I have long wanted to visit New Zealand and last month, I was finally able to fulfill my travel wish. However, with being able to take only two weeks off from work, I had to prioritize experiences I wanted to have during this time and I planned my travel accordingly.
Most of my travel was focused in the South island but I did take a 3 day tour to the Bay of Islands with Stray tours towards the end of my two weeks. As we reached Paihia, Muesli, our guide and driver, spoke about the skydiving experience offered there and how beautiful the view of the bay of islands is from the air. Since we had the afternoon free, and since New Zealand does have one of the best safety records for adventure activities, I signed on for the skydiving.
I am scared of heights. I start feeling dizzy the second I look down from a height, such as a cliff or even from a balcony. As such, I really had no business going skydiving but then again, I generally try to face my fears and even enjoy facing them, through extreme adventure activities such as this.
When we arrived at the skydiving venue, I decided to go for the highest level on offer – jumping from 16,000 feet with 70 seconds of free fall. It was only when I signed off on indemnity waiver forms and went through the safety briefing, that my panic button got triggered. I made myself go out into the open and took deep breaths to calm myself, before rejoining the group that was flying up with me. Maurice, my instructor went through the safety checks and then soon it was our time to board the plane.
As the plane took off and I sat on the sliding bench in the plane, my panic level started increasing. At one point, Maurice asked me to put on the oxygen mask. I am not sure whether he said that because he sensed my panic or because we were the only ones jumping from 16,000 feet. Soon, the door opened and the others jumped off at 9,000 and 12,000 feet. And, it was my time to slide towards the door linked to my instructor.
I think the worst moment of stepping into the unknown is that first step which you take without knowing how it will be and what the outcome will be. The door of the plane opened and if I had that option and a few minutes more to decide, I might have pulled back. Fortunately for me, Maurice just jumped within seconds of the door opening and we hurtled through space towards the ground.
I couldn’t see the ground at first because of the heavy cloud cover and most of the free fall was trying to calm myself as the speed of our fall was very high and parts of me hurt with the force of our fall. I also know that I had this one thought running throughout – what if the instructor has a heart attack and isn’t able to pull on the parachute cords.
I must admit that it was only once Maurice pulled out that I calmed down – both mentally and physically, as the descent became slower and controlled. I was able to start appreciating the view of the bay of islands from above and I even asked the instructor in which direction Paihia was. To which, he responded by turning us around 180 degrees to point out the town.
The landing was very smooth and we literally just walked down a few steps before coming to a stop.
I am glad that I skydived as it is indeed a special experience, perhaps once in a lifetime experience.