December 24, 2009

View Larger Map

Subject: December 24: An early Christmas present... followed by "Lord Of The Rings"
Date Sent: Tue, December 29, 2009 9:43:17 PM


The alarm was set for 6:00am but I woke up long before that, ready to go jump out of an airplane. We went to the Skydiving office at 7:15 sharp (7:20 appointment) and filled out the papers again, signing our lives away again! They said we have a chance of jumping today, although we could see the cloud cover and it wasn't looking good! We took the van back to the dropzone anyway, along with all the other people from the previous day!

This time Priya & I were on the second flight up. They had two planes (KingAir -- same as in Byron) in the hangar and had to take them out first before we could go inside. That was a good sign. Then 3 people were called up in front of us, and they went to get suited up and out to the first plane for their jump -- another good sign. Maybe we'd get to jump today after all!

Then it was the next batch of 3 -- Priya, me and another girl named Rachel who was on her own roadtrip across New Zealand (more on that later). We suited up and made our way to the plane, with me in the back of the plane next to the door (i.e. "last in, first out"!) I had previously confirmed that we WOULD be jumping from 15,000 feet AGL, although looking at the clouds I still didn't believe it. I had also previously asked Sasa (my tandem instructor) if I could practice my turns during freefall -- he said "as soon as I tap your shoulder you're free to do any turns you want, just keep that arch position". :)

We took off, started climbing to jump altitude, and I got mentally prepared again. Rachel was laughing all the way to jump altitude, and Priya was refusing to acknowdledge any "thumbs-up" signals from me or her tandem instructors or cameraman. I was nervous, terrified, and excited all at the same time, hoping I wouldn't break my ankle again -- and that I would get my turns and hand signals right. Going over the whole freefall in my mind, right 360 turn, left 90 turn... Before I knew it we were at jump altitude -- 15,000 feet AGL. (I remember asking my cameraman to show me his altimeter once -- it was 11,700 feet then). Sasa pushed the button to open the door, I felt that VERY FAMILIAR gust of cold wind, and it was time to MOVE OUT!

The skydive couldn't have gone more perfectly! I did my right and left turns, and remember thinking to myself "only 90" turn instead of going all the way round. In short, I was aware of what I was doing! :) When that beautiful canopy opened I started enjoying the scenery around Queenstown -- beautiful mountains with a little snow on top and the lake ... it was a great skydive all the way down to the landing -- and Sasa (with his 18,000 jumps experience) made the perfect landing!

Rachel and then Priya landed a few minutes after I did, and we went to the reception desk to collect our videos, but they said the dvd and pictures would not be ready until 1pm! Priya and I had to go to Milford Sound and Te Anau (long drive), and Rachel had to go to Christchurch (even longer drive), and none of us could afford to wait until 1pm! We didn't really have a choice in the matter. We took the van back to the office and begged for an early delivery -- the best offer we had was "try at noon". Priya and I went for lunch and came back to the store at 12:15, and our DVD's and pictures "package" arrived just a few minutes later! Later that evening we saw the DVD and I'm pleased with the result :)

Anyway, after picking up the video package we started driving back down -- along Collins Bay back down to Kingston and further South, then East to the town of Te Anau, then North towards Milford Sound...

Milford Sound is a small town in Fiordlands National Park, surrounded by mountains all around. The road from Te Anau up to here is a purely mountain road -- gorgeous scenery on both sides, with lot of glaciers and waterfalls! The "Lord Of The Rings" movie trilogy had several shooting locations all along this route too. But by the time we got there, it was raining quite hard. The clouds were very low and it seemed like the waterfalls that were really originating from the glaciers on the mountaintops were actually falling from the clouds! But all that was what made the scenery so great! We still wanted to see the TOPS of the mountain ranges, which we were not able to do.

About 15km south of Milford Sound is a viewpoint named "The Chasm" and when we got there we decided to come back here tomorrow. So instead of going ahead to Milford Sound, we turned around and drove back to Te Anau where the hotel was booked for tonight.

It was a long and wonderful day :-)


Ishaan's skydive:


Priya's skydive:

From Ishaan's camera:

From Priya's camera:

Dec 23 Contents Dec 25