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Falling into Queenstown...

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… And blowing our budget. Big time.

Here we are sitting in Happy Diwali with an amazing adrenaline afterglow. We’ve just come off skydiving, having survived the 12000ft adrenaline rush. It was an amazing experience and we really want to go again. If we had the cash, we’d do that a few more times, but as I said on the ride back into town after the jump, “If you went up in a plane, and threw out a $5 bill every second for 5 minutes, you’d spend your cash slower than jumping out of the plane.”
Yesterday’s skydive cancellation kind of put a crimp in our style. We were at a loss for what to do, since we had expected to be high on adrenaline, much like we are right now, and we had expected to just fritter away the day on that high, not really caring about much. But instead, the disappointing lack of adrenaline led us to walk around Queenstown, getting a burger, trying to find something else to do, but we ended up heading to our campground really early and just sitting and watching TV all night long. It was actually really nice to kick back and relax with a space heater beside us.

NZNE_NZQT_2009_12_15_C1293_1721But today, after yesterday’s disappointing cancellation, the build-up just wasn’t the same. We arrived at the Nzone shop in downtown Queenstown just as we had yesterday, but this time we knew what to expect all the way up until getting in the plane. However, on the ride out to the drop zone, one of the passengers (who was from Calgary by the way – trust a Calgarian to ruin everything) mentioned that a few people had died skydiving in Byseker near Calgary recently. That was nice, and actually, another passenger from Toronto got really freaked out by that. He seemed to be calm before that, but after that off-color comment, he said “I can’t even go to the 7th floor of my building let alone jump out of a plane!” But Kenna and I were cool and collected, having suited up the same way yesterday.
Upon arrival at the drop zone, we didn’t wait too long before they suited us up and put us in the plane. I ended up being packed in last, meaning I was jumping first.
As we took off and headed skyward, Kenna and I kept looking at each other with frightened eyes, but it was comforting that I was strapped onto a guy who had already done this six times today. What wasn’t comforting was sitting on his lap – I haven’t been that close to a guy since sitting on my dad’s lap when I was like 5. All the jump masters are men, and Kenna was the only girl in the plane. Where are all the lady adrenaline junkies? I’d rather be sitting on your laps!
NZNE_NZQT_2009_12_15_C1293_1723Anyways, we rose into the clouds. Earlier in the morning, it was really sunny and beautiful, but by this time some clouds had started to roll in, and it was getting a bit chilly. I could see my tandem partner’s altimeter, and by the time we reached 8000ft, we were clearly in the clouds, and couldn’t see much of the mountains below. We didn’t know it at the time, but it was so cloudy they were planning on cancelling subsequent jumps, and we were likely the last jumpers of the day. A guy who rode up with us (there were only three jumpers in the plane) was jumping at 15000ft, but they made him jump with us at 12000ft because the clouds were so bad the plane couldn’t safely get up that high. The flight up was quite scenic until we got above the clouds, because for some unknown reason, the pilot had to take the plane over the Remarkable Mountains to be able to get us to our jump height, and then he flattened out and took us over the lake to jump. Usually, they just spiral above the lake to get to jump height. My cameraman evidently wasn’t too pleased at the weather, as he kept looking at the illuminated red light above me, and I kept hearing him saying “This #$%@ sucks, we have to go further” as we were over the mountains.
Finally, the red light turned green, my cameraman opened up the door, I said goodbye to Kenna and my tandem jumper maneuvered me out over the edge of the plane. I stretched my feet back like they told me to and got pushed out of the plane. The first few seconds were the scariest, as we tumbled towards the clouds, again into a cloudy abyss (a cloudy abyss seems to be a common theme in my stories, doesn’t it?), before a drag chute opened up and stabilized us. Meanwhile, Kenna is sitting back in the plane watching me disappear like a rock, thinking “Oh shit, I’m next.” We freefell for 45 seconds, but it seems like it was only a few seconds. Hurtling towards the earth at 200 km/hr is unreal, it’s really indescribable. I’m not sure if the clouds made it better or worse – I became ok with it flying through the clouds, since you really couldn’t tell you were moving (aside from the eardrum-piercing wind screaming past you), but I must admit I had a renewed since of fear coming out of the clouds and seeing myself heading for solid ground.
Suddenly, the chute opened, and yanked me upwards, and after a few seconds I felt a bit of relief, knowing that the one and only fear in skydiving – a failed chute – hadn’t happened. Except, as I looked over, I saw another falling rock beside me, and I suddenly realized that could only be Kenna (at this point I didn’t know the guy who was supposed to go to 15000ft had gone with us at 12000ft). She was still freefalling! Did her chute fail? It was only a few seconds and it didn’t really have time to register that that would probably be a bad thing, but then her chute opened.
NZNE_NZQT_2009_12_15_C1293_1728The ensuing few minutes of blissful gliding through the air were really enjoyable. We did a couple little loops in the air, but Kenna’s trip sounded more fun. Her tandem jumper let her take hold of the sail and made her do a bunch of tricks – the “Roller coaster”, where you tugged right then left really hard to spin yourself, and “Zero gravity”, where you lifted up to suspend youself in weightlessness for a few moments. My guy wasn’t nearly as cool.
So after that, we were whisked away into a van, back into Queenstown, where we went and had a hot beverage. We were really chilled after the jump, it must have been far below freezing up there. And now we’re sitting in Diwali enjoying the high. Have to get back to the Nzone shop for our pics and DVD at 7:30, so I think we’ll go enjoy the high with a nice happy hour beer.

NZNE_NZQT_2009_12_15_C1293_1725Tomorrow: Falling into Queenstown Part Deux… the Canyon Swing! It’s a 60 meter freefall over sharp rocks, at which point a rope is supposed to catch you and swing you out over a canyon. This will certainly ensure that we’re over-budget for NZ. Ah well. You can’t do this anywhere else in the world, so why not?

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