No better way to start the travelogue than to talk above my recent skydiving experience during my honeymoon in New Zealand!
I can’t even say skydiving is something I have always to do because.. it wasn’t. I used to look at pictures of people in the sky and think “I could never do it”. Then when we decided on New Zealand for honeymoon, I started praying and asking myself “Why not? Why do I think that I cannot skydive?”. I realized I didn’t know why I was scared… Was I afraid of dying if an accident happens? Was I afraid of heights? Was I afraid of my parachute not opening? What was it??
Then it hit me…. it was really the free fall section. I am till today scared of that rollercoaster-heart-in-the-air feeling. And i didn’t want to be free falling for 1 minute with that feeling. I honestly think that my heart would stop.
So I continued to question myself…… How do I know I would get that feeling? So I watch youtube videos of people jumping to see their facial expressions (is the feeling as bad as people experience in rollercoasters)? I went to read up on people who have sky-dived to see their descriptions. Finally, whatever physics I studied till Junior College convinced my brain that if I were to skydive, I would hit terminal velocity in 3-4 seconds and since the heart-in-the-air-g feeling only occurs due to change in acceleration, I should feel fine after. Though my head was convinced, my heart still felt fear.
To cut the long story short, till the night before, I still wanted to cancel my skydive. In fact, N was nice enough to leave a voicemail to tell them we were going to cancel and ask for our deposit back. But after lots of prayer and self-psychoing, and dragging myself out of bed that morning, I decided to go ahead with Nzone at Queenstown. And it was the most amazing experience!!
I want to write about the whole experience in details another time so you can laugh at me through the process, but this is me smiling, free-falling at 200kph. It broke so many mental barriers for me, and I want to tell you – if I can do it, you can do it too 🙂
As promised, to detail the day, I woke up to a beautiful morning. We had to reach Nzone @ Queenstown by 1015am to make the skydive. “No chance it would be cancelled on such a beautiful day”… N still made the call to check if Nzone was still running it and to tell them we were still going (remember I tried to cancel night before by leaving a voicemail).
I dragged myself to bathe and layer up, as it would be cold at 12000 feet when I jump, especially when the wind is blowing at you at 200km/hr. I dragged myself to a nice cafe with Nick but don’t remember what I ate because I kept thinking of my impending
doom jump at 1015am.
When I finally walked into Nzone, I decided I was really crazy to do this. They put us in this room to show as a video as briefing. I think it only served to make all 14 of us in the room more scared by showing us videos of people jumping but oh well. We signed lives away on a form and they packed us into 2 buses and drove us to the dropzone about 15 mins away.
It was a beautiful day. The 15000 feet troupe went first and left us, 12000 feet folks, behind waiting. The wait only made the butterflies in my stomach worst. After what seemed like a long time, we were called to suit up and I got to say ‘hi’ to both my tandem instructor and also the photo/videographer who would jump with me. then the only safety briefing we got was – 1) jump off the plane, 2) be like a banana – bend your back and look like a banana from the side. My only comfort was seeing the people from 15,000 feet land safely and yelling at me “YOU WILL LOVE IT!”.
Next, I walked to the plane with my instructor and made small talk. He has done 11,000 jumps!! I felt tad better hearing that. He still remembers his first jump and he decided to change from working in a aluminium factory to jumping from his first jump. About 12 of us – instructors, noobs like us, photo/videographer – squeezed into a very small plane. The view was just stunning on the way up.. clear blue skies… snow capped mountains. I felt strangely calm.
At 9000 feet, the first couple jumped and I felt the plane jerk upwards everytime one of them jumped. I was still feeling calm. But this young tall big boy next to me was starting to squirm and I ended up talking to him to try to calm him down. It made me feel better too. Everything was a bit of a blur. I remember my instructor strapping me real tight and shoving my hair into all the gear so it won’t fly in his face later. And of course, I have to do my signature “victory” sign.
Then I saw the shutter opening and I figured it was already 12,000 feet. I saw N’s instructor and him moving towards the shutter. I told myself I would freak out so I didn’t look. When it was my turn, I just wiggled to edge of the plane, closed my eyes, and told myself to just jump and FEEL. I opened my mouth but I didn’t make a sound. I didn’t feel any of the heart in my lung feeling. I think I made 2 whole somersaults but after 2 seconds, I opened my eyes and felt like a dog sticking her head out of the car. I think my instructor soon opened the drogue (small stablizing parachute) so I started stabilizing.
Once the drogue was opened, there was no more tumbling. I was trying to enjoy the scenery and trying to keep smiling and look up. The photographer kept telling me that onground as you don’t want to have ugly shots after paying so much for them to jump with you. I managed to play “boxing” with my photographer in the air.. successfully high-5-ing him once while we were both dropping at terminal velocity of 200km/hr.
When the parachute open, immediately, it becomes very silent. And my first thought was “crap, I should have opted for the 15000 feet drop as N said.” 45 seconds was too fast!!! The 5-10minutes parachute journey down was gentle and beautiful. Only thing I would do differently if I were to do it all over again is “blow my ears!!” I couldn’t equalize in time and had painful ears for a while. Thank God my instructor had a very smooth landing too!
The world is a lot less scary once you have jumped off an airplane into thin air 🙂
Hope this encourages you to do what it most scary for you!