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Sunday, April 20, 2014

Freefalling in Paradise - the best experience of my life

I never thought I would actually do it, I meant to do it, I WANTED to do it but I was absolutely petrified. There are many people who will testify to my fear of heights, some have seen me lose it on fairground rides, or quiver whilst going up stairs that have gaps in between the steps. I was getting Facebook comments from friends telling me to try a sky-dive in New Zealand and how I would be fine, but I really wasn't sure. However, whilst lying in bed in Kaikoura, sober, I just decided that once I reached Queenstown, I absolutely had to do it. I might never have the opportunity again and that's what this entire trip was about.

So I arrived in Queenstown on a beautiful summer's evening at 5.45pm. I walked straight into the tourist office and asked which company I should go with and how high should I jump from. The woman asked what my budget was and I told her I couldn't afford it anyway, so aside from price, what were my options. There were three companies and three choices - 9, 000ft, 12, 000ft and 15, 000ft - the highest you can go for a tandem without oxygen. I decided to throw caution to the wind (absolutely literally in this situation) and I booked for 15, 000ft with Skydive Paradise the following morning.
For those not familiar, you have to do 10-15 tandem jumps from this height before you're allowed consider going it alone.

I woke up and felt a tightness in my chest, I felt rather out of sorts and unbalanced. These are all the things they tell you to check for if you're doing a jump but I convinced myself it was psychological. One of the guys who was supposed to come with us was turned down due to the fact that he was over 100 kilos and he was really gutted, I felt for him but I was glad they took their safety seriously. So off we went, to Paradise, in Glenorchy, about 45 minutes from Queenstown. On the way we stopped for pics beside Lake Wakatipu
It was really breathtaking, when you're here it completely makes sense why it was chosen as Middle Earth and I was getting to fly over it!

There were nervous jokes about landing in the glacial waters but then we arrived and it was time for our brief (too brief - my nerves) safety instruction and getting suited up. I was almost mute with fear, I had gotten to the point where I was scared that I would be too scared to enjoy it. I desperately wanted to enjoy this and conquer my crazy fear once and for all, but I actually considered the fact that I might have a stroke in mid-air and be a dead-weight on my tandem instructor. I was a little relieved when I saw the big strapping men that we would be attached to. The two Danish girls (yes, both blonde, kind of attractive) that had been on the bus were first up and I watched the tiny plane rise through the air, climbing until it was out of view.

Shortly afterwards a guy arose from laying on the grass and approached me. He introduced himself as Matias and said that I would be jumping with him. I was confused, was I not going to be attached to one of those big, muscular men I'd seen with the girls? Matias was slight, about 5'6" and at best could be described as lean. I know I'm no Amazon, but if the guy had 5 kilos on me I'd be surprised! In the plane (tube) I actually asked him if he would be able to feel my weight as we fell. He assured me that he wouldn't!

I tried not to look down as we ascended but I couldn't help but notice the snow-tipped peaks growing ever smaller below us and I couldn't breathe. I whispered "I'm not sure I can do this," and had awful visions of the plane having to return to the ground and having failed to confront this fear. Matt simply patted me on the shoulder and told me to move to the door. It's a good thing we were strapped so closely together because rather than sit at the door for a moment I threw myself out, wanting to get it over with and not experience the horrible anticipation any longer.

Surprisingly, my first sensation was absolute freedom. I loved it. I wanted to whoop and scream and I tried, but it's not very easy when you're flying towards earth at about 214 km per hour. All I could see was the blue of the lake but it didn't feel like I was hurtling towards it. It honestly felt like flying. When Matt tapped me to put my arms and legs out I didn't hesitate, my fear was gone. When he pulled the chute, I was disappointed, I wanted to free-fall the entire way - but that of course, was crazy. That's how I felt though - I was completely high on adrenalin and happiness. Delighted that I had confronted my fear and that I was enjoying so much.

We twisted and turned whilst we glided down towards the ground and I had time to take in the absolutely stunning scenery that surrounded me. I'm sure most people think the same, but I honestly couldn't have chosen a better place to take that crazy dive.

I landed smoothly and even asked if I could go back up again but there was a queue waiting to do their dives so I decided that some other place at some other time would be better.

Most unfortunately my video and photos corrupted so I only have a few snapshots to show but every time I think of it, I remember how I was filled to bursting with happiness and the most free I have ever felt. No Go-Pro could capture that.

So, when I get the money again, I'll try again somewhere, maybe back in Dubai - apparently it's only 10, 000ft - pah! I can do that ;) I'm just afraid it will never feel as good as that first time.

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