Taupo Skydive: Surviving the Fall
We finally get a bright and cheerful, if breezy morning. This time a trip out to Taupo Tandem Skydiving pays off and we’re cleared to get in to the air. We suit up in jumpsuits and get strapped into harnesses by Darcy. This time we’re the first in line due to having been out yesterday. We potter around while more checks are done and Darcy comes over to inform me that he’s going to be my instructor a few minutes before our names finally go up on board.
We’re being joined by two germans and a czech. They’re all forking out for a cameraman to dive with them, so we get to join in the fun of waving stupidly at the camera repeatedly. Finally we’re all suited and paired with an instructor and can get aboard the plane. This is a bit like the experience of getting onto Dublin Bus on a busy day as we find ourselves sandwiched in between instructors in a line on two long benches. It’s going to take a good 30 minutes to climb up to our jumping height of 15,000 feet. Plenty of time for more passing around of the cameras and shouted directions about what’s going to be happening next.
It’s turning out to be a lovely day for skydiving. The sun is out and the cloud is limited so you can see in all directions. Darcy keeps me updated on our height as he starts attaching and tightening straps. By the time he’s done I can barely breathe, but I’m very confident that we’ll stay tied together the whole way to the ground. His shouts of ‘good luck’ sound a bit ironic seeing as his survival is linked to mine on this jump. I take a furtive look around to see if there’s a special quick release mechanism that’s making him talk as if I’ll be on my own. Not one that I can see anyhow.
The plane finally reaches 15,000 ft and people start sliding down the benches to the open hatch and disappearing off into the sky. The way some instructors are larking around you’d think it was a circus they were performing in. We’re second last, and pretty soon it’s time to tuck my legs under the aircraft. Having being warned of what I’m expected to do, I don’t have to have my head yanked into place unlike the German whose was instructor was constantly pulling his head back into position. Instead it’s just a quick movement from Darcy and we’re tumbling head over heels into the open sky.
The rush of air makes it hard to take breathe or hear anything. Just as well he jammed the goggles on so tightly or I’d be falling blind. After a few seconds of freefall I’m free to mimic his arm movements and we execute some turns and spins as we plummet through the air. It’s a bizarre feeling moving around and seeing just how much you can influence your speed and direction. At the angle we’re at it’s hard to pay much attention to the ground below so it’s a case of swimming through the air around us and spinning like a top a few times until we reach some cloud that totally obscures vision for a couple of seconds.
Soon after we emerge from the cloud again, we’ve dropped to 5000 feet and it’s time to end the freefall. The parachute opens up flawlessly and there’s a big jerk as we get pulled into an upright position. At the slower pace it’s finally possible to take in the full view around us as we soar above Lake Taupo and the surrounding mountains. It’s also possible to talk again. The parachutes below are circling around as they head towards the landing point. Above us, Brodie plus instructor are lining up for their approach also. This is the part of the jump that feels most like flying in the much stiller air. Darcy tweaks ropes to steer our movement bringing us in some tight circles.
Slowly but surely the ground below starts to get closer. It seems like we’re almost there until the stick people below give a better sense of perspective. Sure enough, we’re coming in to land just beside the runway. It’s time to prepare for landing which goes smoothly enough that we can land on our feet rather than hit the ground with a bump. More high fives from Darcy before we detach harnesses and he heads off to prepare for the next jump. We still have to get through the worst part of the jump – running through the obligatory scenes for the video camera. Finally that’s done and after some more sales talk for photos and DVDs of the dive, we’re free to head back to our accommodation.
Skydiving’s an amazing experience. Easier than bungy jumping because you’re so far up the ground below almost doesn’t seem real, and in a tandem jump you don’t have a whole lot of free will when it comes to actually leaping out of the plane. However in bungy jumping you don’t have much time to register the feeling of falling as it’s over so fast. With the skydive there’s plenty of time to get accustomed to what you’re doing and really feel the experience. I could definitely see myself doing a skydive again. With that done, the rest of the day seems quite dull in comparison.