Let’s give it a go!: Fear Factory haunted house

Why? It was a rainy afternoon in Queenstown, and apparently the canyon swing wasn’t enough of an adrenaline rush for one day.

How did it go? It was much creepier and less cheesy than we were expecting. I don’t want to describe it in detail, because that would spoil it, but it was disorienting and interactive. We had to find our own way through the house in the dark while ghosts could be anywhere around us. They were listening to us and responding, too.

We had a nice chat with the owner at the end, and it was interesting to hear how she and her family decided to set up a haunted house. They’d only been open for about six months.

Would you do it again? I’d certainly try this kind of haunted house again. Even this one wouldn’t be the same a second time, so it would probably still be fun.

Let’s give it a go!: Luge


Why? When you buy your tickets to take the Skyline Gondola in Queenstown, they really encourage you to buy luge tickets too. We weren’t sure if it was worth doing, but we thought we’d give it a go, so we just got one luge ride each.

How did it go? It was more fun than we expected. For your first ride, you have to take the slower, scenic track to get used to controlling the luge. That was fun enough that we bought a second ride so we could try the faster track, and that was even better. The course was long enough and had enough twists and hills to be interesting, and the view was great.

Would you do it again? Yes! I wished we’d gone for one of the multiple-ride deals after all.

Let’s give it a go!: Paragliding [Beckie only]


Why? We kept seeing paragliders over Queenstown, and I kept thinking about what a great view they must have (Queenstown is incredibly beautiful). We went parasailing in the Bahamas a couple of years ago, and I loved the feeling of flying, but I thought that paragliding involved jumping off a cliff, so it would be too terrifying. However, we got the gondola up to the top of the hill overlooking Queenstown and saw some paragliders taking off. Turns out, the sail is inflated before you leave the ground, so there’s no terrifying free fall! After I saw that, I wanted to try it, and Jeremy ended up giving me the flight as my Christmas present.

How did it go? It was fantastic! I only had to run a few steps before we were in the air and flying. We rode the air currents up way above our starting point, and the view was incredible. I felt completely safe even when the pilot did some swooping tricks (I told him I’d done the canyon swing the day before, so he did the paragliding version of a swing). I think I was lucky to get a longer flight than some, but I would happily have stayed in the air even longer.

Would you do it again? Absolutely.


Let’s give it a go!: Canyon swing

Swing 01 - Multi [No Border].jpg

Why? We were in Queenstown, the reputed adventure capital of the world, so we thought we should face our fear and try at least one adventurous activity. We really wanted to try zorbing, which seemed more fun than dangerous, but it turns out that’s only available on the North Island. We kept seeing ads for the Shotover Canyon Swing, and it was highly rated on tripadvisor, so we decided that if we were going to do something adventurous, that would be our choice. The decision to actually do it took a lot longer and involved several trips into and out of the storefront before we finally bought our tickets.

How did it go? It was terrifying, but I was glad to have done it, and the swing part at the end of the free fall was actually fun. It didn’t quite hit me how terrifying it was going to be until we were all harnessed in and the operators were trying to get us to step up to the edge. They kept asking cheery questions about where we were from etc to distract us, and we just made up answers because we were too preoccupied by our impending fall to our deaths. I was muttering about backing out, and I think Jeremy would have joined me, but the operators didn’t give us a chance to reconsider. They kept up their chatter and convinced us to step up to the edge “just” to take a couple of photos, and next thing we knew, we were falling to the bottom of the canyon. The free fall went by so quickly that I don’t remember it, but it transitioned smoothly into swinging across the canyon, which was fun.

Would you do it again? They actually give you the option to do a second jump within the next day or so for a fraction of the price. If I’d considered it for a few more minutes, I probably would have gone again while we were there (and done a different style of jump–you could hang upside down, or sit in a chair, for example). Unfortunately, I took my harness off while I was still thinking about how terrifying the initial jump had been. I did keep thinking about going back the next day, and if it hadn’t been a bus-ride away, I might have done it. Instead, I did something much more fun, which will be the subject of the next Let’s give it a go! post. I don’t think there’s any way Jeremy would do it again.

Let’s give it a go!: Glacier hiking


[I thought New Zealand Fortnight would be a good time to report on all the things we gave a go in New Zealand]

Why? Part of New Zealand’s charm is that it contains numerous geographical features that are not usually found together in one country, including glaciers. There are two famous glaciers on the west coast that you can hike on: Fox and Franz Josef. Unfortunately, Franz Josef glacier has receded to the point that you can only reach it by helicopter. We did think about doing the more adventurous heli-hike, but it didn’t seem worth the additional cost (and we’ve been in helicopters before–once while I was flying it!), so we just did the half-day hike. It turned out to be rainy, so the helicopters wouldn’t have flown anyway.



