Luging Control in Rotorua, New Zealand

rotorua luge new zealandFor the uninitiated, Luge is a high speed thrill-seeker adventure sport, part toboggan, part go-kart.

One of the world’s best sites is based in Rotorua, New Zealand atop a high mountain only accessible by skylift. The Skyline Rotorua Luge offer three tracks of varying difficulty and when my brother and I visited what is one of the top tourist attractions in New Zealand, and found the long queues ahead of us we were damned well going to get our money’s worth.

We paid for three rides and as the traffic of people inched forward to the starting point, we watched with interest as the riders below us sped down the track with a total abandonment of safety.

To say I was nervous was an understatement. There were a few reasons for this:

  1. I’ve never ridden a go kart or other such vehicle which required the driver to be laying down, ass inches off the asphalt surface.
  2. I’m incredibly competitive and feared that racing my brother might bring out the risk taker in me.
  3. There were dozens of people watching, including my sister-in-law and niece who had a camera primed and ready to take pictures.

Our strategy was to use the first ride as a practice, getting comfortable with the luge and settling nerves. We decided to use the Beginner ‘scenic’ track to break in gently. The second ride, we would take it up a notch and use either the Intermediate or Expert, and make it more competitive.

The difference in skill level was typically due to the gradient of the decline, obstacles on the road, and narrowness of the track itself.

The moment we conquered the first ride my confidence was sky high. Seemed I was a natural! Perhaps my true calling was in Formula 1 racing, I thought.

IMG_0090Four kilometres of downhill weaving and bobbing around long looping corners, we were surrounded by a stunning landscape.

The initial descent was hemmed in on both sides by protective cushioned walls so there was virtually no danger to spectator or rider. Half way down the mountain, it became a little trickier to retain your balance even though you were at a low centre of gravity.

A few times on that first ride I had skidded off track on some loose terrain but quickly corrected course. Tucked away in the memory for the remaining rides.

On our second ride the competitive Reid Streak came out. We took the same expert track and although my brother got a headstart I used his slipstream to expertly race right past him and beyond. There was a brake on the cart but I wasn’t interested in using it, trusting my experience in Mario Kart for the SNES to guide my movements. I couldn’t ease up on the speed and wanted to create distance between us, as well as renegade riders who were converging from other tracks.

My self-confidence was misplaced. On a tight hairpin right, I approached it too fast, and tried to slingshot my way around but quickly ran out of road. I was thrown off the track and onto my side, dashing it against the loose gravel. It hurt like hell. A glance up the hill told me that my brother hadn’t yet caught up, so I got back on, thankful that no-one had noticed my fall and finally made it to the bottom.

IMG_0078For the final ride, he decided to take his daughter onboard which I was thankful for. I played cameraman as they slowly navigated the slopes. Little Millie was desperate for her father to speed up, but given what had just happened with yours truly, he wisely went at a conservative speed.

There is no way they could have Luge in Ireland or the U.K. Health and safety officials just wouldn’t allow it. People would be getting injured and suing the company. There would be too much negative press around the danger and lack of safety. While, it’s true that it is quite a dangerous sport, it is also incredibly fun and that’s the whole point.

This tourist attraction draws all sorts. Families, Dare-Devils, Tourists, Stag Parties and everything in between. This is an excellent youtube video of the track which gives you an idea of just how dangerous it can be.

Definitely something I’d recommend but it may bring out a competitive streak you didn’t know you had!

 

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