A few days ago I received a call from Ed, the English guy that I stayed with in Arrowtown. He and his girlfriend, Stephanie set up a skydive. When they called to book, the company informed them that they were running a special in June for people living in the Queentown lakes area. 50% off! Well, actually it was 2 for 1. Ed decided that he didn’t want to jump, and wanted to know if I was interested in taking his spot.
I’m in a pretty tight spot with money at the moment, I haven’t worked since I have arrived in NZ, and have been away from any meaningful income for the past 10 months. With this on my mind, I hesitated for a moment, thinking it better to save money, but then I realize that this whole trip, and all the money I did save up was for these exact activities….plus when am I going to get the opportunity to do it for half price again.
So I took the weekend off from cleaning the hostel, and rallied up to QT on Saturday for the early Sunday jump.
I thought that as the days before the jump approached I would begin to feel excited, nervous and anxious, but to my surprise these feelings never came, and I barley thought about the jump until I woke the morning of. Even as we drove into the air strip I was completely calm. I think after snowboarding and surfing, knowing that with those sports I am relying on my skill,which is not that great, to protect me. I have been slowly training myself to cope with the this kind of fear. I also think that a bigger part of my calmness came from the thought that I have an instructor strapped to my back that has done thousands of jumps.
So I suited up, got put into a harness, climbed into a tiny plane where 8 of us sat inside each others legs (4 customers, 4 instructors) and flew up to 15,000 feet to jump out of a perfectly good airplane. I felt good and relaxed, and had a chance to take in some of the most spectacular views I have ever seen.
We flew within 60 feet of 1000 foot cliff faces and around a mountain peak on our accent. I was able to see the Remarkables, and the ski field that is on the range from the air. The flight itself was worth the money alone. In the distance towards the west coast and Milford Sound, I could see the toothy spine of the southern alps and several peaks that stuck out above all others. The peaks where pointy and diamond shaped, steep and smooth. I imagine this is what the Matterhorn, or Everest looks like in the distance or from the air in there respective mountain ranges.
The door slide open, and we scooted to the edge. I was hanging from a man’s chest at 15,000 ft, out the side of a single prop plane. And the next second my stomach was in my throat falling away from the plane and flipping over to match our bellies with the planes to get a last view of the air ship, then just as fast another turn over to face the fast approaching ground. The first 10 seconds where quiet and an intense feeling of free fall, then the rush and friction of the wind started and it felt like I was laying still, the wind like a mat that I could push off and support my body.
I was completely relaxed, and exhilarated. I took in the view as the instructor turned me 360 several times. I looked at the lake below, the snow capped mountain peaks and the horizon in the distance. For 60 seconds, a full minute I enjoyed NZ from above falling at terminal velocity. We fell past the mountain peak elevation and I was looking level at the massive walls of the surrounding range and down at swirling sheep pastures speckled with white sprinkles that continuously increased in size. I was completely relaxed and comfortable.
The parachute opened and my feet were thrust downward and gravity took hold once more and the harness squeezed my body. We gently floated back to earth, performing a few swirls to speed the process. I lifted my legs and slid on the dew covered grass on touch down.
I can see why skydiving can become addictive. Afterward I had no usual effects after doing something that your body knows is unnatural and wrong. I wasn’t shaking, my adrenaline level was low, and I never got the wave of euphoria that I usually get after scaring myself. I felt very mellow, calm and relaxed. This was the last thing I expected from skydiving, but it was an awesome experience.