How did it go? It was fun! The glacier definitely looks more impressive when you’re on it, and it was cool to see different features like crevasses and tunnels relatively close up. The guides had carved out a path for the half-day hikes that went past a couple of different features, and we got to walk through a kind of fissure in the ice. I was a little jealous of the full-day hikers we saw who didn’t have to stick to a pre-marked path on the ice, so they could go looking for cooler features like ice tunnels (they also got full crampons, instead of half-shoe ones).


Would you do it again? I probably wouldn’t hike on just any glacier again. But, if we were near an especially impressive one, where we’d be able to walk through ice tunnels or something, I’d be interested.

Let’s give it a go!: Touring a rum distillery

[No photo! Because of “health and safety regulations,” everyone had to put anything with a battery into a locker before the tour began.]

Why? We were in Bundaberg, home of Bundaberg rum, which is virtually unknown in the US but very big here in Oz. (In terms of market size and presence, the best US analogy might be Jack Daniels, not Bacardi or any other rum). We saw it recommended on Trip Advisor, so: “Let’s give it a go!”

How did it go? I’m not a rum drinker, but when companies set their mind on providing a good tour, they can really do a good job. Appealing tour guide team with appealing patter, and all that. The running gimmick was trying to get us to yell “Huzzah!” at something positive and “Poppycock!” at something negative. The tour started with molasses vats and ended at the bar, where each adult got two free drinks.

Would you do it again? This is the second time I’ve seen a tour of how alcohol gets made (the first was the Sierra Nevada brewing company in California), and both times I was glad I went. So probably not another rum distillery, but definitely up for something else in this vein, especially if it ends with drinks.

Let’s give it a go!: Ice cream made with liquid nitrogen


Why? After eating dinner last night, we saw Nitrogenie nearby and exclaimed, “Let’s give it a go!” After all, how can someone resist the slogan Ice Cream From Magic.

How’d it go? There is perhaps a more general lesson, that could be called “The Parable of the Dippin’ Dots.” Dippin’ Dots had the slogan Ice Cream Of The Future, but Dippin’ Dots are dying out, because the ice cream of the present is pretty awesome and hard to improve upon.

The idea of this place was nifty, as was all the fog swirling behind the counter. But the ice cream itself wasn’t as good as what you’d expect from a specialty ice cream shop. Not bad, but a place that’s whole business is ice cream needs to be better than that. The alternative would be that they could make the process of making your ice cream more of a production, but other than the fog about there wasn’t much to see.

Would you do it again? There are enough alternative sweet options in that area that I suspect not. Maybe someday.

Let’s give it a go!: Reading glasses [Jeremy only]


Why? Because I’m getting old! Apologies for my senescence being a recent “Let’s give it a go!” theme.

How’d it go? I used to wear glasses all the time, and then had my eyes fixed with Lasik about 10 years ago. The Lasik people said over and over that it didn’t fix the problems that led people to need reading glasses around age 45. I’m more than two years short of 45, though, so I’m not sure if this is premature aging, or if the Lasik people were given an high-end estimate.

I had them awhile before I started wearing them, but I feel like my eyesight has gotten noticeably worse since I’ve arrived in Australia. Now that I’m used to them, it’s easy just to leave them on–it’s just like being near-sighted, and weird how easy it is to tolerate stuff being blurry in the distance when all one has to do is lift the glasses for it to be clear.

Seeing them in the mirror has also taken some getting used to, but one upside there is that they help with the racoon-eyes problem.

Will you do it again? Now that I’m wearing them a lot, I regret to see that the sensibility of bifocals becomes plainer every day. So perhaps they’ll be another optometric-related “Let’s give it a go!” soon.

Let’s give it a go!: Trip Advisor

Why? Between Trip Advisor and Yelp and Goodreads and Amazon and Boardgamegeek and I-don’t-know-what-else, we use other people’s reviews quite a bit when making decisions. But we haven’t done much reviewing ourselves.

When we were on the New Zealand trip, we resolved to give Trip Advisor reviewing a go. As is my wont to turn casual notions into dramatic resolutions, I declared that we should have doing at least 100 reviews as our goal. (Username for our reviews: beckie+jeremy)

How’d it go? We’re somewhere in the 30’s at this point, I think, and mildly stalled. We’ll see if we make it. TA does what they can to provide you with feedback, in terms of sending you a thank-you for each review, having different sorts of “achievements”, letting you know when somebody clicks your reviews as helpful, etc.. And they do not take very much time to knock out. Still, it’s also not especially rewarding, and it’s hard to know how many people are going to actually read your review as opposed to just look at ratings.

Would you do it again? Of course, TA makes more sense if you are traveling. I’d still like to get to 100, so we’ll see how we integrate it into our next trip.