Jumping out of Planes

Date: 25/02/2007 | Author: Gabby

I never used to have a problem with heights. Like wrinkles, vertigo is one of those things that seems to develop with age. When we were in Queenstown, I rather flippantly said to Dave that I'd like to do a skydive. I have always maintained you'd never get me on the end of a bungy cord. The thought of chucking myself off a platform at great height has never appealed, but I didn't feel too daunted at the prospect of strapping myself to a man and being thrown off the plane with him. We didn't manage it in Queenstown but we knew Taupo, on the north island, was another popular place for skydiving, with views that surpassed anywhere else in New Zealand. On the way there, I made a few calls to the many skydiving operators and was advised to book at least a day ahead. Our first morning and we woke to cloud and wind - 2 things that hamper the chances of a jump. I called Taupo Tandem Skydiving and was informed there were no jumps today but we could be fitted at 1pm the following day, weather permitting. I booked the slot for Dave and myself. We couldn't go on the same flight as one of us had to be with the kids but we could go one after the other.
We woke to perfect skydiving conditions - I didn't seem to have the appetite for breakfast. We arrived at Taupo airport and I insisted that I wanted to jump from the lower altitude option of 12000ft. Dave, of course, wanted to jump from right at the top - 15000ft - and thought I should do the same. An extra 15 seconds of freefalling at an additional cost of $75NZ, I just didn't see the point! A lovely Irish girl, Catherine, checked us in and spotting gullible written all over me, not only persuaded me to jump from 15000ft but book the all singing, all dancing camera crew (well one extra guy) to record the experience. Of course I wanted the event recorded, what's the point in just doing it. I needed the proof so I could show off to my mates!
Looking at the information and photos of all of the tandem pilots, I was hoping to get the biggest man possible (like that's going to save me if the 'chute fails!) who'd done the largest number of jumps (most had done at least 5000, some as many as 15000). In the end I was given Mike. He wasn't tall, but quickly scrutinising his certificate I saw that he had completed over 8000 jumps and was FA1 World Record Holder (I never asked him what that meant). He was, obviously, very competent but was really lacking in the humour department which didn't help my nerves. I was with about 8 other people and their pilots on the plane. As we were approaching 12000 feet it was clear that everyone else on the plane had decided to jump from that altitude. I was tempted to tell Mike we should get off there. Being the only jumper on the plane for the final 3000 feet ascent was pretty scary. We were so high up I could see both east and west coast coasts of the north island: we were above the clouds and I could see the curvature of the earth - bloody hell, no going back now! At 15000ft, the straps between Mike and myself had been tripled checked and tightened as far as they could go with my arse pushed firmly in to Mike's crotch - all completely necessary of course! We shimmied our way to the plane door where I had to dangle my legs out of the plane and smile to the camera for the exit photo. The only thought on my mind at this stage was DON'T LOOK DOWN! Before I knew it Mike told me to look upwards, gave me a shove and we were out - a quick spin and then looking downwards, hurtling towards the earth at 200km/h. It's a strange feeling - although we were travelling at such speed we didn't getting any closer to the ground - I think's that's because we were so high up! After the initial few seconds of freefalling I spread my arms and really start to enjoy the feeling and the experience. It was an incredible view - huge lake Taupo as well as the 3 volcanoes of Tongariro, Ngaurahoe and Ruapehu thousands of feet below. About a minute later, I was almost disappointed when the parachute was opened, forcing us to decelerate rapidly. Of course there was relief too! The parachute ride down was almost as enjoyable as the freefalling and certainly a lot more relaxing. It was lovely to see the girls waving up at me as I approached the landing area - Dave was already in the sky, about to experience the same. Huge relief as I hit the ground, my ears were blocked and my eyes were watering but it had been amazing.
All things said, I still can't bring myself to bungy jump!

› Back