12,000 feet high and rising!

Trip Start Feb 17, 2005
Trip End Feb 27, 2006

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Thursday, July 21, 2005

I definitely wanted to do a skydive in Wanaka because of the amazing scenery all around, but in order to see this you obviously need a fine, clear day. So far the weather had been ok, but just a bit too much cloud for my liking. I loved the skydive in Paihia, but it wasn't the best day weatherwise - I was prepared to wait in Wanaka for the perfect day!

So when I woke up on Thursday morning at 8.30am, I headed straight for the window, but to my disappointment, I saw clouds. The forecast did say it would clear up in the afternoon, and Nathan reassured me that it would be a perfect day for it (he's learning to be a pilot in Wanaka, and so he keeps a close eye on the weather too).

After breakfast, I walked into town to use the internet cafe, keeping a close eye on the sky in the process. When I came out an hour later, I was delighted to see a lot more blue. Sure there was a bit of cloud here and there, but it was very thin, whispy cloud that wouldn't spoil my views, and so I decided to go for it!

I went into the nearest Information Centre and the girl there gave the Skydive Lake Wanaka team a ring to confirm it. No going back now as I'd paid my deposit! I had nearly an hour to kill before I got picked up, so I walked along the beach, surrounded by the very same scenery that I would be falling towards in a matter of hours...at over 200 km/hour! So I thought I'd just chill out and listen to the soothing tones of...The Sex Pistols! It helped to get me in a don't-give-a...stuff(!) mood and I didn't feel nervous at all afterwards. Once again, excitement was the overriding emotion.

The guy did eventually pick me up at close to 1pm, but on arrival at the hangar there were about half a dozen people to jump before me. Still, I wasn't in a rush as the weather was getting better all the time, and I enjoyed watching the plane take off, then seeing the others plummet towards the ground 10 minutes later! I spoke to an English guy who was waiting for his friends - he'd just done the 15,000 feet skydive and he was raving about the scenery. I will also do one from 15,000 feet in Taupo at the end of my trip, as it is incredibly cheap there. For now though, I was content with a mere 12000 feet!

This outfit were a lot more professional than the one in Paihia, and when I had to go inside to watch a safety video, I thought my turn had arrived. However, the Receptionist said she'd made a mistake and I was actually going up with a German girl in the plane afterwards. That was fine by me, but she was apologetic and so she offered to email me my wing photograph for free as a gesture of good will (they are usually $20). Spot on!

I was called back inside again twenty minutes later, and I squeezed into my multicoloured jump suit. Before long, a smiley skydive instructor walked towards me and introduced himself as Eugene - as he rightly said, he was going to be my best friend for the next half an hour! He got me (tightly) harnessed up and went through the formalities, emphasising the most important thing...to enjoy it! I actually thought that the most important thing was to make sure we were strapped together quite securely, but I didn't argue!

He asked if I wanted to go first or second, and I chose second so that I could get a good view of the German girl leaving the plane. So we made our way across the field and boarded the plane, which was slightly bigger than the one in Paihia, and thankfully sounded less like a petrol lawn mower! All the time Eugene was telling me to relax and let him do the work - he really was a great instructor.

As the plane got higher and higher, the views became more and more spectacular. Eugene pointed out the main features, such as Mount Tasman, Mount Aspiring, Lake Hawea and of course, Lake Wanaka. It certainly was beautiful, yet it was also surreal to think that I'd be jumping out in a few short minutes! Maybe this surrealness explains why I haven't been nervous for either of my skydives, yet I was for my bungy jump in Taupo.

The 8 minute flight seemed to fly by (no pun intended), and before I knew it, Eugene was fastening himself to me - we were ready to go! The German girl shuffled to the edge, looking extremely relaxed, waved to the camera, and off she went!

It was our turn now.

There can't be many stranger feelings than hanging out of a plane, not holding onto anything and with your legs wrapped underneath it. The expectation levels are immense, and after a quick thumbs up to the camera, I tilted my head back and held onto my harness. 3-2-1 aaaaaaargh! This time I did shout during freefall as Eugene had encouraged me to do so! It really doesn't feel like you are falling though, not like on a rollercoaster when your stomach turns. Rather, it is more like a floating sensation as the wind is quite strong up there, and you are falling at a constant speed.

This time the freefall lasted for 45 seconds, and it did seem longer than in Paihia, but even so it only felt like about 20-25 seconds. 'Exhilarating' is a good way to describe the experience! When the parachute opened, an amazing silence overcame us which is impossible to describe, but then I could really enjoy the scenery. I even took out my disposable camera and took a few shots!

We glided towards Earth for a good 5 minutes, with Eugene doing a few little tricks that took us from side to side. He explained what to do on the landing, which just involved lifting my legs up and holding my thighs. This time it was a bum landing, but it was a perfect one and so I was thankful to escape with all my layers of skin intact! We shook hands and I asked all kinds of questions on the way back to the hangar, such as how many dives does he do in a day, where's the best place he's skydived, etc. Basically, questions everyone probably asks!

I stripped off my gear, watched some more jumpers get ready, then got a lift back to town. I promptly got my photos developed, and there are a couple of good ones in there - not bad for a camera I got free with some sun tan lotion anyway! I felt elated walking around town, knowing that I'd just got the best view possible of the lakes and mountains. The fact that I found a $10 note on the way back to the hostel was the icing on the cake!

My list of highlights in New Zealand is growing, but it will take something extra special to surpass the skydive over Lake Wanaka.
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