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Big World; Small Adventures
15th Mar 2006
A good day to jump

Unbelievably I thought today would be a good day to jump out of an aeroplane at 15,000 ft!Exhausted and aching fromhead to toe from yesterday's tramp, what else would you do?

Frank was up for the challenge but sadly Tom wasn't so our little party disbanded and we said a sad fairwell. Frank and I were picked up in a minibus along with the other fearless adventurers that would join us in this reckless pursuit - 2 Swedes, an American and a German - and we spent a little time getting to know each other. The first thing we did when we arrived at the jump site was watch a DVD of the previous party's jump. It was a great way to see what we were going to be doing and build up the adrenalin. The excitement continued to build as we donned jumpsuits, strapped ourselves into harnesses and selected goggles and cap. We were doing tandem jumps so one by one we were paired up with our jump masters in whose hands we were going to be placing our lives. Since there's little room for even embarrassment when you're strapped underneath a person I tried to get to know my partner a little bfore we jumped. Sheridon had been jumping for about 12 years and 4 of those were professionally. He clearly loved what he did and although the initial thrills wear off off he said he got a big buzz from the reactions of the people he jumped with. This made me feel comfortable and confident and eased any nerves I might have had. He was also quite cheeky and humour is a great disp[enser of fear. Maybe it was this or maybe it simply the excitement but I didn't feel scared at all from start to landing. By now were all packed into the plane, 6 jumpers, 6 jump masters, 5 cameramen and the pilot.

The climbed higher and higher above the elegant and expansive Lake Taupo - largest lake in the southern hemisphere and apparently large enough to fit SIngapore in with enough room to still sail around it. Ironically we could also see the Tongariro National Park and the volcanoes we had traversed only yesterday. THey didn't seem nearly as grand as when we were on them but I felt an inner sense of pride for our achievements even so. At 12,000 ft the others started to disappear. I couldn't see much from the front of the plane except people sliding forward. Then, all of a sudden the door closed and only Frank and I and our entourages were left.

The plane continued to climb until it reached 15,000 ft and then the buzzer sounded again and I knew it was our turn. Frank and his partner slid to the back of the plane and once the cameraman was in place outside the aircraft he jumped. Now it was just me and my heart skipped a beat as I let my mind consider what I was about to do. Sheridon pushed me forward and instructed me to swing my legs over the side, which I promptly obeyed. Suspended over the side of the plane with my legs dangling over the edge I looked down and saw the distant ground below. For those 2 seconds or so my heart raced but then with little warning we were out of the plane and falling backwards through the air. Just enjoy yourself I kept telling myself. Sheridon righted us and I thrust my arms out into the star position, back arched and legs bent. I saw the camera woman and knew I had a big cheesey grin on my face but it was so exciting. To be plunging downward at 200km/hr above the most breathtaking backcloth of Lake Taupo and surrounded by clear blue skies was truly awesome. The speed wasn't really apparent because there was nothing to relate it to; nothing hurtling past to give it perspective. I could feel my face wobbling about but the grin stayed put and I just tried to take it all in. There was only 60 secs of this freefall and soon enough the rope would be pulled and our shoot would open but until then I just peered all around me and yelled in absolute exhilaration.

Once the shoot was open we sailed gracefully for another 4 mins or so. Only on the last bit did the ground really appear to loom towards us and ever so quickly we were coming in to land. 'Legs up' shouted SHeridon and he took the brunt of the impact. Then we both ran a few steps before coming to a halt. I hugged and thanked Sheridon and went to join the others for a photo and moment of joy. I couldn't believe how unscared I'd been throughout the whole experience and how serene it had actually been.

The DVD of our escapade was superb and well worth the extra money. Our valiant troupe then exchanged contact details before being returned to our respective locations. Frank and I continued to muse over the past couple of days over a hearty lunch and a leisurely sojourn on the beach in the last of the day's sunshine.

It really feels like I'm coming to the end of my trip now cos all the major challenges have been faced and tonight I head back to Auckland to face my flight in a couple of days. Getting sad :o(

Next: Last few days in NZ
Previous: The Big Day - to hell and back!


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