Saturday, November 28, 2009

Into Thin Air

Loads of people talk about and indeed do a skydive. When I was 19 I did one and thought I had “done one”. Tick it off the list and all that. It was good, I might even stretch to very good, but not better than that. For years I have been banging on about how much better the BIG bungee's are. I've had a go at looking round the world for big things to jump off with a bit of elastic strapped round my feet but largely forgotten about the whole thin air experience.

On listening to the legions of “having jumped” in NZ I decided this comparison needed another test. This was a VERY GOOD idea.

What I sought was the most stunning place to do it and what I needed was the weather to play ball (far from a given in this part of the world as in mine!). As would luck would have it, these circumstances coincided near Fox Glacier.
Yup, skidding along a grass runway in a little propeller plane. Eventually the bumps of the ground diminish until you are gently soaring into the air. Round, round and up. Over grassy hills to snowy peaks. Feeling every gust of wind, the five of us squeezed in our tiny plane (pilot and two sets of tandem jumpers) flew up and over the giant snow and ice basin from which the glaciers of this region pour.
The highest peak in Oceania, Mount Cook sours to its heights within touching distance as we circle for more altitude over the Fox Glacier, pouring down from the roof of New Zealand. An exhilarating and wonderful experience.

Once we reach 12,000 ft we manoevre to our jump zone. Door flings open, with a touch of “what in the **** am I doing!” I fling my legs out, smile for the camera and with a pat on my head, cross my arms and am spinning downwards.
A yelp of pure joy as the world spins and spins. The plane above shrinks fast, but for the first few seconds the ground below appears no closer in its immensity. I look all around and give Mount Cook a gaping, if fleeting grin. The ground begins to rush towards me in spiraling magnification.

After less than a minute in which time dissolves, the parachute opens and we rise (or in fact slow) with a jolt. Awesome. Some time to take in all the majestic scenery as we glide downwards. The guy even lets me take the controls and I make a couple of sharp loops to one side and then the other. Brilliant.
Then came the scary bit. Last time, and I understood usually, you land gently on your feet. Due to some high winds we take the bum skidding route. Yes, at however many miles an hour we skid on to the ground with a thud and slide in on my arse. Not the most graceful experience but pretty cool none the less.
I take it all back. Bungees and sky-dives are both as awesome as each other. This could become an expensive habit....

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