Queenstown Part 1

What can possibly go wrong?0

08:20: First day of the two days rest in Queenstown, today is the day of the Skydive. I’d be lying if I said I was not a bit apprehensive, but I’m not apprehensive about what you think. As I have come out of the tent Queenstown in covered in clouds and I am really apprehensive about that. The web weather says it should clear out by 11 and I hope that between the preparation and flight up it will all just be perfectly clear, either that or I might just ask them to put me back an hour or two as it should be cloudless later in the day. I am not apprehensive about the dive, what could possibly go wrong?

William Gilbert Rees, the founder of Queenstown

While I wait for the sun to come up let me tell you about yesterday. I went for a little jolt around town. I had set in my mind that I was going to get a great steak, just in case it was the last chance to have one, but then, partly as something going wrong  was a stupid idea, partly as I was too hungry and I had a couple of slices of pizza and an ice cream (separately), I decided that I would leave the steak as for today.

Queenstown looks like a fun place, it looks like one of the european seaside/ski resorts but cleaner and fresher. All the restaurants and bars look great, and there is no sign of the louthish behaviour so common in places like this. I guess it’s New Zealand for you.

25th time lucky, all other times I tried to take a picture of the flag I never managed to get all 4 stars.

You might be wondering why I took a picture of the flag, well, when I was a child I remember clearly my granddad having a geography book, perhaps an atlas of some sort and I remember how I spent a lot of time looking at the page with all the flags. I did not know it then, but the two flags that most caught my imagination were the Australian and New Zealand one, I still think it’s very cool and I also think I might have to identified the southern cross in the sky a couple of nights ago.

Looking out in the lake

The view from Queenstown harbour is not quite as stunning as from Wanaka, the promontory which hosts Queenstown Gardens is in the way. If you go to the top of it however you get a wonderful view of the Remarkables, the mountain chain I hope to dive over today.

Truly Remarkable(s)

Other than that it was just soaking in the atmosphere while writing a bit. I caught sight, and took a picture of theTSS Earnslaw Steamship that cruises the lake, they call her “the lady of the lake”.

The lady of the lake

Then in a walk around town I took a shot of the shops, I wonder in how many other places you see such a frequency of extreme activities shop.

This is why I call Queenstown the capital of crazy.
This is why I call Queenstown the capital of crazy.
And this is right above the camping, the arrival point of the gondola.
And this is right above the camping, the arrival point of the gondola.

09:44: remember when I said I was not too apprehensive about the dive? doesn’t just time make things change. Having a coffee and a cake from the bakery next door to the NZone place, will go there in 10 minutes to check if we’re going now or later to wait for the clouds to clear a but. I have decided that £110 is not extortionate to get it all filmed and pictured. After all I will never have to invest in a photo reportage of my children in 30’s outfits.

Weather not great but improving
Weather not great but improving

10:20: Nope, moved by an hour, will be back at 11:00 to see. The sky is clearing and, having decided I’m going to get the reasonably priced picture and film package, I’d really like for it to be clearer. In saying that there must be a thrill going into the clouds not knowing how high they are and what’s on the other side. A bit like cycling downhill blind folded, which of course I do a great deal of.

11:40: It’s all go, the weather is better and the paperwork is done, the intro guy has told us that once we’re on the plane there is no going back, they just trow in a little push for free. We’re off to the mini van that will take us to the launch site. It’s a 20 minutes ride in which everybody is trying to make polite conversation and not focus on the jump. Everybody is quite interested by the tales of the bike ride and we get there in no time.

Waiting for my turn by the very plane.
Waiting for my turn by the very plane.
and snapping some skydiving humour.
and snapping some skydiving humour.

12:40: Time to suit up, I did not think it was going to be this quick. The beautiful stranger to whom I am going to suit up is a Dutch chap, Henk, and the man at the camera was Will, they are both very skydive cool with lots of high fives, thumbs ups and ILY signs. I put on the harness, get checked and we do some photo and video pre departure.

Sorry, where did you say we're going?
Sorry, where did you say we’re going?

13:00: Time to go. I get to the plane first and it looks like nobody is following, mildly bemused. Still not panicking at all, as a matter of fact I’m calmer than I was before. We get into the plane which has no seats and a polythene door, we sit on the floor each one of us within the open legs of the person behind. The trains are in threes with me having Will in front and Henk behind me.

The really cool thing is that the training is very much as-you-need it, entering the plane Henk told me where to put my feet on exit, on the plane he told me what to do in flight and diving, as well as teaching me how to drive the damn thing, he taught me how to land. I guess it pays to be a quick learner as I have seen a girl in the group before me land face first. I did not laugh I promise.

