120 Days on the Road
We are pumped! Today is our first skydive of this 365 days doing 365 activities and we’re starting with the highest one in the Southern Hemisphere!
It’s another blue bird day here in Franz Josef, home of the glaciers, so we can’t wait to see what the views have in store for us today. (If we can even comprehend the views during a 200kph freefall). So after a quick early morning work session, we walk to the Skydive Franz base right in the middle of town (which isn’t saying much because everything is right in the middle of town in the tiny town of Franz Josef).
Nobody jumps higher
The base is spacious and complete with bean bags, which is a bit of a theme here in Franz Josef. You’re not serious if you don’t have bean bags. Signs surround us saying: “19,000ft”, “Nobody jumps higher” and “You guys must be crazy”. Or maybe that last one was just the voices in our head?
Because Robin wore such a monstrosity on his face yesterday (please refer to the old man sunglasses photo of yesterday’s blog post), he has been nominated to do a skydive from 19,000ft while Laura is jumping from 13,000ft.
We sign a waiver and tick the appropriate medical check boxes before Christa, a working holidaymaker from Germany with the coolest job, takes us in the Skydive Franz van to the dropzone.
An English couple and two German friends join us for this morning’s skydive where we’ll be flown two at a time for our skydives. We’re pretty sure we have the best placement in the order going first. The anticipation, excitement and/or pure fear must be too much going last!
Afraid of heights?
Now, we know what you’re thinking. “But, wait a minute. Isn’t Robin scared of heights?” Yes, the guy that was scared of the 25m Treetop Walkway is doing a 5791.2m jump… We wish we could say more about how he is leaving skid marks in his jumpsuit but he’s completely keeping his cool. Laura is taunting him as much as she can as Christa harnesses him up but, no, nothing!
Of course, logic comes a lot into play here because you don’t have the same depth perception high in the sky. Plus, it helps to have a dude strapped to your back who knows what he’s doing.
Interviews in sexy jumpsuits
Sexy red jumpsuits on and harnesses loosely fastened (don’t worry, they’ll be tightened later), we meet our jump master who is going to throw both him and us out of a plane. With a sports cam in hand, our jump masters give us a quick interview before bringing us to the plane. Plus, Robin’s going the highest, so he has also has got himself a flying photographer and videographer to capture all the action on this once in a lifetime experience.
Our jump masters individually show and tell us how our body positions should be for the jump (think banana). Then the five of us and the pilot are in the fierce red and yellow plane ready to take off.
An intimate flight over New Zealand’s highest mountains
This isn’t like your Air-New-Zealand-WLG-AKL-with-a-complimentary-cookie type of flight. This is your two-crazy-backpackers-sat-on-the-floor-between-the-legs-of-a-stranger type of flight! But, man, the views…
As we climb higher and higher to 13,000ft, we are right on top of the snowy Southern Alps. We feel like we’re almost flying through the mountains with the peak of New Zealand’s highest mountain, Aoraki Mt Cook, in plain sight. On one side of the plane are clear views of the long thin Fox Glacier and on the other side is the gargantuan Franz Josef Glacier. We soak in the views as much as we can before that plane door slides open…
Laura’s going first. This is it! Her jump master, Ian, moves her like a rag doll to the edge of the plane. He moves his body in the backwards and forwards motion as he countdown: “3, 2, 1…”
We’re rolling around in the air, the sight of the plane leaving us until 10 seconds later when we are faced with our stomach towards the ground and the now she can put her arms out.
At first, its the power of the wind that takes her senses. Once she’s over that, she gets that feeling of floating in midair which is so surreal, finally, her eyes kick in to take in the incredible scenery below: the Tasman Sea, the coastline, farmland, a braided river going straight through it, the forested mountains gradually getting higher to the snowy peaks of the Southern Alps, and, of course, amongst it all the Franz Josef Glacier! Phew!
There’s more times to gaze at New Zealand’s beauty when Ian releases the parachute. We slowly glide lower and lower with enough time for a mid-air interview with the sports cam, as well as a chat about life.
We hit the ground bum first with Christa ready to take the harness away and the other skydivers watching. They have all sorts of questions: “How was it?!”, “What’s it like?!” Laura puts her hands to her head. It was fan-bloody-tastic. It was insane and surreal. The adrenaline still giving her a buzz!
Parachuting in paradise
Meanwhile, high in the sky: “Aaaarrrgghhhh”
Robin has 80 seconds of freefall to get his senses together, experience all of the above, and then starts playing around. He’s doing superman, he’s swimming, he’s doing all sorts of actions! There’s no other way to do it when you have JT, the cameraman, flying effortlessly around you. The three guys fall in harmony. JT comes up for a high-five and eventually shoots off for his own landing.
Now, the parachute is open and its time to glide. Henry, Robin’s parachuting buddy, lets Robin take hold of the parachute controls, pulling left to swoop down to the left and right to swoop right. Robin’s not holding back in his adrenalin-fuelled state – he is pulling as hard as he can!
A bro-to-bro moment
Then Robin and Henry just have a bro-to-bro chat as they glide in some of the world’s most spectacular scenery. Even though they have all the space in the world right here, it feels strangely intimate – like its the perfect time to socialise.
On the ground, Robin’s “WAHOOS” indicates he is arriving back on solid ground.
We have the rest of the morning to enjoy watching the rest of the jumpers, hang out with Christa, and see people’s faces after they’ve jumped.
Now that everyone’s jumped, we’re heading back into town, grabbing the videos and photos, and getting back to our accommodation at Rainforest Retreat and the Monsoon Bar where tonight is all you can eat pizza night! We sit with a group from the Kiwi Experience hop-on hop-off bus, as well as a couple more campervan travellers, for a night of stuffing our faces and drinking!
We don’t know how to live the rest of our lives after today, but we’re sure we’ll find a way – and fast because tomorrow we are kayaking on the glacial Lake Mapourika. Join us then!
Spin this around enough and you will feel like you
This is pleasing. Check out these articles about the fantastic New Zealand:
- 7 Ways to Take on New Zealand’s Glaciers
- 12 Places to Tandem Skydive in New Zealand
- Glacier Country – Guide for Backpackers
See you tomorrow, travel chums!