5 Ways to Cheat Death in New Zealand

I've been researching New Zealand like mad for the past day or two, prepping for an upcoming trip. More than anything, what I've discovered is this: while there are an absolutely humbling number of relaxing things to do in beautiful settings -- winery touring, hiking without end, lazing on the beach -- New Zealand also boasts a tourist economy based in large part on assisted near-suicide. It was they who popularized bungee jumping, for instance, and skydiving enthusiasts will tell you there's no better country in which to jump out of a plane at 12,000 feet. But these days, bungee-jumping is old news, and as Kiwis continually try to outdo themselves in the adrenaline department, the list of semi-absurd, totally insane adventure sports grows daily. Here are a few of the strangest. Photo above by Peter McBride.

5. Parabungee

Jumping off a bridge or Auckland's 328-meter Sky Tower not high enough for you? Try parabungee, which looks like a normal tandem parasailing trip until you cut the harness linking you to the jumpmaster / parasail pilot. Here's a video of someone doing a 1000-foot parabungee jump, and then cutting the bungee cord, essentially base-jumping from the end of his cord. Yeesh.

4. Fly-by-Wire

wire.jpgA bizarre but exhilarating experience where you control a high-speed plane on a leash, at speeds of up to 170km/hr. From the sound of it, you'll feel (and look) a bit like Evil Knievel, without the broken bones. Compared to parabungee it's definitely tame, but strange nonetheless:

3. Canyoning

This ain't your parents canyon adventure. When most people hear "canyoning" (including, until recently, me), they think of canyoneering, which is the process of moving through canyons and finding your way, even if you have to climb out and rappel down into an adjacent drop. Not so canyoning. Going down is the point, and the more waterfalls you can jump or rappel down, the better. I'll let National Geographic's Tim Cahill, who's actually done this, explain:

We clipped into fixed ropes at the tops of waterfalls, and Ros showed us how to ride the falls to the deep pools at the bottom. You lie on your back, put your arms over your head so that you don't break your elbows on rocks, inch forward, and rush down with the water, sometimes falling almost a hundred feet. We rappelled into shallow pools, did a Tyrolean traverse across the stream at one point—"no worries," Ros said, "you'll be 'roight"—and at the bottom, we slid through a long, narrow, sinuous passage that Ros called "the Tunnel."

NZ.jpgPhoto: Peter McBride

2. Canyon Swinging

If rappelling down the canyon wasn't thrilling enough for you, there's always the canyon swing. It works like this: there are two cantilevered platforms sticking out of either end of the canyon, and a sort of bungee cord connects them. You strap on one end of it and jump. Again, Tim Cahill:

The world dropped out from under me. I plummeted 90 feet (27 meters), and then the swing started. I found it was rather faster than I'd imagined. This was a little different from the bungee, since I wasn't used to falling into a 300-foot (91-meter) warp speed swing from a sitting position. Meanwhile, as I swung under the station where my rope was anchored, I couldn't help but notice that the wall of the cliff rushing by me to the right seemed but a few feet (about one meter) from my face. (I was probably 40 feet [12 meters] away, but it seemed too damn close.) Then, soon enough, I was swinging gently back and forth, taking in the view. Double paragliders were doing loops overhead, jet boats were tearing across Lake Wakatipu below, and the luge-bikes were winding down a cement track at truly silly speeds. Ah, Queenstown. I was winched back up to the anchor platform by the safety rope.

1. Jetboating

Not particularly suicidal but definitely thrilling, jetboating is a Kiwi invention: "An inboard engine sucks water into a tube in the bottom of the boat and an impeller driven by the engine blows it out of a nozzle at the stern in a high-speed stream. The boat is steered simply by directing the stream." (Thanks, Lonely Planet.) I had never heard of jetboating before, but apparently it's doable in almost every New Zealand river town of any size, most notably Queenstown, where a bracing trip down the Shotover river -- the same one you can rappel down and swing across -- gets you within inches of jagged rocks. Wear a rubber coat and plastic underpants for this one. Here's some video:

The Real Bay of Pigs: Big Major Cay in the Bahamas

When most people visit the Bahamas, they’re thinking about a vacation filled with sun, sand, and swimming—not swine. But you can get all four of those things if you visit Big Major Cay.

Big Major Cay, also now known as “Pig Island” for obvious reasons, is part of the Exuma Cays in the Bahamas. Exuma includes private islands owned by Johnny Depp, Tyler Perry, Faith Hill and Tim McGraw, and David Copperfield. Despite all of the local star power, the real attraction seems to be the family of feral pigs that has established Big Major Cay as their own. It’s hard to say how many are there—some reports say it’s a family of eight, while others say the numbers are up to 40. However big the band of roaming pigs is, none of them are shy: Their chief means of survival seems to be to swim right up to boats and beg for food, which the charmed tourists are happy to provide (although there are guidelines about the best way of feeding the pigs).

No one knows exactly how the pigs got there, but there are plenty of theories. Among them: 1) A nearby resort purposely released them more than a decade ago, hoping to attract tourists. 2) Sailors dropped them off on the island, intending to dine on pork once they were able to dock for a longer of period of time. For one reason or another, the sailors never returned. 3) They’re descendants of domesticated pigs from a nearby island. When residents complained about the original domesticated pigs, their owners solved the problem by dropping them off at Big Major Cay, which was uninhabited. 4) The pigs survived a shipwreck. The ship’s passengers did not.

The purposeful tourist trap theory is probably the least likely—VICE reports that the James Bond movie Thunderball was shot on a neighboring island in the 1960s, and the swimming swine were there then.

Though multiple articles reference how “adorable” the pigs are, don’t be fooled. One captain warns, “They’ll eat anything and everything—including fingers.”

Here they are in action in a video from National Geographic:

Pop Culture
The House From The Money Pit Is For Sale

Looking for star-studded new digs? For a cool $5.9 million, reports, you can own the Long Island country home featured in the 1986 comedy The Money Pit—no renovations required.

For the uninitiated, the film features Tom Hanks and Shelley Long as hapless first-time homeowners who purchase a rundown mansion for cheap. The savings they score end up being paltry compared to the debt they incur while trying to fix up the house.

The Money Pit featured exterior shots of "Northway," an eight-bedroom estate located in the village of Lattingtown in Nassau County, New York. Luckily for potential buyers, its insides are far nicer than the fictional ones portrayed in the movie, thanks in part to extensive renovations performed by the property’s current owners.

Amenities include a giant master suite with a French-style dressing room, eight fireplaces, a "wine wall," and a heated outdoor saltwater pool. Check out some photos below, or view the entire listing here.

The real-life Long Island home featured in “The Money Pit”

The real-life Long Island home featured in “The Money Pit”

The real-life Long Island home featured in “The Money Pit”

The real-life Long Island home featured in “The Money Pit”

The real-life Long Island home featured in “The Money Pit”

The real-life Long Island home featured in 1986's “The Money Pit”

The real-life Long Island home featured in 1986's “The Money Pit”



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