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?
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.
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.
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.
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”.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.