Adventure awaits on the inside of a giant inflatable ball.
Here I was in New Zealand, on my way to go ZORB globe riding, an adventure in which you crawl inside an 11-foot high inflatable ball. Strapped down with a safety harness, you’re pushed off and go tumbling down a steep hill with such an adrenaline rush, they call it an ‘astronaut-in-training’ ride. I hadn’t eaten breakfast because everyone had warned me there might be dire repercussions; the ride was that intense.
It was supposed to be a two-hour drive to Roturua, but I’d allowed an extra hour because I was driving in a foreign place on the wrong side of the road. My directions made no sense, and I’d already stopped at three different gas stations and was now even more lost. I stopped again, this time at a liquor store, but by now I was so nervous I was hyperventilating. “Would you like a drink?” asked the liquor store owner. It was ten o’clock in the morning, but I was almost ready to say yes.
Miraculously I finally arrived at the ZORB place, ZORB Rotorua. “Did you bring an extra change of clothes?” the person at the cash register asked.
“Why?” I asked.
“Because you’re going to get soaked.”
It was about 55 degrees outside. I didn’t want to drive back drenched. “No one said anything about getting wet,” I said.
“Well, you see, it’s too windy to do Zorbit, so you’re going to do Zydro. You’ll like it much better because it’s our wildest ride. We put water inside the globe and send you down the hill, zig-zag. You can buy a t-shirt and shorts here, and we have changing rooms and a hair dryer.”
Wildest ride? I wondered if he could hear my heart pounding against my chest.
You can still back out, I told myself as I read the agreement I had to sign:
Zorbit globe riding can involve risk of injury. If you decide not to take the ride, please just tell any Zorbit crew member and they will, even if you are at the launch pad, arrange for you to return to reception and get a refund.” But what would I tell my friends? That I’d chickened out?
I changed into shorts and a red ZORB T-shirt and waited with five others for a van to take us up the hill. No one spoke. From a distance, the hill hadn’t looked so threatening but from up here, it was as steep as Everest. At the top of the hill, I was first off the van, so, first to go down. Using a hose, the attendant dumped about a foot of water into the huge white sphere. “Climb in,” he said, pointing to a chute in the ball. Feeling a little like Alice and Wonderland, I dove into the opening and landed in a pool of warm water. “Turn around the other way,” he said, then pushed me down the track.
My body splashed around and I twisted and turned, but wasn’t upside down. My fear was replaced by excitement. It was thrilling, like downhill skiing and I began to laugh. And then the ball went faster, like a racing luge, flinging me from side to side, forwards and backwards. I screamed and kept spinning and sloshing. This must be what it’s like inside the womb if your mother is galloping on horseback, I thought. It was a combination of flying down a steep water slide and being on a loopty-loop roller coaster. The ball was spinning so fast I almost panicked. I tried to peer outside to see if I’d bounced right off the track, but it was like trying to look out a windshield during a torrential downpour.
And then, suddenly, the ball slowed and two attendants spun it around so that the water poured out like a deluge. I slid out, soaking wet, my heart still pounding, but with a huge grin on my face – me, the ZORBONAUT.
By Margie Goldsmith
Images provided by Zorb Rotorua