Saturday, 6 February 2016

Hitch-Hiking to Wanaka and Skydive number two!

So, as I never got around to blogging about my first skydive in Australia (maybe one day I will write that 7 week trip up!) I thought I definitely need to write about the 2nd - and it was quite an adventurous journey there.

We had been WWOOFing for two weeks with Fay, sanding down her house and painting undercoat on, plus stripping wallpaper and other odd jobs like gardening at her daughters farm. We had the Saturday off before leaving on Sunday to our casual job on a local Vineyard in Alexandra, Central Otago.

So we asked if we could use the car to get to Wanaka to do our skydive, which was all good so we booked it. But the night before at 8pm Fay told us that she didn't think the car was safe enough to take as she had bumped it into a tree stump earlier that week and the bumper had half come off, which was fair enough. The only problem is we couldn't cancel the skydive as we would lose our money and we didn't know when to reschedule for. It was too late to try and arrange a lift there so our only option left was to wake up a little earlier and hitch hike there.

We had never hitched before so it was bound to either be a good experience or a bad one and we were hoping for a good one after the 2 weeks of bad weather.

In the morning we woke up super hyped and excited, made our signs to Wanaka and back to Roxburgh and then waiting on the road outside the house, thumbs up, signs out, boobs out and skirt hitched up (haha only joking). It didn't take long (around 10mins) for our first ride to pull up, James, a lovely dreadlocked dude from Dunedin. He was headed to Queenstown for a concert so he could take us to the junction in Cromwell which was a huge chunk of the journey done!

We made the normally hour long ride in record time (40mins) as he was a speed breaking lunatic but he could handle the roads and was a great character to chat to.

He dropped us at the junction in Cromwell and then we had our last leg to go - and it was only 10.30am! We walked a little further along to a fruit shop with a layby as there was another hitch-hiker and we didn't want to ruin his chances as he had all his bags too. There we waited for no more than 5-10mins when a van load of guys (about 10 of them) from Vanuatu came along and picked us up - lucky they had space for us! And drove us the 40mins to Wanaka. Again they were a lovely crew and we got to listen to some local music of theirs from home.

Once in Wanaka it was lunch time and so we went and got lunch from New World and had a picnic by the lake and ended up sharing our space with a lovely elderly Canadian couple who we had a fabulous chat with.

It was then...pickup time!! While our guide drove us to the airport we watched a safety video and how to prepare to jump out of the plane. In Australia they call it 'The banana' because you basically have to form the shape of a banana on the edge of the plane two seconds before jumping. Legs under the belly of the plane, hips out and head against the instructors left shoulder, hands holding onto your harness...then you jump! But to be honest you only literally have two seconds to do all of that so I have no idea if anyone actually ever really becomes a banana, more like a 'oh shit' and then your gone.

So we got to the skydive base where we signed in, paid for Pierrick's pictures (I didn't get pictures as it was too expensive and I already have them from Australia). We then had to change into our full body suits (they make you look like a condom its hilarious!) and wait until our names were called.

I was quite impressed as Pierrick still didn't feel nervous, or at least that's what he told me! We then had a lovely girl from Taiwan strap us into our harnesses and 10mins later, after the plane before us had landed, our instructors re-packed their parachutes and cane in to meet us...ready to go up again. You could tell they were tired - imagine every hour you have to go up, jump, then come down and do it all again.

Everyone in our plane headed off with their instructor, except me, who seemed to be missing an instructor, I had a little mini panic thinking I wasn't jumping with the same group as Pierrick but then good ol' Boris came running out apologising as he had needed the toilet - bless, I'd forgive him! He was from Serbia and had been jumping for yearsjump was actually excited it was my second jump as he said he could 'do more exciting things' this had my heart pumping. The only question I had was how to breathe during the freefall and he laughed saying many 2nd timers asked this as they normally find out in their first jump whether they found it hard to breathe, which for those of you who have seen my skydive video know that I had 60 seconds of sheer panic because I couldn't catch my breath lol its very entertaining - cheeks puffed out like a hamster struggling for breath with a 'oh fuck I'm going to pass out' expression! He told me that once he levels out and taps me on the shoulder I could either put my hands out in front of my face to shield the air flow, or breathe threw a teethy grin or my nose. So at least I had this down now, maybe I could actually enjoy the freefall this time.

