I've always had a hankering to ride a Segway. Sure they look a bit naff, like a lazy way to see the sights, but they also seem nerdily cool.
Spotting the SegWai van on our own back door, Waiheke Island, seemed too good to be true. A phone call booked us on the Bay to Beach outing from Matiatia Bay (where the ferries come in) over the hill through the olives and vines at Cable Bay, down to Blackpool Beach and back to Matiatia.
Easy, we say, let's go. But Andrew Lanyon, our guide and Segwai director, says we first have to practise our manoeuvres on the flat grass at Matiatia.
It's a little harder than it looks. Eagerly, we clip on our safety helmets and run through the actions needed to move on these clever machines. On the flat, shifting our weight forward to - yes - go forwards, backwards for reverse, how to stop, how to go up and down hills, turning etc. Andrew has locked our ride control in to turtle mode, which limits our speed to a learner's 12 km/h, so we don't spin around too fast. Our digital display has a happy Segway face (it frowns if we get too rough or the battery gets low) and a battery charge indicator.
We tootle back and forth, up and down a practice hill until we're deemed ready to roll. There're outside weight limits of 45-120kg (with slight leeway and extra instructions for riders beyond those weights) and Andrew prefers riders to be aged at least 10 years old for safety reasons.
Andrew gives us the code word "bananas" which we are to utter only if we feel distressed.
We make our way from Matiatia along a beautiful bush track. The terrain is gentle and the scenery is easy on the eye. As time goes by, we're more at ease, looking at our surroundings rather than only the path in front as the Segway becomes an extension of our bodies. The machine reacts to movements needed for forward, back and turns but its self-correcting gyroscope means there is never any unexpected, unnerving movement.
Photo opportunities are offered at postcard-perfect locations such as Cable Bay where we weave through olive trees and vines, and then it's on along the roadside and downhill to Blackpool, enjoying Waiheke's stunning views that make overseas visitors' jaws drop.
Yes, we could stop for a glass of wine at Cable Bay, says Andrew. No, we couldn't be over the limit and ride. He carries a breathalyser in case he thinks a customer might have overindulged.
We pass the marae and century-old shipwreck Rahiri at Blackpool. As it's low tide, we're allowed to have a Segway play on the beach, weaving and splashing through the pools of water. When we tire of that excitement, it's back up through the quieter back streets of Blackpool to Alison Park's sculptures and the track back down to Matiatia.
We must have done something right as Andrew agrees to turn off our turtle controls. It doesn't feel too much different apart from the more pronounced turns.
Andrew also runs private hires, Segway corporate team building (think slalom and leaky bucket races) and offers a Marry Me on Waiheke option for wannabe fiances/fiancees. Picnics, bubbles and helicopter rides are all possibilities if the answer is yes. (Andrew admits he doesn't know what clients will do if the answer is no; maybe disappear heartbroken into the Segway sunset?)
SegWai is fun and something different. You could describe it as cool bananas even, but that might get you in a spot of bother if you yell it out during the ride.
There are two SegWai tours: A View to A View starts at Owhanake Bay; Bay to Beach starts at Matiatia.
You can also hire a GoPro to record how clever you are. Ph 027 545 2323.