It’s that time of semester again.

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Well, it’s that time of year again: the end of semester, where all your professors think it’s a great idea to make all your reports due at the same time.

I’ll be tackling those reports for the next week…

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…in the hopes of not failing all my classes. Though it’s going to happen anyway. Australian universities are weird.

So if I’m MIA for the next week or two, you know where I am!

(Sorry about that! I have a lot I want to write about Australia, trust me. But grades come first!)

In which I belly-flop out of an ancient hunk of ice. (Fox Glacier, New Zealand)

I’m from the Northeastern US. It’s cold there. We get snow and hail and blizzards and mornings where you wake up to find your car encased in ice. People from cold climates, you know what I’m talking about.

Ok, so this is an exaggeration. But you catch my drift.

Ok, so this is an exaggeration. But you catch my drift.

Therefore, when my friends wanted to see a glacier in New Zealand, I wasn’t sure what the hullabaloo was about. Isn’t a glacier just a big hunk of ice?

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I guess I had to see what the big deal was.

So my friends and I booked a tour of Fox Glacier, located on the west coast of New Zealand’s southern island. The glacier is actually inaccessible to casual passerby– it’s too dangerous for untrained folk to venture there alone. Instead, professional guides provide the necessary equipment to tourists and make the trip together.

As we hiked to the glacier, our tour guide liked to remind us of how much danger we’d be in without him.

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What’s with all the landslides? New Zealand is located on the Pacific Rim of Fire, a geographically active fault line. In fact, the mountains of New Zealand are constantly growing, at a rate of (I think) about half a centimeter per year. However, New Zealand’s geology is full of sheared, layered rock. Rainfall is heavy, snowmelt is rapid, and earthquakes are common. As a result, NZ is full of beautiful cliffs and mountains…

This is what we hiked through!

This is what we hiked through!

…that are subject to constant collapse.

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Fear not! After a short hike, we safely reached the glacier with no casualties.

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In order to safely traverse the glacier, our tour guide had us strap crampons to our boots. Ice is slippery, after all!

Like these!

Kind of like these!

In fact, the tour company staff created a path for us to walk on.

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So, we could safely walk on the glacier.

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One of the people in my group was from Egypt! He’s never seen snow before.

It was mind-blowing. We were walking on 100-year-old ice! I seized the opportunity.

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Yeah I brought cups! It was the cleanest, freshest, most refreshing water I’ve ever tasted.

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The highlight of the walk was when the tour guide found a small tunnel that had naturally formed in the ice.

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Photos?! Heck yeah! I handed off my camera to one of my friends and wriggled into the tiny opening…

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…only to find out that the tunnel was filled with freezing rainwater. I pushed myself on my stomach, trying to avoid the frigid puddles as much as possible.

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At the end of the tunnel was a small opening in the top where we could climb out. Problem is, the opening was quite high and I am quite short. I had some trouble getting out…

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But hey, at least I got the picture I wanted.

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So now, I have photographic proof: even the coldest, wettest, and slipperiest journey can be a good time! Fox Glacier sure was. Even if we came back soaking wet.

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I might have been freezing for the rest of the day, sure. But it was still worth it.

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And I’m sure my friends agree!

“If your friends jumped off a bridge, would you?” Apparently, I would.

Kia ora!

As you might know, I’ve recently returned from New Zealand! Alive! Seriously, I consider this quite an achievement, especially considering some of the things we did. If you’ve seen the video I posted up a little while ago, you’ll understand what I mean.

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That’s right.

I did the bungee. 

Bungee jumping purportedly dates back thousands of years ago on Pentecost Island. A village woman, trying to escape her abusive husband, jumped off a cliff. Her husband, shocked to see his wife fall to her death, jumped after her. What he didn’t know was that the wife had actually tied vines to her ankles to catch her fall. She survived the jump, he did not. It later became customary for men to bungee to prove their manhood.

How much of this is true, I don’t know. Either way, it inspired some members of the Oxford University Dangerous Sports Club to jump off a bridge in 1979. Though they were arrested, they continued the trend in the US by jumping off hot air balloons, cranes, and the Golden Gate Bridge.

Commercialized bungee jumping didn’t begin until 1988, when seasoned adventurer AJ Hackett (who, upon many things, illegally jumped off the Eiffel Tower) opened up a permanent bungee site in Queenstown, New Zealand. Nobody expected his business to last. After all, there’s only so many tourists who’ll want to jump off a cliff before the fad dies down, right?

Wrong. The AJ Hackett bungee company flourished and grew, eventually expanding to Australia, Russia, Singapore, and more. Since the company’s humble beginnings, millions of adreneline-seekers have taken the dive.

And I was about to become one of them.

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Oh god.

What was I thinking when I signed up for this?

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Well, my friends signed up, so I did too. I immediately regretted it.

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And I continued to regret it.

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There was only one thing that kept me going.

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It’s true: AJ Hackett has a no-refund policy, so I might as well get what I paid for. And I paid for a lot. My friends and decided that we should go big or go home and signed up for the Nevis Highwire Bungy, the third highest bungee jump in the world.  Jumpers experience speeds over 80 miles an hour and over 8 seconds of free fall.

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The Nevis Bungy is not available to the public and can only be reached by taking an AJ Hackett shuttle from Queenstown. It’s about a 40-minute drive to get there, where you can get nice and cozy and think about what you’re about to do.

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We climbed higher and higher in the mountains, until we finally reached this. 

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Rather than starting from a cliff or a bridge, we would be jumping out of this fine platform over the Nevis River Valley.

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The platform had glass panels in the floor, where we could observe exactly how much we were going to fall.

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And that’s when the jitters, more than ever before, hit me.

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Though, I don’t know what I was so scared of. There have been horrific injuries due to bungee jumping, but they’re the exception to the rule. AJ Hackett, in particular, has served millions of jumpers with a nearly spotless safety record. I would be strapped in not only by my ankles, but with a body harness as well.

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Staff on the platform rotated the dozen or so jumpers in and out of the harnesses. I watched them, nervously, until my turn came. I sat on a chair where a man proceeded to tie my legs together, talk me through the process, and lead me to the ledge.

By now, as you can imagine, I was freaking out. All rational thoughts had gone out the window. I had no idea how I was going to make myself step off that platform.

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Seriously, any cognitive ability I had was gone.

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And for that totally nonsensical reason, I stepped into the air almost immediately.

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Because I dislocated my left shoulder in the past, they had me hang onto my belt with my left arm. Hence the awkward one-armed jump!

The sheer force. The wind. The river rushing up to meet me. I couldn’t help but close my eyes. I didn’t open them until the bungee cord caught me and sprung me back up.

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The second fall wasn’t nearly as scary as the first. However, it was at this time that I noticed a slight problem.

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I guess I need to tie my shoelaces tighter, because my sneaker had slipped halfway off my foot. As I hung upside down, there it teetered , threatening to fall into the river below. My beleaguered mind latched onto one thought.

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With what little core strength I have, I reached up and nabbed it off my foot…

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…and concluded my jump, victorious.

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So how was it? 

I have to admit: it was really fun. I was freaking out before, during, and after the jump, but it was pretty awesome. Would I do it again? Maybe after five years of recovery time. Do I regret doing it? Not at all.

How could I regret it when I got a free t-shirt…

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…and this video proving my jump? (Go ahead, laugh at my ridiculous yelp as I jump. So uncool…)

And, of course, the satisfying feeling that you’ve done something that you never, ever expected you’d be able to do.