Waiheke: A Hop, Zip and a Jump from Auckland

Last night, after walking home from a coworker’s birthday party, I lay in bed thinking about how lucky I am to be here.

(Actually, before I hit my buzz-induced gratitude phase, I fixed myself a 2 a.m. bowl of stove-top popcorn, made my 54th attempt at getting into “Orange is the New Black,” failed, closed out of Netflix and realized I didn’t need an excuse to make popcorn. Popcorn is life, you guys.)

After all that, though, as I lay in bed drifting off to sleep, it hit me what a wonderful day I’d had. Thus far, pretty much every aspect of this trip has been positive – my coworkers have been incredibly friendly and welcoming, I’ve made friends quickly, I’ve found very laid-back roommates and a cute little house (I’m hoping to do a tour in a future blog post!), and I’ve already had the chance to do quite a bit of exploring and adventuring.

I’m not always good at living in the moment. (That also sounds like a good future topic, actually.) I’m very guilty of lusting after new travel experiences only to find myself unsatisfied and yearning for the next thing once I get there. It’s something I struggled with when I spent the summer in Europe back in 2009: I had set out to have a pivotal and once-in-a-lifetime experience, but although I had a great time touring the continent alone, I looked forward to my return to the U.S. the entire time. Of course, after I returned, I spent years reminiscing about my trip and wanting to relive it. So is the human condition, I suppose.

But last night, I discovered that I’ve matured a lot since my first solo adventure. On this trip, I’ve been much more able to immerse myself emotionally in my experience. I’ve been able to focus on the excitement at hand rather than feeling homesick or looking forward to the end of my journey.

Case in point: I fully appreciate how awesome it is that I spent yesterday ziplining around New Zealand!

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My friend Hayley invited me along on this adventure. I actually think Hayley is going to become something of a celebrity thanks to my mad blogging skills. She’s probably going to be in here a lot because – well, because she’s awesome – but also because she’s doing a personal project called “Year of the Epic” in which she does one crazy-awesome thing every month for one year. This works out perfectly, because I obviously want to do as many epic things as possible while I’m in New Zealand.

Hayley invited me to zipline across Waiheke Island! Waiheke is a pretty big chunk of land off the coast of Auckland, and is home to a bunch of wineries, some vacation homes, a cute little downtown district and a population of about 7,000 people. We took a 30-minute ferry ride across the water to get there. Once we’d arrived on the island, we were picked up by our tour/zipline company (EcoZip – Hayley asked me what I thought made this eco-tourism excursion particularly green, to which I replied, “I don’t know – you get to glide past trees?”).

Our zipline guides, Gavin and Helen, were really chipper and cheerful, and I think their enthusiasm was part of the reason no one in our group seemed nervous at all. We went in a group of eight (including Hayley and me), so it was a good size for facilitating conversation. We were able to meet some cool people as we zipped around.

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We did three zips (is that the appropriate noun?) in total, each lasting about 30 to 40 seconds. The zips (I’m just going to go ahead and make that a thing) progressed upward in speed and altitude – we were told that we cruised along at a rate of 60 kilometers per hour on the final zip. Ziplining isn’t really that intense. You essentially just strap yourself into a (rather uncomfortable) harness, jump off a platform and glide through the air over breathtaking scenery. We definitely clipped along at a heart-pumping rate, but there was nothing super scary about the experience.

After we’d finished zipping, we hiked through the forest back up to our original take-off point. Gavin and Helen pointed out native flora and fauna along the way, including the kauri tree, which was apparently James Cameron’s inspiration for an important tree in “Avatar.” I don’t actually remember much about that movie, so I can’t really place the reference.

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Note: That’s not actually the kauri tree. It was just a tree that Gavin told us was ideal for hugging.

The experience was really fun and definitely worth the trip out to Waiheke. After we got back to Auckland, it was time to get dressed up (those harnesses aren’t exactly party attire) and hit the town.

You know that feeling you get as you fall asleep after a day of swimming or riding roller coasters? How your body kind of feels like it’s still in motion? I definitely got that feeling before I fell asleep last night – I could still feel myself gliding across the sky, picking up speed and careering over grape vines.

That, or I had more fun at that party than I realized at the time.

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