Canyon, Taihape, New Zealand
The chair Cost: $110
Gravity Canyon is all that people say it is, and then some more. A place for 'thrilling adventures of velocity and adrenaline'. The canyon is an amazing sight and of course the river should be viewed from all possible angles.
Now that was where my problems started. Jealousy.
I watched the exhilaration and tremendous adrenalin rush enjoyed by those leaping from the bridge, attached to what looked like a large elastic band. No, I couldn't do that (thinking of my poor old joints!). The Flying Fox? Wow! That looked amazing... but what a climb to get to the top (the old joints problem again.) The Swing - much better for, let's say, the mature person, surely. Except that you actually have to step out into space and... AGGH! No, think of the blood pressure.
However, the chair looked perfectly innocuous. Of course I could do that. I'd seen children doing it. Couldn't be so very challenging and just think of the views I would get. Well, it seemed easy from a distance. But then I had to walk across what seemed to be a rickety old bridge. Well, truthfully it was a perfectly sound, fairly new bridge, but imagination can be a fearful thing.
So I signed up, strode across to the middle of the bridge, trying to look calm and confident, clutching my camera, sure that I'd be able to take fantastic pictures of my daughter who was about to swing.
Hmm, the chair. The chair is water-powered and drops 80 metres, down to just above the Mokai River.
First a strong harness is put on, to tether you safely. This is fastened to the chair as well. Two seats are mounted onto a small circular platform, so you could go down with a friend, side by side but looking at each other. Your feet are supported by the platform (thank goodness.) A strong strap is fastened across your stomach. There is a central pole to hold, and believe me, I held on VERY tightly! The back of the seat supported my lower back, but my top half, could, theoretically lean backwards....No chance!
Then they released the trapdoor....
Resolutely staring ahead at the slowly changing canyon wall straight ahead of me, I went down, down, then paused.
The views! Look at the views, I thought. Aggh! It's a long way down! Breathe deeply, think calm thoughts. Meanwhile, voices finally percolated through my daze of abject terror, calling to check I was ok and ready to take the photos of said extraordinarily brave daughter who by now was swinging high above me. Take pictures? Release my vicelike clamp on the bars? They HAD to be kidding! No way. But nor was I about to admit that internally I was freaking out. Of course I'm fine, I lied bravely.
Actually, it was lovely to end up so close to the river, able to look up and down the canyon. Even going up did not seem so very bad. Up, up, up through the trapdoor. What?! Un-strap me? Were they sure the floor was back in place? I shook all the way back across to the base, then smiled to all and sundry and said, 'Wow! What an experience! Pity about your photos though.'
(Cross-posted to ciao and Igoyougo, with pictures.)
One of my best experiences while in New Zealand was at the Mokai Gravity Canyon an extreme adventure park. This is situated 20 kilometres South East of Taihape. Here you can do the North Islands highest bungy jump and New Zealands highest night bungy jump at 80 metres (262.5 feet). It also has the worlds first water powered chair lift and they are currently constructing what will be New Zealands highest Bridge Swing at 80 metres. However, the most amazing thing here, and the reason that we went, is the Flying Fox. This is launched from 175 metres (574 feet) above the Rangitikei River. We were told that you get to within 2 metres (6.5 feet) from the river on the way down, but it did not seem to me that we were that close. I guess shock and fright can do weird things to you, though, so I may well be wrong about that! The Flying Fox is 1 km (0.6 miles) long and can reach speeds of up to 160 km (100 miles) an hour depending on wind and the weight of the people on it. Solo, tandem or triple trips are available with prices per person ranging from NZ$80 - NZ$99 (about £28 - £34 currently). There are also deals available where you buy a package including for example the Fox (single) and a bungy jump. For up to date deals check the website: www.gravitycanyon.co.nz. There is a weight restriction; when you are doing the triple Fox this is at about a maximum of 100 kg (15.00 st 10 lbs) per person, but they are not super strict on this (I guess that it can really carry a great deal more than that, and this is why they are not too worried) the minimum is 38 kg (6 stone). To go on it you should not have any heart conditions, be pregnant or younger than 10. There are several other conditions that may rule you out, such as high blood pressure or epilepsy, but they may not necessarily mean that you should not, or could not, do it.
