2/19/10: Taupo, New Zealand
If you simultaneously drop a 160 pound sack of feathers and a 160 pound sack of me from the sky, which one will hit the ground first? If only I carried a huge sack of feathers on me today, I would have found out.
Today I went skydiving!
Zhou and I can’t remember exactly what brought this world trip up in the first place, so part of me is tempted to believe it was centered around skydiving in New Zealand. Ever since I’d talked to Jing (one of our best friends) about her NZ jump, I knew I would one day have to do it as well. I’ve been looking forward to this day for longer than Democrats had been looking forward to the day Strom Thurmond called it quits.
In a lot of ways skydiving is like going to the doctor’s with the flu. First, you sit around in a waiting room forever feeling like you’re about to die. Then it’s fairly nerve-wracking when you’re called up, but you don’t have long to fret because before you know it you’re out the door and heading home with nothing to worry about.
Ok, so maybe it’d be more similar if your doctor was Robbie Kneivel. Skydiving is one of the best, most exhilarating, most unique experiences of all time.
I’ll pick it up during the rising action. 16 of us (seven tandem jumpers and two videographers) piled into a plane that probably would have been given a six person capacity by a competent fire marshal. I was the last one in (foreshadowing: LIFO), and the only spot left was pretty much right on my instructor, Ian’s lap. Within seconds the door was closed next to me and we were cruising down the runway.
As the rickety old plane climbed higher and higher, I kept wondering when my nerves would set in. Not trying to be macho (I don’t have to try, I already am!), but I’ve been more nervous while waiting to see if the chef remembered to not put mayo on my burger. For some funny reason, whether it was because I was enjoying the views or just trying to savor the moment, I wasn’t anything but excited.
At 12,000 feet, Ian pulled up the door and the altitude’s cold air came whistling in. Then, in the span of what felt like 10 seconds, I swung my legs over the plane’s edge, my videographer slid by and hung on to the outside rail of the plane, a mounted camera took a picture, Ian pulled my head back over his right shoulder and we fell. And fell. (There really was no “dive” or “jump” out of the plane. It felt more like that team building game where you simply close your eyes, lean back – or in this case forward – and hope that the person behind you knows what they’re doing.)
Falling at terminal velocity through the clouds is one of the coolest feelings in the world. Whereas while on the ground I just hoped my parachute would work properly, while falling the last thing I wanted was the instructor to open the chute and slow us down. Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately) he didn’t feel the same way about that one. I’m really not sure how to describe the actual feeling, but I do know that while free falling not only did both of my shoes come untied, but also one of the aglets was ripped all the way off. And these are fairly new Merrells, not some raggedy pair of Starburys.
As fun as skydiving is though, I doubt I’ll ever go again. Not because the free fall ended up costing $10/second, but because of the time spent parachuting down.
Just like when paragliding in Nepal, I got really queasy while heading slowly down to earth. It was so hard to concentrate on the gorgeous countryside when all I could think of was not throwing up on it. That being said, if you ever get the chance to fall out of a plane (with a parachute on), don’t even hesitate. You won’t regret it.
Pictures of the Day: What could possibly top skydiving? Taking pictures of Zhou and Mr. Turtle at Honey Hives before watching bees make honey!