So we started our ascent in the plane, I was in front of Pierrick, I kept checking he was OK and he was...until he saw the first two girls jump at 12,000ft, then he began to get nervous! The view from 15,000ft before we jumped though was amazing. You could not only see Lake Wanaka, the surrounding mountains and river, but also Queenstown lake which is over an hour away by car, and what they call here the Southern Alps - so many snow capped peaks! Mount Aspiring national park, Mount Cook (the highest peak of new Zealand) all the ski resorts (Treble Cone, Cardrona, Twin peaks, Coronet etc.) And you could also just about aee the coast line on either side. It was amazing! In fact, my lasting memory of this skydive will forever be the freefall I actually enjoyed, looking out over the lake with the snow capped mountains behind, it was quite literally breath-taking.

So when we had reached our jump height (15,000ft, 60 second freefall at 200kmh) it was time for the guy in front of me, then me to jump (Pierrick was unfortunately last, afterwards he told me he was shit-scared when we started seeing everyone else sit on the edge and then just disapeer, and it says its all in his photos!)

So we took off our oxygen masks (they gave us these at 12,000ft for some reason (we didn't have this in Australia), Boris quickly adjusted my harness, we put our goggles in place and our awful hats, which completed the condom look, and then banana-ed! Just before we shuffled down to the door, Boris shouted in my ear that the exciting thing was he was going to flip me loads (more than first timers) before we levelled out for the freefall. So I was suddenly excited-nervous. And let me tell you he certainly flipped me! The only feeling I can describe the fall out of the plane, is complete weightlessness, Pierrick said it was like a bungy, that feeling when you are falling in your dreams except this time you don't wake up, you live it out. You have no idea which way is down as most of the time you just see sky when you flip, and your heart goes into your throat, your stomach into you lungs and you momentarily forget how to breathe. It really is the most surreal feeling but somehow that adrenaline burst just keeps you going back to have that feeling again and again (well for me its like that). Boris must of flipped us around 4-5 times, normally you only flip once or twice if you are a newbie, and then he levelled us out. He then, bless him, put his hands in front of my face to block the air for me to breathe, but far enough away so I could still see the view, and my God, it helped sooooo much! I actually breathed normally the whole 60 seconds and I just remember laughing and admiring the amazing view, I took a mental note to snapshot this moment and I still can see the picture in my mind, the lake out in front of me, the snowcapped mountains to my right, the turquoise river beneath me and Queenstown lake and the hills/ski resorts to my left. The rush of the freefall ends when the parachute comes out and then you just float your way down to the ground. They let you have a go on the ropes sometimes, but even though it was a hot day, the wind draft was crazy so we lost height pretty quickly and Boris had to control the parachute so we didn't crash into the other jumpers (one went right beneath us, my feet skimmed their parachute). I also remember seeing Pierrick free falling as our parachute opened, it was pretty cool knowing he was currently shitting his pants lol.

Unfortunately a skydive is over before you know it - within 5-10mins, especially when the wind is not on your side. So our landing position was legs up and slide in on your bum!

Once down I waited for Pierrick to land before grabbing a quick photo from his photographer, then we went inside, took our gear off and had fun watching his picture slideshow - hilarious!

The trickiest part was yet to come - the bitch hike back to Roxburgh. We decided to pitch outside the airport as there was no point going back into Wanaka, as the airport was on the way to Cromwell.

It took us 1.5 hours in the blazing heat to get our first ride...and that was with the skydive pickup guide who had also picked up 3 other hitch hikers from Wanaka and was headed to Luggate on his way home, so be could drop us there, which was at least 5 mins up the road!

Then when we got out in Luggate an American guy left the pub opposite us and seeing we were about to put up our sign, called out an offered us a lift to Cromwell - woo! He was a lovely guy from New York who had been here for 9 months already and was going home soon. It turned out he didn't really like the look of Cromwell to spend the night in so decided to head to Alexandra and took us with him...even better that was only half hour from Roxburgh. Bless him we were so thankful!

We then walked to the bridge on the road to Roxburgh and it only took us another 15mins to find a lift with a high school girl, her mother and her brother who were all on their way back to down near Invercargill from a motorbike event. They were lovely and we were chatting so much we almost missed our stop!

Needless to say our first day trip hitch hike was a success and if we ever need to get somewhere short-distance without a car again, we could definitely do it. We both came back exhausted after the adrenaline rush ended and we spent the evening laughing our heads off at Pierrick's pictures. Well we had at least finally done our skydive, something we both, Pierrick especially, had been looking forward to doing for over a year! Woohoo, success! Enjoy laughing at some classic pictures!

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