Clinton Aides Take A Plunge

With an afternoon of golf, it was a quiet day Tuesday for President Clinton. The same cannot be said for his staff.

They went bungee jumping from a bridge and careening through rock-walled river canyons on jet boats.

After three days of diplomatic meetings and summitry in Auckland, Tuesday was adventure day in Queensland, a playground of snowcapped mountains and scenic lakes and rivers.

Swallowing their fears, Clinton economic adviser Gene Sperling and presidential counselor Doug Sosnik dove from the bridge 142 feet above the Kawarau River, saved from peril by a cord wrapped tightly around their ankles. There are videos and pictures to prove it.

Sperling, in particular, looked nervous as he stepped to the edge but then extended his arms in a confident swan dive and plunged headfirst toward the water.

Â"It's a long drop,Â" deputy press secretary Jake Siewert said after his own jump. More than a half dozen White House aides took the plunge.

While declining bungee jumping, press secretary Joe Lockhart and National Security Adviser Sandy Berger, accompanied by a bodyguard, took a thrilling jet boat ride in the Shotover River canyons. The drivers aim their high-speed boats at canyon walls and then veer away at the last second with just inches to spare.

At other times, they steer their boats into 360-degree turns, throwing up plumes of water that drench the passengers. The ride was a hit with many members of the presidential entourage.

Queenstown bills itself as the adventure capital of the world.

Some members of Clinton's party went paragliding, jumping off a mountaintop in a parachute harness with an expert. There also were opportunities to go skydiving Â"no experience necessaryÂ" for jumpers who want to fall from a plane hooked to an instructor with a parachute.

Local companies also offer hang-gliding, helicopter skiing, horseback riding, rock climbing, parasailing, rafting and other thrills.

Â"This must be a country without lawyers,Â" Siewert joked.

Written by Terence Hunt
©1999 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed