My Day started with Skydive Tapou picking me up in a Limousine.
This was a nice start to the day, but I was nervous for what was to come next.
There is a saying, “ When in New Zealand, do as the Kiwis do”….errr or was that Rome? I don’t know. I need to brush up on my life is short quotes.
Either way, New Zealand, a country, packed full of adventures such as bungee jumping, skydiving, glow worms caves, and rafting, is a mecca to adventure travelers like myself.
As the propeller of the tiny pink plane turned over, I felt a not so adventurous shiver run down my spine. The plane started its slow crawl onto the runway before picking up speed in preparation for its 20 minute ascent to 15,000 ft.
Somehow I had decided that this altitude was just right for jumping out of a perfectly good aircraft. *Slap hand against forehead*. “At least I got see see the vibrant rolling hills of Hobbiton before I die” I thought.
Yep, I was about to make my first skydive over the gorgeous mountains of Taupo, New Zealand. It was a perfect day for Skydiving in New Zealand. And I was ready to get a great view of some a beautiful place the world has to offer from the air.
I never before realized that twenty minutes is an extremely long time to contemplate your immediate future. I quickly reflected on my life lessons I learned travelling the world.
My skydive instructor, a tall Australian with a beard that would rival Zeus himself, scooted close and started fiddling with buckles, tightening straps, and checking cords. “At least I wasn’t alone in this,” I thought.
It felt like a group of espresso fueled butterflies were running a marathon in my stomach, but overall I wasn’t nearly as nervous as I envisioned myself.
Forcing the butterflies to subside, I tuned my head to face my dive partner, Amos, and got up the nerve to ask, “How many jumps have you done?”.
Closing my eyes, I turned back around and held my breath, I hadn’t been this nervous about someone’s answer since the cops said they weren’t going to take me in Russia.
If his answer was anything under 100, I knew it would thrust my fear level from ‘proceed with caution’ to ‘abort mission status.’
“9,000,” he replied as I exhaled a sigh of relief. I could hear the smile in his voice as he said, “You have nothing to worry about.
This is my office.” He motioned out the window to the beautiful cloud covered mountains, the deep blue lake, and the rolling green hills of New Zealand. “Damn. I thought my nomadic office of beaches, coffee houses, and hostel common rooms were good. This guy’s got it made!” Now this is a travel job that I want!
He pointed to the snow covered mountain jutting past the clouds.
The sun reflecting on the snow made the mountain appear half gold.
“It’s Mt. Doom from Lord of the Rings and a spot where the Hobbit was filmed,” he said. Being a massive Lord of the Rings fan, the thought of skydiving over Mt Doom replaced all my nervousness with excitement. Then the plane door slid open. This isn’t what I had in mind when I wanted to go backpacking through New Zealand.
A gust of cold air hit me like a hard slap in the face. The sobering reality of the situation clamped down on every synapse in my brain. Suddenly this skydiving thing took on a new level of realness.
I watched almost in a daze, as three different skydiving pairs sat on the edge and then in a split second, disappear on a speedy descent towards the massive, solid object below – earth.
From behind, my tandem partner pushed me across the seat in a massive scoot, waking me from my stupefied state. Instantly, a wave of emotions shot through my head. Anxiety pulsated through my veins. Strangely, I was conscience that my body was numb while my mind urgently screamed that this was totally insane.
All my determination went into not shouting, “Hey Beardman, STOP scooting us to the edge of the door!”.
After a couple more scoots, we were unbelievably sitting on the ledge. Looking down, I zeroed in on my legs dangling 15,000 feet above the world.
I knew I had to get control.
Closing my eyes and taking a deep breath, I cleared my head of everything but one simple thought. ‘I want to live this moment entirely’.
I lifted my head as the adrenaline of life conquered all my fear. I felt myself start to lean forward and ever so gently, somersault out of the plane.
I was flying!
It took a second to register and to come to terms with the rush of my thoughts and feelings.
First, I noticed that it felt more like floating than falling. Fear was conquered by a wave of massive adrenaline and yet at the same time, peacefulness.
As I took in the landscape, the wind beat across my face. My lips curved into a smile and I started screaming excitedly. (Which is why, my face, in the video is red and looks like I am going to pass out).
My guide and I tossed and turned as we took in the unrivaled view of Lake Taupo in the early morning sun, a view that only New Zealand can provide.
Then we started playing with the camera, giving thumbs up, gnarly signs, and showing off the writing on my hands (Adventure Rocks). Garth made a gesture and I knew he was asking if I was comfortable enough to do some spins.
“Yes please!”, I gestured. We spun around the lake and mountains behind us and the bright green hills in front of us. In the 60 seconds of free fall, I felt free and alive.
I felt a tiny jerk as the parachute caught us.
Now we were gliding slowly back to the ground, which was perfect since I wasn’t in any rush.
As we landed, I eagerly thought, “Let’s do that again!”
Skydiving lets you live in the moment. You don’t think about everyday life, worries, or any problems you are facing. They simply don’t exist there. It just you, your guide, adrenaline, and one hell of a view. It is one of the most exciting and liberating things I have ever done.
The adrenaline buzz lasted all day for me. I was a little uneasy going into skydiving, but now I can’t recommend it enough.
If you are ever in New Zealand, I suggest doing your skydive at Lake Taupo for a few reasons.
1- Skydive Taupo was extremely safe. The staff is friendly and the dive partners make you feel comfortable throughout the whole process.
2- It is the cheapest place to skydive which is helpful for people backpacking in New Zealand.
3- The views are amazing! Lord of the Rings fans get the opportunity to skydive over Mt. Doom.
4- If something goes wrong with the filming equipment or you get less than 300 pictures, they refund your video cost.
5- They Pick you up in a Limo!