Home > New Zealand > Day 10: Weeeeeeeeeee!

Day 10: Weeeeeeeeeee!

09 June, 2010

And today held yet another amazing adventure: skydiving.

Katrina and I had a time set to skydive at 11:15am. We ate a quick breakfast in our van and grabbed coffee at a little café before leaving.

The original plan was to skydive in Queenstown. It’s the adventure capital of New Zealand, and most people will either dive there or in Taupo on the North Island. Just as I was about to book in Queenstown, though, I randomly stumbled across Skydive NZ, a skydiving company based out of Fox Glacier. Besides allowing you to skydive over the most beautiful scenery in the country (including Mount Cook and the glaciers), they let you take your own camera on the dive with you. Sadly, they don’t allow DSLRs, but I took my little Flip video camera and was able to videotape everything after our chute opened up.

We pulled up to the hanger and checked in. Within five minutes, we were given a very quick briefing and shoved on a plane. The plan was tiny, the same size as the one I used to skydive near State College—just big enough to hold a pilot and four passengers seated on the floor.

On the Skydiving Plane

We were allowed to take our camera up on the plane with us before our skydive. Of course, I wasn't allowed to take my DSLR on the dive with me, but I would have been able to take a point and shoot if I had one. (I ended up taking my small videocamera on the dive with me, which was still great.)

The ride up was beautiful, circling around the Fox Glacier valley, Mount Cook, and the other mountains in the area. You could also see the coast of the Tasman Sea. Needless to say, I took quite a few pictures through the window of the airplane.

Out the Airplane Window

A panorama I took using three shots out the window of our skydiving plane.

Mount Cook

The summit of Mount Cook, as viewed from our plane.

As we were about to hit 12,000 feet, I put my camera away and got ready to jump. The instant the altimeter read 12,000, the door swung open, and Kat and her instructor disappeared out into the perfectly blue sky. My instructor helped me towards the door. My head went back against his shoulder, my legs back in the “banana shape.” As he sat on the edge of the plane with his legs dangling out, my entire body was suspended in the air, held up only by my attachment to him. He swung forward, and we fell out into the open air.

A few of the thoughts that ran through my head during the 45-second freefall: “Wow, this is cool. I should scream. Wow, it’s cold. Wonder if I should have worn boots; the air is going right through my running shoes. Oh, my mouth is open. What if I swallow a bug? I remember seeing people skydiving once with their mouth opened. They looked silly. Oh, a chute below. Is that Kat? Of course it is, who else is parachuting from this exact spot at this exact moment. She’s far down. Hmm, wonder when he’s going to pull the chute?”

And he did pull the chute. I was yanked upwards and felt my body become weightless for a second before continuing my descent, this time much slower than before. My instructor pulled my goggles off, and I took out my video camera to film the rest. (As of the time of writing this, I have no idea if my video is any good, as I haven’t watched it yet. I tried to get the scenery, as well as a few shots of my face. I also watched Kat land below, and myself skim across the grass as I landed.)

It was quite a fantastic experience, but I think the initial shock of it is gone since I did it the first time in State College. Comparing the two, I think I honestly liked State College (technically Reedsville, PA) better. While this had amazing scenery, the staff at skydive NZ was a bit cold. Kat said her instructor was friendly, but mine barely talked. I felt like I was rushed through, like they were just trying to turn a profit and didn’t care if you enjoyed the experience or not. They even made a snide remark when we told them that we didn’t want to order pictures or videos. (“I thought the recession was over? Guess not!”) (And don’t get me wrong, the jump itself was still utterly amazing, but the staff and mood in Reedsville were much more inviting, making for a more enjoyable experience overall.)

Within 45 minutes, we were back in our car. We took some photos of the town (which we hadn’t done in the previous two days of being here).

Glacial Junction

This is in the center of town in Fox Glacier. The two glaciers are to either side, and the picturesque Lake Matheson cuts right down the middle.

We also took the 5-minute trip to Lake Matheson, right outside of town. Wow, totally worth it. It’s “one of New Zealand’s most famous lakes,” and for a good reason. It is perfectly still, and it acts like a mirror, giving a brilliant reflection of Mount Cook and some of the surrounding mountains.

Fence

And only dingy fence I found heading towards Lake Matheson. Kat continued towards the lake, but I stayed here for a few minutes to take pictures, sprinting (and getting completely out of breath) to catch back up to her.

Lake Matheson

Lake Matheson, one of the most photographed lakes in New Zealand. You can see Mount Cook and some of its neighboring mountains in the distance, but unfortunately they were mostly covered under clouds for this photo.

After that, we took a quick trip to Fox’s neighbor, Franz Joseph. This time it wasn’t to see the glacier, but the boundary of two tectonic plates: the Indo-Australian and the Pacific. One point of the fault line lies right under a gas station: this seems recipe for disaster. Kat also spotted the boundary in the Franz Joseph Glacier Valley: a giant crack in the wall with different types of rock on each side. (Kat is a geologist, so she was pretty much in heaven in all of New Zealand, but especially here.)

Faulty Petrol

This petrol station lies right on the fault line between the Pacific and the Indo-Australian tectonic plates. Seems a little dangerous if the plates decided to make a decent sized move. (Taken by Kat)

From there we took the drive to Greymouth for the night. We stopped at a few places along the way to take pictures, but nothing worth mentioning by name. Although, at one of the stops, Kat accidentally touched an electric fence. Needless to say, her arm is not feeling the greatest right now.

Self Reflection

A reflection of myself in Lake Mapourika. We stopped here just after leaving Franz Joseph to grab a bite to eat.

Final South Island Sunset

We were trying to find a decent place to see the sunset, but were so landlocked that we couldn't find anywhere. It seemed that anywhere that would be decent for a photo was private and fenced off. (This is also the place where Kat touched the electric fence.)

Lake Ianthe

Lake Ianthe. We stopped here for a few moments to take photos on our way back up. I think we interrupted something going on in a car by the lake.

There really is nothing interesting in Greymouth, and we didn’t even bother going into town. We’re just camped in a picnic area outside of town, set to wake up and finish the drive to Christchurch tomorrow morning. We hope to take Arthur’s Pass, though it’s possible that it could be closed due to snow, and we’d have to readjust our schedule. Our car needs to be back by 2pm either way.

Crazy how fast this trip has gone: 24 hours left until I’m back in Wellington.

See the full set on Flickr! (Photos will be uploaded as I go through each day.)

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