"From grandkids to grandparents - the Syline Luge is a fun filled gravity ride for all ages and abilities! Choose from two tracks, one scenic and gentle, the other advanced and adventurous. The scenic track is a leisurely ride with gentle gradient, easy bends and dips with several rest areas giving riders plenty of opportunity to stop and take great photographs and enjoy panoramic views... It's safe too. You're in full control!"*
This sounded fantastic. We wouldn't die, and I could take pictures.
We almost died.
The chairlift protected the children as effectively as a ten-inch butcher knife. I rode up the mountain with the three-year-old. I looked down at the forty-foot drop and out at the bar two feet from our bodies, supposedly strapping us in, and I clutched him to me. It was the only thing I could do. Two three-year-olds could have fit in the gap between the seat and the bar.
"I can't breathe," he managed to straggle out halfway up the mountain.
"Shhh, don't say anything," I said. "You might fall."
After we had bought our tickets and stood in line for ten minutes, we boarded the luges. The seven-year-old stepped into her luge and asked me if she could use the toilet after the ride.
"Of course you can," I said.
"Good, because the pee is dripping out," she replied.
"The pee is dripping out?" I repeated. I was just confused. The amount of time between a child's brain revealing that it has need of a toilet, and when the excretions actually come astonishes me.
I pulled the kid out of the luge. When I asked one of the workers where the bathrooms were, he said they were at the bottom of the run. We used the toilet in the staff quarters.
Luges in New Zealand comprise a big piece of plastic functioning as a sled, wheels underneath, and handlebars like a bicycle. Upon pulling the handlebars back towards you, the sled goes. When you release the handlebars, they push down the front of the sled and stop movement. It would have been simple, except that I luged with a three-year-old lunatic. From the beginning, he grabbed the handlebars and assumed control.
"I a crazy driver," he screamed as we accelerated out of the launching point.
"Yes, but you're not driving," I yelled. "I'm driving!"
"I a craaaazzyyyy driver!" he replied, grabbed the handles, and swung them back and from side to side. The luge flew down the track and switched directions faster than a rabid dog. I couldn't see anything but blurred colors. I seized the handles, steadied them from the psychotic swinging, and released them a little, so the luge would slow down.
"I driving," the three-year-old cried.
"I know, and you're doing great, but I need to help," I said. "We can drive together."
The unhinged child clutched the handles, yanked them back, and shouted, "I a craaaaazzzzyyy driver!"
"Oh my God!" I shrieked as we hurtled down the hill and crashed into the rubber-lined track. I gripped the handle in one hand and the child in the other.
"I'm driving!" I said with the authority of someone concerned for the safety of life.
The three-year-old nodded, seemingly accepting that I was the driver. Then he snatched the handles again like a little thief and turned us into the downward slope of the hill. Down we went. I screamed the roar of fatalistic terror while the three-year-old repeated, "I a craaazzzy driver!"
At one point a luge ahead of us swayed back and forth across the track in graceful, languid loops. We hurtled directly for it. As I wrestled against three-year-old strength to steer away from the ninety-year-old woman, we collided, the three-year-old shot forward and almost went head-first into the cement. I threw my arm around his waist and screamed, "Oh my God!" again.
I apologized excessively while the three-year-old smiled as wide as he could. When I sensed that he was about to clap his hands out of glee, I placed my left hand over his but continued saying sorry and looking at grandma. We finally made it to the bottom, my arms and throat aching, my heart pounding palpitations in my ears.
"Time to go back to the house," I exclaimed.
"We have one more ticket!" the kids reminded me and scampered off to the chairlift again. Luging was as appealing as a man's hairy, bearded back. I had to ride with the despot again.
* The link for Queenstown's luging site:
The sentence, "It's safe too," is highlighted in red on the website.