I left franz josef the day after my climb and decided to skip Fox glacier (as the rain was still pelting down) and head straight for my next planned destination - Wanaka. It's a gorgeous little lakeside town with enough to keep my chilled and happy for the next few days. My hostel is just lovely, it overlooks the lake and is like being in someones home. As the rain had still not ceased I just stayed in last night and had a home cooked dinner with a sweet german couple I'd met on my 2 previous bus trips.
I could not have been more surprised this morning to wake up to morning with no rain! The lake was completely still and the snow covered mountains and autumn colours of the trees were reflecting off the water....it was so beautiful I went for an early morning walk around the lake and sat in the gorgeous sunshine having the perfect latte. I felt quite invigorated so when I got back to the hostel I decided to do something to make the most of the gorgeous day.
My choice was a 15 000ft skydive over the mountains and lakes.
I was picked up 30min after deciding to do the dive so had no real chance to get nervous or really think about what I was doing. When I arrived at the airfield I met up with a girl (Hannah) that I'd done the glacier climb with. She said she was really pleased to see me as she was absolutely terrified!
There were 4 other people also doing the jump so they went up first...while waiting for them I felt the first pangs of nervousness. It took the first group about 30min in all so by the time they got back we had been kitted up and given our instructions.
My instructor (and person with my life in his hands - well not just hands but belted to every part of his body) was Eugene, a hungarian guy. He was very laid back and very calming - so by the time I was in the plane and we took off I didn't really feel scared at all. This of course changed when we were at 7000ft and he told us we were only half way there (to the poing in the sky from where I was going to plunge to earth). A skydive plane is dauting as it's a completely open glass door - the view is beautiful but the gut-clenching feeling makes it a bit difficult to enjoy.
Just before we reached our height he attached me to his harness and gave a final briefing - SMILE! He'd told my cameraman to jump with us to get a good view of my plummet from the plane - he said as I was so light we had time and my freefall would be a bit longer than the others...this turned out to be 65sec. Only 65sec but could have been a lifetime. I think the scariest part was when the door opened and I had to move to sit on the edge of the plane with my feet dangling out. I didn't look down at this point. My camera-man grabbed on one side of me and Eugene tapped me to say we were off....and out we plunged. It's impossible to describe the feeling of plummeting to earth at 195km/hour. I could barely breath but Eugene and Giani were determine to capture how I felt on camera. The fall was almost surreal; you know it's you and you know you're falling to earth but the sensation is almost like an out of body experience - watching it and feeling it but not quite grasping what's happening. After 65sec Eugene gave the thumbs up and opened the shute - wow!!! Suddenly shooting up into the sky and almost stopping mid-air to start slowly floating to earth was like a roller-coast ride going backwards. The descent from there was so beautiful; the mountains were all snow-capped and I felt like a bird wafting through the air almost being a part of nature. Eugene said he could tell i wasn't scared so decided to do a few little "tricks" on the way down...and we spun and spun in circles for about 100meters down. I couldn't stop laughing - they tell you to smile but I think it must be physically imppossible not to!
What was only a few minutes was a lifetime feeling of exhiliration. All I could think when my feet (or rather bum) touched ground was how and when I could next jump!!