Skydiving is probably the last thing on the mind of someone who, like me, has a fear of heights. You may recall how Rock Climbing in Thailand was a real challenge for me but I was quite intrigued how by the end of the experience I felt much more comfortable.
I was keen to do more height-related activities as I travelled, so when I heard about skydiving over the mountains in Queenstown, New Zealand, I knew I had to do it.
The weather was perfect for it (you’ll see from the photos) and the experience certainly didn’t disappoint. It’s one of the top day time activities I’ve done on my trip.
After arriving at the NZone office in town, around twenty of us were ushered into a room and given a waiver to sign. Standard stuff for any extreme sport.Â As we all read through our waiver, a video played in the background. That video was an example of the footage you could have made of your own experience. Until now, I had never paid for photos or videos to be captured of an experience, but after watching it, I was sold. A DVD video, printed postcards and photos available to download online.
In order to get those photos and video, it involved another skydiver, with two cameras strapped to his head, to jump out the plane at the same time and follow you down. That’s got to be the greatest job in the world hasn’t it? Paid to jump out a plane several times a day without having someone strapped to you.
Sending people up in batches meant you got a chance to see others come down before you. The cameramen would be first. One cameraman was so confident, he was able to needlessly navigate himself between two trees to land. After hearing these guys had a 100% record, most had several thousand skydives under their belts, I knew I was in safe hands.
After I had put my jumpsuit on, my harness and clipped my hat and goggles to myself, I was ready to go. Around ten of us were crammed into a small plane. That plane was doing laps, taking around 12 people up, but bringing none of them back. I’ve been in a small plane before, when my family got me a flying lesson experience last year. Similar to back then, it was a rickety plane. Unlike back then though, this plane didn’t have a door, but rather a transparent shutter to keep us in.
They say the scariest part of skydiving is the plane ride on the way up. To tell you the truth, I wasn’t scared at all.
This was my thinking – it’s probably the safest I will EVERÂ be in a plane. There I was, strapped to the front of a guy with a parachute already on his back and with several thousand successful landings. If I was ever going to be in a plane crash, this would be the BEST time for it to happen.
The scenery on the flight up was amazing. Queenstown is home to skiing in the winter and next to lakes and greenery, so the scenery going up (and coming down) were snow-capped mountains, deep blue lakes and green fields. The visibility that day was so good you could even see across to Mt Cook.
When it was time to jump, the shutter was lifted and the cameraman balanced himself on the ledge outside the plane. We shuffled across to the door where my only job to do was “curl my legs back under the plane”. The skydiver I was strapped to put a hand on each side of the opening, heaved three times whilst I gave a grin to the cameraman and BOOMâ€¦ we were thrown out the plane. Actually, it felt like we were sucked out to be honest. That moment of shuffling across and jumping out, was thankfully completely outside my control and over in a matter of seconds. There was no messing about.
The first couple of seconds were intense. My mind what thinking “oh my god, I’m going to die” as we were spinning all over the place in the air. I think I shouted “oh my god” too, but not even the guy I was strapped to would have been able to hear me.
As soon as the first mini chute was pulled, we were suddenly stable. It was suddenly unbelievably peaceful.Â At that point, I could put my arms out and freefall. What does it feel like? It kind of feels like you’re flying because it doesn’t feel like you’re moving anywhere – you don’t see the ground coming towards you at all – you’re just too far away. All you feel is the wind in your face.
“Woohoo!”, “Yeah!” and “Wheeeyyy” were pretty much all I could manage as my face was pinned back by the air that I was passing through with terminal velocity. I did manage a trademark pointing pose though.
At jumping from 12,000ft meant 45 seconds of freefall, before the main parachute was pulled. You feel a jolt as that happens, because you slow down massively. From there, it took about five minutes of gliding down to the ground.
My skydiver said to me “this might be a bit rough coming down”, but I had no idea what “rough” was. It was all fine at first, but as we started spiralling down, I have to say I did feel sick. The best way to describe it is that feeling you get when you wake up after a VERYÂ heavy night of drinking, the room is spinning and you have no more than three seconds to run to the bathroom. Unfortunately, there are no bathrooms at 5,000ft and I prescribed myself to just breath deeply and count. Once we touched down, I felt much better.
To be honest, I didn’t care about the “rough” landing, because the freefall was so amazing, it was worth many hours of sickness (if it was ever that long). 5 minutes of it was nothing.
Would I do it again?
You have the choice of 9000, 12000 or 15000ft jumps costing NZD $269, $329 and $429 respectively. Video and photo footage costs NZD $219.
For more info, visit www.nzone.biz