Skydiving.

The hardest thing was the waiting. I had been booked in for 12:30, and I had awoken at 08:30 and not being able to get back to sleep. I was parked in a motor park that felt just that little bit too organised. All of the vans were in numbered rows, there was a one way system that took you all around before getting to the place you wanted, next to the place you started. The kitchen block was a large stainless steel and pine cupboard affair with signs over the sinks warning you that hot water could be dangerous. Signs told us not to make a mess, that any mess left by anyone will result in being expelled from the camp. The television room had a sign that informed us that food, alcohol and smoking were verboten and that the room itself would be locked after 11pm and not re-opened until 6am and not a second earlier. God help anyone who wanted to change the channel and remember, video surveillance is for our safety and comfort. All they needed was a sign at the entrance proclaiming ‘Strength Through Joy!’ and the picture would be complete. I showered, had breakfast and went into town. It was nine thirty, I still had three whole hours to wait. I checked where the office I was to be picked up from was, checked again from a different direction that it was where I had left it and found that it was. Good, that killed ten minutes. I found to my dismay that the McDonalds here only let people use their crappy internet connection if they actually bought something. So after ordering a cup of something brown and vaguely reminiscent of tea, I checked my emails and uploaded things to my blog. Eventually, time moved on to the appointed hour and I arrived at the pick up office ten minutes early. Only to be told that I had to wait another thirty minutes because they were running late. At long last though, I boarded a bus with a group of other like minded wannabe dare devils and we headed for the airfield. The weather for it was perfect, skies bluer than a Chubby Brown performance and a baking hot sun, the only wind was when someone walked past you. We were asked to gather in a small building by the airfield and a perky staff member gave us a brief talk on the merits of buying their photo packages, DVDs of your experience and a memory to treasure. At NZ$110.00 it was a deal I couldn’t miss, but somehow did. We were told that our group was the third in line, and that we could wait outside in the sunshine or here in the cabin, where there were free tea and coffee making facilities. I took them up on the offer and sat with a cup of tea in the sunshine, thankful that I could wash away the taste of murky brown stuff I’d had earlier. We watched the small single engine aeroplane take off, vanish up into the big blue and then marvelled as the multi coloured parachutes burst open in the sky. Everyone landed on a perfectly mown square of fenced off grass, all the happy punters celebrating with high fives and big hugs. Finally, after almost an hour and a half of watching all the others go up, it was our turn. We were led into the hanger, a busy place were parachutes were being methodically checked and rolled and packed by people with knowing hands. We were told anything that was loose was to be placed in a locker, including neck chains and watches. I emptied my pockets and did as I was told, then I was given a one piece coverall jumpsuit which fitted snuggly. It was even more snug when they fitted a harness of hooks and straps over the top of it, when asked if it was too tight I said no, I could still feel my legs so could you make it tighter to make sure I wasn’t going to slip out. After this, we were told how to bend our bodies when we exited the aeroplane, like a banana and not a pineapple. Neck Back, Hands Around Shoulder Straps, Feet Together and Arch Your Back. When the jump master taps your shoulder twice, relax and enjoy the ride! When they had finished refuelling (more waiting, but I wasn’t so bothered this time. Make sure that tank is nice and full) we climbed on board. I expected seats, but no. We were sat in rows on the floor, one behind the other. Since I was going out at nine thousand feet, (the others were at 12 and 15 thousand, this was of course more expensive) I would be first off so I was last on and next to the roller shutter door. As we climbed I could feel the bloke with the parachute (he was called Steven too, so that was a good sign) fastening himself to the clips on my back and making sure all was well. Nobody spoke, partly because the aircraft was noisy but mostly I suspect because they were all thinking about what came next. I thought about the man at the back, the one going at 15k. He’d have to sit there and watch everyone else jump out ahead of him, he could have second thoughts and not bother. I didn’t have that option, I was going or nobody else did. Steven showed me his altimeter, it was time. He slid open the door and I looked out over Queenstown, an area of grey below us. The lake was a glistening blue green sheet of glass and the Remarkables! Now I could see why they got their name. We shuffled around and Steven asked me to put my feet on the board below the door, which I did. I was expecting a countdown but no, I put my feet on the board, felt him push them off with his feet and a gentle shove and the next thing I knew was I couldn’t hear the engine and I was looking at the ground. I expected wind rush, but with my goggles and a leather helmet on all was quiet, peaceful even. We free fell for about 20 seconds or so, before I felt the ‘chute deploy, again just a gentle tug. I got a double tap on my shoulder and perfectly clear in my ear Steven said, “You can relax, enjoy the ride!” I put my arms out and relaxed my legs and I was flying, soaring over the mountains. I saw a lake inside the top of one of the mountains completely frozen over, then a green valley hidden by the jagged peaks. But the town, I saw Queenstown in a way that you only ever see on postcards. It was perfect, I saw the gondola I had been on the day before and marvelled at how small that looked from up here. “Do you want to try a turn?” Oh yes I did! One second we were level and a pull of a handle later, were swooping like birds. I felt all the blood rush to my feet then all the way back as we went the other way. Round and round we went for what felt like forever but was only really about seven minutes. We had a conversation on the way down, we talked about the other places he’d jumped like Germany and Australia but he said that this place was by far and away the most beautiful and best place he had ever worked. He said I was really lucky to have a day like this and he did this six or seven times a day! Eventually, we came in to land. He told me to grab my ankles and hitch my knees up, and the postage stamp of land that was our spot came into view. I saw a man below, waving his arms left and right like they do guiding in aircraft. We swooped in and slowed right down, landing without even a thump. He unhooked us and we high fived and did all the things I’d seen everyone else do earlier. It was fabulous, perfect, the best thing about New Zealand so far. I waited for the others to get down and we all whooped and cheered. On the bus back, we arranged to meet up again (as usual) in the pub, but until then what could we do, how could we keep this high going? Well, I said, I know a place where we could go cliff jumping if you’d like…

Mini Count :-18, I saw one on the way to go sky diving, a good omen.

Google Earth Co-ordinates :-45 01’52.33″S 168 39′ 35.01″E

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About Steven R Harrison

Greetings! Thank you for having a look at my blog. On here you will find my epic adventure around New Zealand that I undertook in 2011-12, now available to buy with more pictures and in hard back entitled 'Blogs, Bikes & Jelly Beans' from Lulu.com and Amazon. Since returning to Blighty I have been writing my next novel, Attack of the Atomic Airships, which will soon be available to buy from all the usual channels. For now though, since my travelling days are 'on hold' for the time being, I hope you will enjoy some 'Flash Fiction,' that is, fiction of around 1000 words or less. The subjects are varied, but usually gravitate toward SF. The first one is called Continue? Yes / No. I hope you enjoy it!
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