The weather still looked pretty cloudy when we woke up but we dressed and readied ourselves just in case, but were not surprised when the booking was cancelled to sky dive. The rest of the Stray bus had to move on to Tongariro Park hostel but I'd opted to stay an extra night anyway and go north again so I had time to rebook myself for 1pm.
At 1pm a white limo arrived and we slid ourselves in and headed off to the airfield. I'd already chosen my package, my music, my dive height in the weeks previously spent convincing myself to do it, and was now firmly in 'the zone'. I was surprised still to be feeling excitement over nervousness, though moments in the limo nervousness threatened to take over but I pushed the fear out of my mind.
At the airfield it was short work to get dressed in a jump suit, put the harnesses on, have a brief instruction on 'the banana' position and get in the plane.
I was raring to go and was at this late stage overcome with an amazing calm. I was ready. For my first dive (key word "first"), I decided just to go to 12,000 feet rather than 15,000 feet on account of needing oxygen for the higher dive. I figured jumping was frightening enough for the first time without needed assistance with breathing
... So I was the first to jump out of the plane. I was sat right next to the thin perspex window and so had a perfect view of the take-off and the ground as it stretched away from us. After a time we passed through clouds and the ground view was lost, and I looked about at the beautiful floor of white fluffyness I have seen so many times flying internationally.
Finally he opened the door and we shuffled towards the edge of the plane.
I put my legs out and folded my knees so my legs were bent under the plane, my trouser legs whipping around my legs in the rushing wind. I put my head back against the instructor's shoulder (stops you from looking down, freaking out and refusing to jump), pushed my hips out as instructed and waited for the final push. This is absolutely the most frightening part; the sensation of hanging out of a plane with nothing beneath you and no control. Then the instructor let go and we spun out of the plane, over at first to look at the receding plane and then over again to survey the distant ground and cloud hurtling towards us.
At first I couldn't scream; in fact not a sound could escape me. I'm not even sure I was breathing, just gawping in abject terror in the freefall.
It was sensory overload with the ground rushing towards us and the air roaring past us, I think my brain just froze over. We were dropping like a stone out of the sky, falling at maximum velocity as gravity pulled us towards the Earth. After about 20 seconds and some gentle encouragement by the instructor I found my voice, screamed with the adrenaline and found myself enjoying it. I was still screaming when the instructor started insistently tapping me to pull my arms in so he could pull the parachute cord. I'd probably have been close enough to hit the ground before I realised we were supposed to be slowing down at some point!
The parachute was pulled and we jerked up into sitting position and the clouds and ground swayed beneath us to a more comfortable speed of approach.
Finally I could get a proper look at the scenery and stared around me at the mountains, Lake Taupo, the trees, all the tiny details of the world below. The roaring sound had died away to a gentle breeze as we swung round and down, and all I could think was how different, and how much more outstanding this felt than hang-gliding. We did some turns, some corkscrew spins and floated down for about 10 minutes, before finally arriving on the ground on our asses, a huge grin plastered all over my face.
Sky diving is without doubt the coolest thing I've ever done, and, like 99% of people I've spoken to, I can't wait to do it again! I came traveling absolutely convinced sky diving was something I'd never do, on the strength of 2 bungee jumps I did 10 years ago that frightened me so much I swore I'd ruined myself for life for attempting to jump out of a plane. But having spoken to so many people that agree bungeeing is worse, and seeing the sky dive DVDs I began to turn my opinion and after 3 weeks of thinking, imagining and even dreaming about it! I took the plunge. Yay me!