Wednesday, 26 December 2007

The Great Kiwi Road Trip - Day V

Wanaka
25.8 km (+ 15,000 ft X2 vertical :D)
22nd December '07

We did have breakfast, but even I figured a heavy tummy wouldn't be the best idea. We had woken up to find the sky absolutely spotless, so a weather-check didn't look likely. We got there a little early, just in case. In case of what? I don't know! I was about to do one of the craziest things in my life, yet. Do you think I was going for reasons right then?!!

Okay, so deep breaths all around, and then we figure we are not to go on the first flight :|. Hmm, was I relieved? Dunno, but we saw the little black dots fall out of the slightly larger white dot and then they just kept falling! There were parents, wives, other jumpers, all looking up. And it was all very silent. I could almost see it in those p-o-v switch sequences. One second you are falling and the screams are shattering your eardrums, the next, you are down on the ground, looking up, and no scream.

Then the first parachute opened. Was there a collective sigh of relief? I didn't notice, I was too busy starting to breathe again. Next thing I knew, the chutes were getting packed again. Three kids looking like they had the time of their lives. (And one guy looking like he'd just walked out of the men's room.) And we met out pilots for the jump. (Again, you didn't think we were doing this solo, didja?! :P)

Hitched up in secure looking harnesses and colourful jumpsuits, we soon headed off into the sky. On the way up the pilots showed us the Cordrona river, the lakes, Mt. Cook, the Treble Cone ski fields and other things I forget the names of. But the only thing that really registered was the pointer on the altimeter on my pilot's wrist, that kept inching closer to the red line.

There was an older lady doing the 12,000 ft jump and she went first. One second she was there, the next there was just blue sky through the door. And John was screaming. Then as we got to 15,000 it was John's turn to go first! It was a good thing probably that they didn't make you choose :P. He and his pilot edged close to the door, legs out. Then they were gone. I was pretty sure I heard a scream dying fast, but I was a bit more occupied screaming my own lungs out :D. And before I could think about it, my legs were out of the door and in the wildly rushing wind! I'd chosen not to wear gloves and it was a bit chilly, but the cold was probably the very last thing on my mind. And then we jumped.

You dont really have to do much. Just make sure you hold the position you are instructed to. We did a back-flip. For a moment I saw the sun flash in my eyes, a lot of blue sky, some green, blue water, brown. It doesn't register really, free fall from 15,000 feet above ground. For a while it looks like you are just floating there. Everything is suspended, the horizon, the fields, rivers, lakes, mountains.

Took me just a little bit to sort of focus I think. And that's when I realised that I was screaming! But it sounded like a faraway thing. Not much of a wonder I guess, when you are dropping like a rock at 200 km/h. I remember thinking about the sperm whale and the petunias. I remember doing the 'up, up and away' pose. (Only, pointing downwards.) What can I say? People do crazy things while falling out of the sky :D.

Then the parachute opened. This time when I screamed it was loud all right :D.But from here on I'd already done it before :D. What was different was that here they actually let you control the parachute for a little bit. I moved this way and that. Even did what I'm sure was a rather tame spin. All you do is pull hard on one side and hang on :D.

I'm quite glad I'd actually done the paragliding, and done it before the sky diving. In the skydive you don't really get much time floating down. And definitely no up winds or sliding up and down mountainsides. But this was so completely in a different league altogether! I had the grin plastered on my face for a long long time :D.

The only real downside to it was that you couldn't possibly hope to top that feeling :). I ambled through the nearby war-planes museum. But I wasn't really paying attention. Eventually we headed back and decided to laze around the beach. I went for a bit of a swim, this time making sure I didn't do anything stupid :P.Eventually we recovered enough to head off for a walk to the top of the nearby Mt. Iron. It was indeed the highest point in the neighbourhood, and you could actually see all of Lake Wanaka and everything all around that was not blocked by mountains. But we'd been higher than Mt Cook in the morning, with about as unblocked a view as you could possibly get. Takes a lot to beat that :).
(was) Feeling: beyond top of the world :D
Listening to: Beethoven - Fur Elise

ps. turns out I didn't take that many pics anyway :P

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