Okay, now that the basic facts are out of the way, let me tell you about my own personal experience of the Gravity Canyon. This will be heavily geared towards the Flying Fox, as you might have guessed from the information above. This is because that is actually the only thing that I tried in Gravity Canyon. I went to New Zealand to attend a wedding of an old friend of ours. He is Australian but used to live in the UK and his wife, who also used to live in the UK, is from Feilding, NZ, hence the reason the wedding was taking place in NZ. Well, my boyfriend was the groomsman at the wedding, and another friend was best man. The groom decided he wanted to buy the boys a present for travelling half-way across the world to do this and started looking for something suitable. In the end the mother of the bride suggested the Gravity Canyon and they decided this would be a great present. Little did they imagine that some people may suffer badly from vertigo and may not consider this the best present they have ever had
Anyway, the day we were going there we set off north from Feilding at about 9 oclock in the morning. It took us just over an hour until we got to the huge orange sign saying MOKAI GRAVITY CANYON 15 MINUTES. At this stage all 3 boys started to sweat profusely and nervously say that maybe we should do something else instead, its not too late. However, we kept going although the boys could not stop talking about how this was both the longest and shortest 15 minutes of their lives and about their wills and how they would like to be buried and remembered. I had already decided that I was doing it too but did not tell them that yet, just told them not to worry too much and it would be fun. The road takings us there was beautiful, winding through a natural environment over the river Rangtitikei. When we finally got to the car park we got out of the car and walked over to the viewing area where you can see the Flying Fox going past under the bridge and over to the other side. You can also see the bungy jump from the bridge and the chairlift. There was nobody there so we could not watch anyone doing any of this but walking up to the edge of the platform and looking down was more than enough to make you feel dizzy! At this stage the boys unanimously decided that we were leaving, and we would just say to anyone who asked that we had not found it or we did not have enough time to go. When Alice, the bride, and I said that we were most certainly not going to do that and that we were getting on it, you could see their hearts sink and their shoulders drop as this, obviously, meant that they would have to do it after all! Going into the café, which also serves as the shop and reception we had a close look at the videos of the Flying Fox playing on the TV, and the girl at reception, who probably saw how scared we were, arranged for a dummy to be sent down so that we could watch it live. At this stage, I still was not feeling scared in the slightest, just excited and eager to get on it. The dummy did nothing to make the boys feel better and there were 3 very white faces walking back into reception to pay for their triple tandem Fox. By this stage we had been joined by Alices brother so we could do 2 triple Foxes which made the whole thing a little bit cheaper. The staff at reception seemed very nice and professional. We had to weigh ourselves (which I thought was the worst part so far!) and sign a disclaimer form that I was careful not to read too closely, just in case I would start to feel nervous.
Crossing the bridge we started the climb up to the top. For anyone with asthma, you will be okay doing the Flying Fox, but bring your inhaler for the walk to the top as this is not unlikely to give you an attack, something you do not need just at this moment! It is a pretty steep climb and you need to be reasonably fit to get up there. Right at the very top you have to climb something that looks like scaffolding and is attached to the mountain wall, although not to securely by how it looks, or maybe that is just my imagination again
At the top the boys insisted they would go first and so got strapped into a massive blue harness. Looking down, we were all feeling pretty scared by now as it is HIGH! My boyfriend had started to look decidedly queasy by now and when he was all strapped up he turned around and said he would not do it. In spite of everybody trying to convince him it would be okay, he refused to even go near it. As I mentioned earlier, this may not be the best present for somebody who is petrified of heights. Instead Alices brother joined the other two boys. They got strapped up so that they were hanging with their heads pointing down towards the river, linked arms and .off they went! We were able to watch their facial expression on a little TV and it was fun to see how the completely petrified, white faces slowly started smiling. When it was our turn and we got strapped up I finally started feeling truly scared. You are completely helpless while they drag you around and attach wires to you. The worst part for me was when the guy doing it told us to let go of the gate I swear I tried but my hands just would not open. He had to tell me 3 times before I could bring myself to let go of my last hope of salvation. When we were all strapped up with our heads pointing down the guy turned around and said Ill see you in 6 minutes, well hopefully, unless something goes wrong. AAAAARRRRRRGGGGGHHHH was my response, I believe. Well, not much to do now as he released us. The feeling is hard to describe, you fly so fast it takes you a few seconds to take in what is going on and to start enjoy it, because enjoy it you will! It was absolutely amazing, and, strangely enough, not at all scary once you were doing it. We went across the 1 km to the other side, over the river, under the bridge just over the tree tops, and then we went back and forth a few times before they started to pull us back. This is when I started to freak out a bit. Going backwards slowly is much, much worse than going forward quickly. Getting close to the top I started to feel as if I was slipping out as you at an angle where all your weight is on your shoulders and chest. It was quite uncomfortable and although I knew I was safe, I still could not wait to get back to safety. Back at the top we all found it hard to find our legs for a moment, but the feeling was simply amazing. WE HAD DONE IT! Walking down we were all so proud and could not stop talking about our experience, and obviously also torture my boyfriend about him pulling out. Well, what did he expect Back at the café we got our diplomas and had a bite to eat outside to unwind. We ended up getting a copy of the DVD of us doing the Flying Fox. Unfortunately I am not sure how much it cost as I did not pay for it and did not have much time to think about worldly things like that after my experience.
To anybody considering something similar: this is truly one of the greatest experiences I have had in my life and I just want to share it with everyone, try it! It makes you feel good for so long afterwards, and unlike most bungy jumps you can do it with your friends, which is a great comfort when you start to feel that sinking sensation in your stomach. If you are really scared of heights or very unfit, do not even think about doing it as it will not be worth it, anybody else, just go for it. For further information on Gravity Canyon and to watch a video of the Flying Fox go to the website at www.gravitycanyon.co.nz.