After completing the bungy jump I told you about last time, I felt that I had had enough terror and stress for one day. New Zealand however, felt otherwise. As did my friends who reminded me that we’d signed up for an entire day’s worth of adrenaline-inducing activities, and were only a quarter of the way through.
It wasn’t long, therefore, before I found myself standing at the front desk at the skydive centre, watching everyone else cheerfully sign their waivers, relieving the organisers of any responsibility, should they be injured, or plummet to their deaths. Which, with skydiving, is presumably one and the same thing. If something goes wrong, and you’ve just jumped out of a plane from 12,000 feet up in the air, you’re not coming away with a slightly bruised ankle, are you?
I would love to be one of those people who just brushes off the waiver as a formality, just something they have to do to cover themselves. To me, the very act of signing on the dotted line, is tantamount to agreeing that it’s fine if you want to kill me, and that it’s now a foregone conclusion that this is exactly what will happen.
Then my thoughts go off on a tangent about whether or not I should have made a will. Never mind that I was in my twenties and didn’t actually own anything. I could still lament the fact that nobody would know who gets to inherit the really cool CD rack that I bought when I was a student in Manchester. Not to mention my fabulous collection of exfoliators and moisturisers, bought when I bi-annually declare that I’m really going to have a proper skincare regime this time, and then left to dry out in a drawer after two uses, because seriously, who can be bothered?
Anyway, I was faced with a choice between definitely dying later on that day, and looking a bit pathetic in front of a small group of people, some of whom I didn’t even know. I’m British, so naturally I chose the former, signed the waiver and queued up unwillingly to receive the jumpsuit and helmet they make you change into, that was to be my death shroud.
We were shown a short safety video, in which we were horrifyingly taught how to pull the parachute cord, should the instructor we’re partnered with (and literally attached to) pass out, or simply decide to die, seconds after you’ve both exited the plane. They then led us out to said plane, while I tried desperately to remember what I’d just been taught, but had instantly forgotten because I was so busy looking at my instructor, wondering if he looked like the kind of person who might just suddenly cease to exist in mid-air.
Next up was getting into the plane. Easy! For everyone else. For me, not being blessed with height, I couldn’t reach my leg up high enough to lever myself onto the plane, and I had to be given a leg-up, like a six-year-old mounting a horse for the first time.
Not only that, but during the first attempt, I put my foot onto the man’s leg as directed, and my ankle promptly gave way. My body twisted itself into a couple of very strange shapes, before I gently slid sideways onto the tarmac. After briefly wondering what would happen if I just ran away, I got back up and this time had to be helped onto the plane by two men, much to the hilarity of the rest of the group.
Once inside, my instructor proceeded to clip me to the front of his body, much as one would hook a keyring to the waistband of your jeans, only with a few more clips. I’m not a happy flyer, so it was just as well that because I was last into the plane, I was first out.
Once you’re at 12,000 feet, they open the door, and the instructor shuffles you over to it, so that you’re sitting on the edge with your feet dangling, and your stomach seeming to edge its way right up into your throat as the realisation kicks in that there’s no turning back now. And then you hear the shout ‘Go!’. You try to form the words, ‘no, no wait, wait, I’m not ready!’, but it’s too late because you’re out and already tumbling into the sky.
With the bungy you have to throw yourself off the edge, make that decision to jump. You fall through the deadly quiet sky and as the ground gets relentlessly closer and closer, the dropping sensation is overwhelming. With sky diving, you’re pushed out of the plane, and it doesn’t feel like you’re falling at all. The force of the air actually feels like you’re being held up, and almost protected. You’re flying! It is a truly incredible experience. You freefall for what feels like forever, and you don’t even think about danger.
Eventually you feel the parachute lurching you back upwards (a task thankfully completed by the very-much-alive instructor), followed by a moment of relief that everything worked as it should. Then you glide slowly down, looking out at the breath-taking scenery as you do so. I loved every single minute.
Naturally I managed to mess it up at the end when we landed, because I was so carried away, I forgot to lower my legs to the ground. I was still attached to the instructor and he had to land and then shout at me to put my feet down, so that we could stop looking like we were taking part in some kind of reverse wheelbarrow race.
Landings aside, I was on such a high after that experience, that the rest of the day’s adrenaline activities were a breeze. In fact, I loved it so much that I did it again a few days later over the Franz Josef glacier. It was a view I will never forget and would highly recommend, even if I did jump 12,000 feet with my shoelaces undone – something I didn’t realise until I looked back at the photos afterwards.
I’m putting that photo on here (as well as one from my first jump) as proof that yes, I really am that much of an idiot, and no, the passage of twenty odd years plus motherhood has not changed me. I’m not sure it ever will, but while I’m waiting, Bring on Bedtime! 🍷