13:10 We’re up, the ascent, just short of 15,000 feet, actually 16,400 adding Quennstown altitude, was great, got to take in all the views and at the same time marvel at how steep we were going up without us all not sliding down at the back of the plane. When we hit 11,000 feet Henk handed me a tube and explained that at 12,000 that would have been oxygen coming out of it, needed for the last 3000 feet.

Nooooo, I forgot to sign my will.
Nooooo, I forgot to sign my will.

15,000, there we go, the signal, a couple of left right wing flaps, was given by the pilot and up went the plastic curtain that was the door. Henk told me to put myself in position and that he was going to do the rest and before I could realise all the people before me, remember I was the first in and hence the last out, had gone.

We were not on the ledge for long and off we went, a back flip in free fall and it was back facing down feeling a lot of hair in the face and my arms, now extended, wanting to stay behind and get detached from the rest of me.

Aback flip
A back flip
With a lot of world below.
With a lot of world below.

The time in controlled fall, that is once they release the guide mini-chute, was fun and it was fun to interact with the cameraman but part of me would like to do it again without the filming, to be able to pay more attention to the wonder of the world seen from a rather unusual angle, and moving at a great speed towards me.

See if you gues where I edited.
See if you guess what I edited out.
The view is truly something else
The view is truly something else

The time in controlled fall is, inn a 15,000 feet dive, roughly 1 minute and then comes the big pull.

When the parachute opens you really feel it, and then actually it becomes scarier. While before there are no forces you can feel acting on you, you’re in near free fall and it’s just the wind against your face, with the parachute open you really feel like you’re hanging from something, an awful long way from the ground. You just start feeling the unpleasant desire of the earth to have you back.

The good aspect of this phase of the flight is that, after you get taught how to land, you get to drive the whole thing turning left and right and doing quick corkscrew actions. I guess at one point I had become a bit to confident in the corkscrew thing and Henk asked me to slow down not to get to close to the people below us, ouch!

Fast approach
Fast approach
and then touch down.
and then touch down.

The landing is not the most elegant thing but I guess it is difficult when there is two of you to do it any other way, let’s just say you slide down on your back.

After that is just high fives all round and congratulations on coming out of it with your skin in one piece.

High fives
High fives
Henk and me, shame Will had to take the picture.
Henk and me, shame Will had to take the picture.

14:00: All over and on the way to Town.

So what do I think? Would I recommend it? Would I do it again? Hell yes! To both of them. In fact I do not discount the fact that I might enquire what is involved in learning how to do it, as I guess that doing it on one’s own must be the real thrill.

Before I close for the day and focus on finding a nice steak house for tonight, did I mention Krity? She was the person that jumped next to me, not sure if just before or just after. She’s a lovely thrill seeking Indian girl from Delhi. Her husband sat this one out, but he’s going, under duress I believe, to do the bungy with her tomorrow.

Skydiving is something for serious people
Skydiving is something for serious people
no it's not !!!!!
no it’s not !!!!!

Kirty is really sweet, we talked for a while before the jump and I told her about how Tarn used to say that people after they die they end up on clouds. After we landed and we were removing all the harnesses, she smiled at me and asked if I had looked to see if I could see her up there.

8 Comments Add yours

  1. Shirley says:

    Glad you’re still with us. X

  2. Clair says:

    Thanks for taking the photos Alex I get a vicarious experience that there’s not a chance I’d ever do in reality. Cx

    1. Alex says:

      Number 1: wait till you see the video.
      Number 2: you should not discount it

      Once you’re on the plane the worst is gone and the freedom of the free fall is unique, perhaps Freud might have something to say about that. Still, it helps not having much to loose to start with.

      1. Clair says:

        My vertigo means I can’t use the escalators on the tube – think sky diving is out but thanks for doing it for me – will enjoy the video when it comes

  3. David Bills says:

    Props to the camera man. Great video, and he had to spend a lot of time looking at you through the lens! Ha ha. You have some big huevos, my friend.

  4. Jimmy. says:

    Thank you for sharing your sky dive with us. It’s probably the only part of your adventure
    that my dodgy legs could cope with. Great pictures. Wonderful memories
    Jimmy and Brenda.

    1. Alex says:

      I’m sure you’d give me a run for my money in the bike too.

  5. julca says:

    Caro Alex, denaro assolutamente ben speso quello di oggi. Grazie per averci permesso di partecipare alla tua avventura.
    Sono certa che Tarn si era nascosta per bene perché tu non ti distraessi.
    Buona notte. Kisses

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