New venture for adventure-seekers
A helicopter ride, sunrise surfing and smoked bacon for breakfast? It sounds like a dream assignment. ANNA PEARSON gets a wake-up call with PrimalQuest.
From up here, at sunrise, Christchurch looks beautiful. It is hard to see the markings of a natural disaster, but Steve the pilot, who often flies this way on agricultural jobs, says they are there.
We float over the Port Hills, Lyttelton Harbour and Little River to Magnet Bay.
I think back to my desk at work and smile at the thought of the pink Post-it note stuck to my computer screen: "Gone surfing."
I am with two former special forces soldiers and a staunch hunter.
Rangiora man Liam and Sefton brothers Steve and Pete are PrimalQuest - a new venture hoping to attract adventure- seeking tourists from New Zealand, across the ditch and beyond.
They have the skills - hunting, piloting, backcountry skiing, surfing and survival.
And the toys - a helicopter, rifles, fishing equipment and mountaineering gear.
The business aims to offer people living "sanitised" lives the chance to discover their "primal" inner core.
PrimalQuest's website says for many, life revolves around "school drop-offs, water bills [and] the price of chops".
We exist, "but a lot of us do not really live".
Liam, Steve and Pete want to change this.
And at 6am on a frosty May morning, I am their first target.
In a helicopter hangar in Rangiora, Liam shows me how to hold my surfboard so it does not get thrust into the aircraft's spinning rotor blades.
He says when the time comes, I am to jump straight down - not up - for the same reason, the rotors.
I am also to stay well clear of the back of the helicopter; the exhaust is extremely hot and will incinerate my face.
And while I am stumbling around, faceless, the propellers at the back will finish me off.
The men wheel the Hughes 500D out of the hangar, fire her up and we take off.
Steve, piloting the helicopter in a pair of Red Band gumboots, takes us over cobweb mist to the coast.
Twenty-five minutes later, we land in a friendly farmer's paddock and Liam and I twist and turn into our wetsuits.
I tease him for being "soft" - he is wearing booties to ward of the numbness - and he teases me for having "claws" - unreasonably long toenails.
We get back into the helicopter and take flight over the bay.
Liam has jumped into bodies of water from hovering helicopters before, while on duty.
I am not in a war. I am at a left- hand surf break in Banks Peninsula on a pearler day.
The Press' photographer Iain McGregor is standing on the shore with a long lens.
Steve hovers a couple of metres above the surf and I climb down onto the railing.
Liam grabs hold of me, gives me a military-style nod and I jump.
The water, a couple of metres below, rushes towards me and, suddenly, I am a lot more awake than before.
I would do this every morning - an icy plunge into the sea, surrounding by enticing waves - if I could afford the helicopter.
Steve takes his mate a bit higher - just for fun.
The helicopter's rotor blades beat spray into my face.
I am grinning.
It is time to surf.
The sun comes up as Liam catches wave after wave.
I get my fair share too, each time hoping Iain's lens is on me for proof.
The surf is not huge - rendering the helicopter seemingly unnecessary, but it adds to the thrill.
Pete, with a lifetime of hunting throughout New Zealand under his belt, gets dropped in the sea a hundred or so metres away to look for paua.
He is unlucky, but gets a few mussels.
Steve whistles us in from the surf, where breakfast is waiting in a cast-iron pan on a smoking fire.
It is wild pork from another of Pete's hunter-gathering outings, chunkily sliced and smoked into the best bacon I have ever tasted.
Steve says the helicopter is booked in for maintenance so I squish my feet - by now two blocks of ice, into shoes and jump aboard.
It is still only 10.30am.
We take off for the fourth time, and fly back across the landscape, now painted in sunlight.
From up here in the mid- morning, Christchurch looks beautiful.
PrimalQuest formed this year and offers hunting, heli skiing, ski touring, surfing and fishing trips. It is owned and run by Rangiora man Liam and Sefton brothers Steve and Pete. Liam and Steve have extensive special forces background, which is where they learnt many of their skills. The company's "quests" range from crossing the South Island's main divide to helicopter-aided surf trips. More information is at www.primalquest.co.nz.