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Two travellers skydiving

A Birdseye View of New Zealand: Freefalling and a Double-Dose of Terror!

By Jane McLellan

Last updated: 1st September 2011

My favourite outdoor adventure in New Zealand was when I went skydiving 12,000 feet above Lake Taupo, which is the sky-diving capital of the world. I could not stop giggling and my adrenaline was pumping for days afterwards. I met a lot of skydivers in New Zealand and they all told me that Lake Taupo is the best place to do it. It’s nestled amidst the mountains around the shores of Lake Taupo, from where you can see the snow-capped peaks of Tongariro National Park. It looks stunning from the ground but even more amazing when you are hurtling through the air towards it.

I’m terrified of heights, but, however weird it sounds, jumping out of a plane is something that I’ve always wanted to do. When we arrived in Taupo, I got a bit carried away with everyone else’s excitement and decided to go for it! Before the jump, my group and I had a safety briefing and some training about the skydive. I got kitted out in a red jumpsuit, gloves and a harness and met my tandem master, Brendan.  I nervously watched him pack our parachute but he seemed to know what he was doing and took his job very seriously, which made me feel a little happier about the situation. We were soon ready to go… well, as ready as I’d ever be!

I remember walking up to the plane, my throat dry, tummy in knots, and started to feel a sickening mixture of happiness, terror, nerves, excitement, and more terror!  There were eight of us doing the jump, and we all sat on the floor of the plane while our tandem masters continued to give us advice and tried their best to keep us relaxed. The plane ride was amazing, it just seemed to climb and climb.  I remember at one point looking out of the window and asking Brendan how high up we were.  In my opinion, we were already more than high enough! He replied that we were only half way at 6000 feet; I couldn’t believe there was another 6,000 to go! When we finally reached 12,000 ft, we took it in turns to jump out of the plane. I watched the others plummet through the air and eventually it was my turn… I cautiously shuffled towards the edge of the plane, my heart beating uncontrollably fast – I was so frightened! I vaguely remember Brendan counting down from three and then before I knew it we were out and falling fast.

The freefall lasted 45 seconds. It was an indescribable, infinite feeling. I stretched out, falling through the sky, the wind so strong that my own cheeks felt like they were acting as a parachute.  Brendan pulled the cord at around 5000 feet and our parachute spread open above us. I started to relax as we floated around, taking in the incredible views. Brendan took off my goggles and asked if I was okay. I don’t think my spluttered reply made much sense, but I do remember repeating ‘THIS IS AMAZING’ over and over again. The view from up there was unbelievable and so beautiful, I felt like I was flying.  When we landed gently back to earth I just kept thanking Brendan and I couldn’t stop smiling! Although I was relieved to be back on terra firma, at the same time I just wanted to get straight back in the plane and do it all over again! I have never experienced anything like it before and I would recommend it to everyone – go on, take the plunge, you know you want to!

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