Overcoming her fears, Donna McIntyre tackles Waiheke's latest adrenalin buzz.
"Hi", says the guide, "I'm Paul."
Nice to meet you, Paul... I'm Petra ... fied.
And so I am, standing on EcoZip Adventure's 5.6m platform looking across Trig Hill vineyard and wondering if I can muster the courage to step off into the yonder and start zipping. Waiheke Island is laid out below me, Tamaki Strait stretching out to Auckland.
My husband, our two youngest sons and a friend, all far more fearless, have already flung themselves into this adventure with gusto. That just leaves me, with the guide counting to three.
Oh, what the hell, I'll be beating myself up if I don't try this. After double-checking I am clipped on to the wire above ... it's happening... flying over Ecozip's Trig Hill Vineyard of syrah patiently growing towards a first harvest in 2016. I even manage to keep my eyes open. Kind of neat and kind of freaking scary for someone with a fear of falling from a height. But worth strapping into my harness and harnessing that fear, looking out at the amazing views, rather than thinking about all that space below.
EcoZip is Waiheke Island's newest thrill. It provides an adventure with stunning scenery that deserves any superlative you want to throw at it. And it caters for eight-year-olds through to 88-year-olds ... as long as you're at least 30kg and no more than 125kg. You ride three ziplines, named the Vineyard, City View and Kurinui (the big dog), all 200m long but progressively higher off the ground.
To get the best value for money, book the package deal. EcoZip vans pick you up from the Matiatia wharf and the driver gives you a spiel on the way to the 7ha Onetangi property.
Ladies, don't even think about wearing a dress or skirt; gentlemen, be prepared to look like you're budgie smuggling as you're told to "keep your furniture in the same room". Also, you'll need sensible, enclosed shoes and comfortable clothing as after the rides there's a 1.4km bushwalk back to "HQ". The privilege of enjoying the native bush is just reward for braving the ziplines as you meander along the track cut by Tony King-Turner with "floating boardwalk" built by Don Stodart.
The operation has been kept as local as possible. The three investors are New Zealand citizens or residents, the bulk of the technology and material used is New Zealand-made and/or designed and the guides are Waiheke Island residents.
The rides have dual flying fox ziplines, so you can zip with a friend or family member. For those who like a bit of technical knowledge with their adventure, I can tell you that a pair of carabiners attaches the rider's harness to a lanyard (actually a double lanyard), which is attached by another carabiner to the double-pulley that sits or rides on the twin ziplines. The Kiwi-invented Zipstop brake mechanism allows riders of varying weights to safely slow to a stop at the end of the zipline as they approach the landing platform, where a guide unsnaps them. Each ride lasts about 30 seconds at 30-50km/h, plus there's waiting/watching time while the rest of your group goes through.
Our boys' verdicts? Aubin: "All good, fun. The last one was the best, it was the highest off the ground." Jamie: "Good, I'll be telling my friends to try it."
Once you've zipped and bushwalked, you can wander along the road to sample wine at Peacock Sky vineyard or take the van or walk 20 minutes to Onetangi to Charlie Farley's or the beachfront. We chose Charlie's and enjoyed a close-up view of the beach we'd seen from Trig Hill, calamari and catch of the day for our efforts matched with Passage Rock chardonnay, as a salute to the EcoZip.
EcoZip Adventures: ph (09) 372 5646
Walk-up price is $119 adults, $79 children. Pre-booked is $99 adults, $59 children. Roughly a three-hour experience (two hours if you are already on the island). Family package (Mum flies free) two adults, two children, $217. Pre-booked price includes pick-up from the island ferry and a range of drop-off locations afterwards.
Charlie Farley's Restaurant and Bar: ph (09) 372 4206
Peacock Sky: ph (09) 950 4386.
Ferries: Click here.
Donna McIntyre was a guest of EcoZip Adventures