I love this title, in fact I only decided to jump 12000 feet from a rickety old plane, risking my life, just so I could write the entry! Of course I am joking, the plane was perfectly sound and my life was never at risk… mum :-)
I arrived in Paihia at around 11ish. It is a great place; beautiful clean beaches surrounded by stunning green mountains, and it’s the base for all activities around the Bay of Island. There are seriously lots of things you can do here, and I won’t bother listing everything because, well frankly I can’t remember them all.
The most interesting thing about the Bay of Island is that this is where the earliest Maori and Europeans settled, so there are many historical sites to visit, including the Treaty House, where the signing of the Treaty of Watangi was carried out in 1840.
I walked on the beach and even before I reached town I stopped at a kiosk, where they where advertising skydives. I wasn’t thinking about doing one, but I enquired and because they were short of one person (they always are!) they dropped the price by more than $100. Well, I couldn’t refuse, so I paid my deposit and secured my place.
Five of us turned up the next day, maybe there should have been six… but hey, they were short of one person :-) Me, two Dutch girls, and an English chap with his American partner.
The last two jumped first. The girls and I watched the couple cover up in overalls, slip into a seemingly uncomfortable harness and compose strange positions on the grass, following the instructor’s directions. They were off so quickly, up they went and twenty minutes later they came back down, strapped to separate instructors. It all looked very good, they were still shaking from excitement when they spoke to us and the message was clear: ‘it’s great fun, nothing to worry about’. I wasn’t at all worried but one of the girls was… well, let’s be honest, she was completely shitting herself, so much for Dutch courage! Me next. Good, I just wanted to get it over and done with by now. I got dressed, showed my instructor how well I can arch my back and produce a banana shape, which is what you are supposed to do as soon as you step out of the plane, and off we went.
Helicopter ride over the Bay of Islands
The plane was seriously tiny.
Much like in most of my cars the back seat had been removed, all two of them! I sat with my back to the pilot and my instructor sat between my legs. Two more guys joined us, not all between my legs thank goodness. One was doing a private jump, and the other was the camera guy for my jump. It was so tight in there that my left leg went numb, all the way up to my buttock; ‘oh great, I’m going to do this jump with pins and needle in my arse’, yeepee! Every now and then, the camera guy would switch on his apparatus and point it at me, asking how I was feeling. It was really annoying, but I knew he was doing it for the DVD so I played along and pretended to be cool, when I really wanted to tell him that I couldn’t feel my leg and my arse. I must say, the climb up to 12000 feet takes longer than you think, and you can’t really enjoy the views because there is only one thing on your mind: you are soon going to be plummeting like a cannonball towards those beautiful green hills and you don’t know if the parachute will open.
Sunset in Paihia
This reminded me of an email I received, it had a link to a video on youtube of a chap who dived 12000 feet and his parachute malfunctioned, yet the bushes broke his fall and he survived. Not a nice thought to have two minutes before your jump!
one of many rides for turists in Paihia, this is a very fast boat
All of a sudden the door opens. You feel the full blast of cold hair in your face and it all gets pretty serious, as you clearly realise what you are about to do. It’s all very fast, the first man jumps out, the camera guy hangs out of the plane and it’s your turn to put your feet on the platform. You try your best but the wind is so strong that you can’t keep your feet on the platform. Who cares, the instructor has pushed you out so far that your feet are no longer on the platform and you immediately spring into banana mode.
Two seconds later you’re freefalling. It’s amazing! What a great feeling. The wind on your chest is so strong that it hurts, and I was worried about a numb arse! You’re looking down and the camera guy suddenly appears from nowhere, he’s floating around you and waving his hands to position himself for a good shot. You give him the thumbs up and smile holding onto your upper lip. This lasts for 40 odd seconds until the instructor opens the parachute, then it’s complete silence. You’re suspended way up in the sky and you can see everything below you, it’s so peaceful up there. It feels very safe and you can hear you instructor talking to you, he even lets you have a go steering the parachute (I think they all do if you’re calm enough). The descent is quick, and you realise how fast you’re going when you get closer to the ground.
Main road in Paihia
No worries, the instructor has told you a few minutes ago how to position your legs out of the way and he does everything else. None of us fell over on the day.
one happy chappy
I sat back, had a beer and watched the girls carry on with their jump. They both loved it, as we all did, and shortly after we all watched each other’s videos. Mine was dreadful, I hate video cameras and it showed that I wasn’t very comfortable when it was pointed at me. I did buy the photos though to remember the jump. Incidentally, I realised that exactly a year ago on the 13 on November I was being wheeled into the operating theatre of Newport Hospital to undergo a cruciate ligament reconstruction on my left knee, what a way to celebrate the anniversary of this successful operation!
This was a great experience and I thoroughly enjoyed it, but I don’t think I’m hooked on skydiving and if I had another $340 to spend, I would probably spend it on something else, I heard there’s a big bungy jump in Queenstown.