It all started with a push.
“Are you ready?” the guy asked. I gave him the thumbs-up. With that, he pushed me down the hill, a big grin on his face.
As I rolled down, all I could see were colours. Everything went round and round. Green grass, then blue sky. Green, blue, green, blue, over and over again.
First I was on my feet, then I was upside down. Up, then upside down again. Ice-cold water was getting into my eyes and stinging my nose.
It sounds painful, but it wasn’t. Far from it. I was rolling down a hill in Rotorua, New Zealand, in a ‘zorb’ – a three-metre sphere made of transparent PVC.
Not only that, a bucketful of cold water had been emptied in the zorb as well, so it was like being in a washing machine.
Of course, before the water is poured in, you’re given a choice. “Do you want to run dry like a hamster or do your clothes need washing?” I was asked.
“They need washing,” I replied.
As the water sloshed and swept all over me, I thought, “Okay, so this is what it’s like to be a t-shirt in a spin cycle.”
It never surprised me that New Zealanders had created the zorb. After all, they made bungy jumping famous and created canyon swinging, which is where you ride the world’s highest swing, 109 metres above a canyon floor.
Created by Kiwi brothers David and Andrew Akers and scientist Dwayne van der Sluis, the zorb is designed to be both comfortable and safe. Every zorb has an inner shell which you stand in to prevent you from being thrown about. A half-a-metre thick air cushion which separates the inner and outer shell protects you like how bubble wrap would.
The thing about zorbing is that there isn’t any point in being pushed down a hill in a big plastic ball. But that’s exactly it – like painting your toe-nails blue, there is no point. Just a wish to have plain, crazy fun.
So what happens when you reach the bottom of the hill, all drenched? You could come out hating the experience, wishing that you’d never done it. Or you could come out laughing from the zorb like I did, thoroughly glad that you tried it.
That was in June 2003. I’d just quit my job and wanted to go somewhere I would never forget and always love and even before I resigned, deep down I knew that that somewhere would be New Zealand.
New Zealand has always been special for my family. My parents met and fell in love in Auckland and when my brothers and I were still quite young, they took us to NZ for a holiday. We were only children then, but we could already appreciate the beauty of its lakes, glaciers and fjords.
So when I was old enough to travel on my own, it was only natural for me to decide that New Zealand would be the perfect place to celebrate my career change. After I managed to save some money after working for a few years, I bought a plane ticket and never looked back.
One of the cities I dropped by on my trip in 2003 was Christchurch, which was hit by an earthquake on February 22 this year. My heart ached when I read the news and saw the names of the same streets I once walked on all those years ago.
Tourism is important to New Zealand, and they need you to visit them. Some of my fondest memories were forged there- I kayaked alongside dolphins off the Kaikoura coast, I saw little hobbit houses and even walked into the set of the ‘Lord of the Rings’ once.
This is my contribution for Blog 4NZ. New Zealand is open for business, so do go there. You won’t regret it.