New Zealand is THE country to try some adrenaline-pumping activities, like bungy jumping, jetboating, white-water rafting, paragliding or … skydiving!
Heidi simply rejected any of these activities, but I really wanted to experience skydiving, so she offered to invite me to a jump for my birthday. My first attempt in Wanaka was shattered due to bad weather so I tried my luck in Taupo, just showing up at the airport on the way to Rotorua. “Cool, you are on the next flight, wait two minutes and we start the briefing”.
Skydiving? Basically, you jump from a plane at 15.000 feet, tied to a tandem instructor, during 60 seconds of free fall at more than 200 kph you drop down to approx. 5.000 feet and then hope the parachute will work!
As usually in New Zealand, everything was extremely professional, friendly, with a big focus on safety, nonetheless without killing the necessary extravaganza for such an activity. Taupo Tandem Skydiving was no exception. After a short briefing and a check with the tandem instructor, 6 tourists, as many instructors plus eventually a cameraman for each of those who chose to be filmed hopped on a small plane.
About 15 minutes later, we had reached the jumping altitude. Increasing altitude, increasing tension: “What I am actually doing here”? Of course, Mike, “my” tandem instructor, kept repeating all safety aspects and what was going to happen, just telling me: “You cannot do anything wrong, just do as good as you can”.
Then a small light turned green, the door slid open, which meant we were about to jump. Mike pushed both of us up to the opened door, with both our legs already outside the plane. “Turn your head for the photo” and actually before I could really start thinking, I felt someone pushing me outside and found myself in the emptiness…
Fascinating! Exhilarating! Sooo scaring! I have the impression all my senses are about to collapse and at the same time, a small voice in my head just keeps on saying: whaooo! Our bodies start turning, then stabilize, and then start turning again, in the other direction. The speed! We are so fast I can hardly breathe.
The cameraman reaches us, grabs my hand and makes a sign “thumb up”. I respond in a similar way, at least I try. Then Mike points downward: there is a big cloud below, becoming bigger and bigger and … No, we do not crash, we just keep falling through this big cloud. I breathe again…
After what seems an eternity, Mike opens the parachute, an immense impact slows our bodies. And then, we are just hanging in the air, it is kind of magic! We can breathe again. Mike removes my glasses, so I can enjoy the landscape even better. Of course, he makes us spin in circles, once in each direction, each time moving from a vertical to a horizontal position, with speed increasing dramatically. Just long enough to paralyse totally and then everything is back to normal.
The landing is extremely smooth, sliding a few meters on our bums. Back on earth but not to reality, I am still totally overwhelmed! It feels like weighing nothing and looking at my own self. At least for a few seconds, trying to understand what has just happened!
Will I do it again? Tempting!!!