New Zealand Adventure: Day 2 (Skydiving)Posted: December 29, 2011
Queenstown, NZ -Day 2: Now, I’d be lying if I said that we were well rested and ready to go after the first night in our hostel. There was a club on the first level and our room was positioned on the corner right above the street. The night was filled with Euro-dance beats and inebriated youth shouting in all languages right outside our window. We awoke early and grabbed a coffee and a small bite across the street before heading to the Skydiving office for our pickup. Jacob and I arrived, signed our life away and picked out the skydiving package that we thought was the best bang for our buck. We went with a 12,000 ft dive (45 second free fall) with the picture package as an add-on. We loaded onto an NZone bus with maybe 10 other people and headed out of town towards the drop zone. The 15-minute ride was filled with silent anticipation for the most part, and then a few jokes were told to ease the tension, which helped.
When we arrived at the NZone (Skydiving) complex, as you can probably guess by the pictures above, we were awestruck with the view that surrounded us. Jacob said that he was glad he waited to skydive, so that he was jumping in the most beautiful place on earth instead of a random flat field somewhere in America, and I agree with him completely. Before our jump we did some interviews on my phone (in case we died), and I played a game of ‘giant chess’ with our new Columbian friend Hector as we watched the group that went before us fall from the sky. I also got a chance to meet with a couple of Brazilians who had just jumped almost an hour ago and were waiting for a ride back to town. Our time was up, and our names were called. We went to the hanger and put on our jumpsuits and were given a very brief demonstration of how to contort our bodies like a banana during our free fall. Moments later our plane arrived and our tandem buddies grabbed us and we walked the long walk towards the deafening sound of our tiny fixed-wing airplane.
I can’t speak for Jacob (I think he was as nervous as I was), but I was attempting to put my mind somewhere else during the take off and ascension part of this journey. There were maybe 12 of us crammed into this little plane. While we were going up my dive buddy (Ed) was sitting with his legs spread open with me between them, basically sitting on his lap, as he strapped me to him. I was going to ask him if he was sure I was strapped in right, but I figured he’d done this a few thousand times and probably knew what he was doing. It took us a few minutes to reach 12,000 feet, but once we did, I realized that I would be the first to jump (after my photographer). Things got very real once the light turned on and the sliding door was thrust open. My adrenaline skyrocketed as Ed and I scooted towards the door. I put my feet out and strained to keep them together. I tucked them under the plane, put my head back, and leaned forward. Ed gave a few rocks back and forth, and we jumped right after my photographer.
There’s definitely a strange vertigo feeling for the first few moments, and then falling through the clouds is a bizarre experience and kind of tastes like the smell after a heavy rain. Meanwhile, several other people have jumped above me, but Jacob and another person in our group had to go on another pass because the wind speed was picking up, and they needed to drop them back closer to the field where we would be landing. Jacob told me that he thought they were cancelling their jump because it was too windy, but then they opened the door again and got to jump. The whole time we were falling, we were captivated by the amazing sight below and all around us. Both Jacob and I were surprised at how it was somewhat difficult to breathe at times, and if you opened your mouth wrong, wind would gust in and steal your breath.
After the 45 seconds of free fall and absolutely breath-taking scenery, Ed pulled the parachute (without telling me) and everything went silent. For the past several minutes I’d heard a noisy plane and then gusty wind blowing past my ears at a high velocity…but now, nothing. To be honest, I thought I was dying for a second because everything went silent and my photographer kept falling for a few moments. I understood later that he had to get down to the ground before us so he could take a picture of our landing. When we got closer to the ground, Ed told me to pull my knees to my chest and then stick them out straight for the landing. Ed steered the parachute like a champ and we even did a few corkscrew maneuvers before finally landing softly, precisely where we were supposed to. I was alive, and I was smiling. Adrenaline was still coursing through my veins as I gave random people high fives and strutted back to the hanger like Ethan Hunt from Mission Impossible.
Several minutes later I watched as Jacob went careening through the air with his tandem buddy and landed safely in the same field I had. He was smiling ear to ear and was just as happy to be alive as I was. Take a look at Jacob’s free fall experience below…
The group after us wasn’t able to jump because the wind speed was too high, so we were also grateful to be able to jump that day.
When we got back to town we grabbed lunch with Hector and reminisced about the time we all went skydiving and lived to tell the tale. We sat out at a restaurant that overlooked the harbor of lake Wakatipu, which was carved by a glacier. It is the 2nd largest lake in the Southern Lakes district, and is 400 m (1,225 feet) at its deepest point.
Jacob and I explored the town for a while that afternoon and then picked up the pictures of our skydiving exploits and headed to a famous burger joint in town named Fergburger, where the line from the restaurant to the sidewalk outside spoke for itself. The burgers where enormous and loaded with extras, and I honestly took maybe three bites before I got to the actual burger. Since it doesn’t get dark until almost 10:00pm we were having a rough time getting completely synced, but we both caught a quick nap and then checked out the club below our hostel, which was a fun place to people watch and to just meet people from all over the world. Jacob started keeping track of every country of the people we had met and spoke with, and by the end of the trip…it was impressive.
We had an early morning ahead of us where we were supposed to go on a jet boat tour of Paradise Valley (where a lot of LOTR and The Hobbit was taped) and then take canoes back down the Dart River towards Lake Wakatipu, so we called it a night. We were lulled to sleep once again by Euro beats and overly loud laughter and chanting.
To be continued…