Last night myself and several other people who work for the backpacking industry in Auckland were invited out to Parakai to visit the site where Skydive Auckland throw people out of planes. What many of us didn't know was that out in Parakai (which is just a short drive away from Auckland CBD) there are heaps of other things to do, but more on that in a different post!
As we were driving out to Parakai, Stacy from Skydive Auckland announced that 5 people were being thrown out of a plane from 16500ft when we got there. And how were these people chosen? It all depended on which seat they were sat in on the bus. Being one of the last to get on the bus I'd headed to the back seat, like a naughty schoolchild. Turns out that was one of the hotseats! What, just what? I thought I was going out to Parakai for a presentation and to enjoy a few beers and nibbles with everyone. No! I was being thrown out of a plane!
The minute we arrived I asked if I had time for a quick cigarette to calm my nerves, nope, I had to go straight in, sign the form and then I was in the jumpsuit and harness before I knew it. We were led straight outside to the plane without a minute to really think about what was happening. A quick photo before we got on (look at how small the plane is!), and then we were off.
It was around this time that the nerves were setting in, but Lottie (1 of only 4 female tandem-masters in the whole of New Zealand) kept me occupied by pointing out Muriwai Beach, Woodhill Forest and Auckland city. You could even see Auckland skytower apparently (I wasn't wearing glasses so I can't confirm or deny this!).
The view over Parakai was amazing, the scenery was beautiful and you could see both The Tasman Ocean on the West Coast and the Hauraki Gulf and Pacific Ocean on the East Coast. Wow! Lucky for us it was also late in the day and the sun was just beginning to set meaning that the view was just that little bit more spectacular!
At this point I'd become calmer thanks to Lottie and the view but then I noticed that several people from the front of the plane had gone missing...
Aaargh... my time had come... we were moving towards the open door and I knew the time had come for me to die! We sat in the doorway, my legs dangling out of the plane, head back and then suddenly we're falling. The weird thing about freefalling is that you actually don't feel the sensation of falling at all, and somehow every bit of fear you were feeling disappears almost immediately you're out of the plane.
Anyone who has been skydiving will probably agree with me that it's hard to describe the experience, except to say that it's truly amazing and for some reason a very calming feeling.
We were freefalling for a long time (75-80 seconds from 16500ft!!!) and I even saw the plane we'd jumped out of in the distance. Then the parachute was opened and we floated gently towards the Skydive Auckland base enjoying being spun around and from left to right.
It's weird though how the ground approaches extremely fast at the end of the skydive when it seems so far away! Thank goodness the instructors are so good at what they do, I have no idea how they manage to land exactly where they planned to land!
Fear is healthy, but don't let fear stop you from having this amazing experience. The view during this skydive over Auckland is spectacular and the team who work at Skydive Auckland are all really lovely people who know how to calm your nerves and help you have an unforgettable freefalling experience. They are in fact living the dream and love sharing these experiences every day. Go for it I say!
I'm still buzzing from it... what a rush...
I'm not going to deny it I work in an incredible industry... who wouldn't want to work in an industry that's all about helping people have the craziest, unforgettable experiences on their holiday of a lifetime? And occasionally I get to have these experiences too! :-)
Kate - based at Nomads Auckland.
To book a 16500ft freefall experience with Skydive Auckland, come and see the staff at the Mad Travel Shops at our Auckland hostels both on Fort Street in downtown Auckland.