Saturday, 19 June 2010

So it was crunch time. The 2 people in front of me had already fallen out, so out hung my legs 15,000 feet. Scrawled on the top slats of my bunk bed was 'when you cant find the words... indescribability will do'. I think that sums it up nicely. I was proverbial shitting it whilst trying to admire the view of the lakes and snowcapped mountains at the same time. Then no count down, no warning, out we went. Ignoring all instructions to keep my legs tucked in (as shown by the facebook photos) we ended up flailing a bit, did a little flip in the air before we got ourselves stable. Again I had a mixture of complete exhileration mixed with feeling of 'OMG im falling!!! What is wrong with me why did I do this?' Whilst I was struggling to breathe against the rushing 200kph air, whilst also trying to get some smiles in for the photographer falling metres from me (again you can the photographer failed to get my 'good side' which seemed to flapping in the wind'. We free fell for 60 seconds but it seems like well under 10. The free fall was a strange sensation, in the sense that once the plane was out of sight, it didnt really feel like falling at all, it just felt very VERY window - like when you stick your head out the window of a car, just with better views.

Then the parachute deployed and we slowed right down to perhaps about 20kph. My tandem master then 'made me more comfortable' but unhooking and unclipping a few things. I could feel myself sitting looser in the harness. Still at 5,000 feet this is NOT what i wanted, but it meant i could move around a bit more. He talked me through thee mountain ranges, the peaks, the valleys and the lakes. He pointed out to me to 2 coasts of NZ as we started to spiral slowly down to the landing post. It was when we were around 1,000 feet that the ground started coming towards us quickly. He spun in circles which flung my legs up in a feeling of weightlessness, then we braced ourselves to land. Legs up until tandem man made ground contact, then feet down and run to a stop. The parachute flopped down behind us, and that was that. Skydiving - DONE!! :D. I was and still am scared of heights, but the sheer scale of the dive, means you dont really come to terms with the true height until you have left the plane - by which time you have nothing to do but enjoy the ride down. It was the sensation of free falling, coupled with the views that made me think of going back up in the plane and doing the whole thing again. However, at 100 quid a go, it was not to be.

On an adrenaline high, we drove off to the canyon for alec and emily to do their bungee jumps. I did NOT do a bungee jump as I said, im scared of heights :P. Besides, with no tandem master there to push me off, I would probably end up standing on the platform until night fall, which would not be good for anyone. Alec and Emily also did the bridge swing, where they were suspended 70m above the river, then dropped. They swung down and back up on the trapeze, before being lifted back. I did something similar in thailand so i passed on this. However, we did do the flying fox.

The flying fox was basically an industrial size zipwire. Its a 1km length which stretches right across the canyon at some g-d awful gradient. We climbed up to the station where they strapped the 3 of us into giant sleeping bag like harnesses so we were suspended lying down - like air at alton towers. We were suspended about a minute, with the view of the steel cable descending into the 70m deep canyon in front of us. With time to think about what was happening, my heart was beating faster than it ever did on the skydiving plane. A few clicks of metal and pushed buttons, and we were off. A speed somewhere around 100km, the 3 of us flew straight into the canyon, under the bridge and back up. Arms outstretched to complete the 'flying' sensation. When the harnesses came to a stop at the bottom of the zipwire, and we hung abou1 5 metres from the canyon floor, we relaxed slightly, whilst also coming closer to flying than we ever would again. With that, we were slowly hitched back up to the mountain top station - this was more scary than going down due to the strange angle, whilst also seeing the ground getting ever more slowly further away. All part of the fun I suppose :D.

We arrived in Wellington later that day and stayed in a small hostel near the city centre. More a house than a hostel, with floral carpets and slightly discoloured wall paper - as travelling should be. A good, if not slightly strange bunch of people filled the hostel. many people actually lived in the hostel whilst they worked to earn for their next set of travels. Most of the 'live-ins' were british, all doing bar and cleaning jobs around the town before they moved onto other exotic locations. Whilst in Wellington, we had a road trip to see some sealions near the town of Martinsborough (a fecking stunning beach that would have been slightly more habited in the summer months). I also had a wander round Wellington, seeing the Te Papa museum which is basically a modern version of the science and natural history museum. Overall, cities dont really interest us, so we were only in Wellington 2 nights.

Early 8am start, as we returned the rental car and boarded a ferry for the south island. 3 hours of sailing through fjords and flooded glacial valleys. The sky was disgusting grey and overcast and wind battered the boat (and me standing on deck trying [and i mean TRYING] to get some good photos). It was still a smoothish journey and we arrived promptly in the incredibly small town of Picton. Assuming the weather has cleared by tomorrow, we are going to rent bikes and cycle round the area. The rumours about how much more scenic the south island is than the north, are living true. Picton is surrounded by rolling green hills. Little of the ground is actually flat. It has been promised it will only get better especially as we go further down south towards Queenstown...

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