Skydiving and Lake Wanaka
Trip Start Jul 30, 2006
60Trip End Ongoing
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Wanaka is a very charming lakeside town, flanked on all sides by the snowcapped mountain peaks of the Southern Alps. Apparently it is a bit of a trendy holiday town in the winter as there are 2 ski areas within 20 minutes drive. We were visiting in the summertime but the place was by no means deserted and there was a pleasant buzz around town as we sat in the pub and watched England capitulate at the end of the first test match - losing in spectacular fashion both the match and potentially hope of retaining the Ashes. Only the first test out of five but there weren't many positives for us.
Whilst sailing in the Whitsunday Island in Australia, 2 members of our crew had already skydived over Lake Wanaka and heartily recommended the whole experience to us. We hadn't really discussed it since but after a few beers, Sarah floated the subject and, showing a healthy dose of British spirit, we both tentatively agreed to give it a go. Before you could say "what a stupid idea!" we found ourselves signed up and booked in for our dice-with-death the very next afternoon, depending on the cloud height and wind speed.
The following morning, seeking some alternative amusement to take our minds off our impending afternoon freefall heroics, we set out early to walk the Rob Roy track up the side of one of Wanaka's mountains. We totally almost forgot about the skydive as we climbed steadily up the rough path following a small but powerful river, thundering down the mountainside in a torrent of waterfalls and deep pools. The sun was shining out of a bright blue sky as we reached the end of the path looking out across the valley on snowy peaks and a small glacier.
Looking at my watch, I realized that we only had a couple of hours to get to Wanaka's airport before our jump so we headed back down the path at a rate of knots, both of us coming-a-cropper several times, resulting in a second grazed knee for Sarah. Once safely back at the car park (Sarah's scabby knee notwithstanding), we phoned through to Skydive HQ to find out the weather report only to be told that it was too windy and that we had been rescheduled to 10:00am the following morning, again depending on the weather. We had spent all day building ourselves up to it only to be cruelly let down at the last minute.
Shunning the perfect opportunity to back out afforded to us by yesterday's shock cancellation, we arrived at the airport undeterred, put on yet another ridiculous extreme sports outfit and generally cacked ourselves waiting for the weather all-clear. Subsequent to a quick safety briefing we met our tandem instructors, strapped on harnesses and then were in the slightly rickety plane gaining altitude. It seems fitting at this point to mention that we were both absolutely terrified, a condition that wasn't helped when the pilot radioed back telling us that he would be dropping us off at 15,000ft instead of the 9,000ft that we had signed up for. Great!
After that, it was all a bit of a blur. I said goodbye to Sarah, possibly for the last time as the cling-film door that I had been leaning on opened and we were out first, my instructors and my legs dangling out of a perfectly good airplane. It was a nervous smile for the wing-mounted camera and then we dropped like a stone into the thin air. I can't really remember much else except the feeling of freezing cold air whipping past my face at 140mph and my girly squeals of horror as we plummeted for about 60 seconds. It felt like an hour. Clichéd, but my whole life flashed before my streaming eyes - queuing at the school tuck shop in shorts, my first kiss, all those marvelous games of cricket, throwing up red wine at Mitch's wedding, etc, etc. I am ashamed to admit it but in my panic for self preservation, I didn't even consider that Sarah was going through exactly the same thing 100 feet above me.
Then, finally, the parachute opened and my shrieks of terror turned to victorious whoops of delight as we coasted down to earth at a much more sedate pace than the 200kmh that we had been doing just seconds before. I even had time to look around and see Sarah off to my left, dangling beneath her 'chute, no doubt going through the exact same crazily amplified emotions.