Years ago, when I moved to New Zealand, I told myself that I was not leaving until I went skydiving. New Zealand is famous for it’s adventure activities and I figured I would never truly experience the country unless I saw it from 15,000 feet in the air.
I was in New Zealand for about five months and waited until the last week of my trip (while on the Kiwi Experience tour bus) to cross skydiving off of my bucket list. All of my friends went skydiving in Lake Taupo but I had done my research and found out that Lake Wanaka offered the most beautiful view from the sky. This would be the experience of a lifetime and I wanted it to be perfect – so I decided to patiently wait until we reached Lake Wanaka.
After about a week, the tour bus finally rolled into Lake Wanaka. I took in the stunning view of the water surrounded by mountains and couldn’t imagine how beautiful it would be to soar above this incredible landscape.
As all things go with me, there was a little bump in the road. The skydiving company told me that the New Zealand government had changed the regulations around skydiving and they now needed a specific license. Therefore, they could not take me skydiving until they got that license – and they had no idea how long it would take for them to get one.
The tour bus was leaving the next day for Queenstown. I had to make up my mind whether to stay behind in Lake Wanaka – and hope that they would get their licence – or continue on with the tour bus. Either way was a gamble. I decided to continue on with my tour since we were planning on going bungee jumping and I wanted to experience that with everyone. The next day I hopped on the bus and waved goodbye to Lake Wanaka and my dream of soaring above it.
In Queenstown, after bungee jumping, I received a phone call from the skydive company that they had received their licence!
I wasn’t about to give up on my skydiving dream so I immediately bought a bus ticket to take me back to Lake Wanaka first thing in the morning. I didn’t want to go alone so I managed to talk my friend Lorenc into coming with me. I had only met him few days ago but already he was willing to jump out of an airplane with me!
We woke up so early the next morning that nowhere was open to eat breakfast yet. I suffer from low blood sugar so it is extremely important for me to eat. Luckily, I had planned ahead and had an orange and a granola bar with me to tie me over.
When we arrived in Wanaka the skydive company – in typical Kiwi style – was about an hour late picking us up. My hunger was growing as we sat around waiting. By the time that we arrived at the skydive centre I was already really hungry but there was nowhere around to eat. I would have to wait.
I distracted myself from my hunger by signing up for my skydive. I would jump at 15,000 feet, which would give me a minute of free-falling without a parachute. We suited up into our sexy orange jumpsuits, got a safety briefing, and then waited for our turn to jump out of a plane. We killed the time by playing a game a fooseball – naturally.
By the time we started walking out to the plane it was around lunch time and I still had not had anything substantial to eat – I felt my blood sugar starting to drop. There was nothing that I could do about it so I got on the plane anyway.
While flying into the sky, I looked out the window as I watched the ground get farther and farther away. I sat looking out the window, entranced with the scenery below and fascinated by how high we kept getting. I was going to fall all the way down to the ground!
Suddenly, my skydive instructor turned at me and said, “you ready?” I don’t think that he actually cared what my answer was because he started pulling me towards the open door of the plane. I felt the open air whizzing by my face and reality hit me that I was soon going to fall into that air.
Next thing I knew, my instructor had us hanging outside of the plane door. The sound of the airplane was rumbling in my ears, the wind hit my face, and the ground was far, far below me.
He let go.
We fell into the open air with a summersault. It was hard to grasp a sense of reality in that moment.
Once I was falling, fear was not an emotion that I experienced. I was so high up that I didn’t notice the ground getting any closer, instead it felt more like I was soaring.
I was extremely fun and I pretended that I was swimming through the air. What was really just a minute of free fall seemed like ten as a fell through the sky taking in the world beneath me. Then the parachute was pulled…
“Tessa, Tessa wake up!” I could feel my skydive instructor shaking me and calling my name. I opened my eyes slowly to see the ground hurdling towards me. I was coming out of a state of unconsciousness – into complete shock.
The ground was getting closer and closer. How was I already at the ground!? As the earth was coming closer I was still trying to grasp what had just happened.
My skydive instructor was warning me to put my legs up for the landing – but I was so out of it that he had to support my legs with his own.
Suddenly we hit the ground. I was dead weight at this point and slid along the grass until we came to a stop. I laid there – too weak to do anything. The parachute came down on top off me leaving only my shoes sticking out.
I tried to comprehend what had just happened. Two seconds ago, I was 15,000 feet in the air and now I was lying down on the ground barely able to move.
The camera man pulled the parachute off me and pointed the camera in my face. He asked me to look into the camera and say how much fun I had. Instead, I just lied motionless moaning and unable to speak or comprehend what had just happened.
It turns out that my blood sugar had dropped so low that is caused me to pass out.
I had waited five months to see Lake Wanaka from the air and all that I remember of it was my minute of free fall and ten seconds of the ground zooming towards me (or me towards it). I was very frustrated that I didn’t get to experience the same thrill that Lorenc had – he was high on life after his skydive.
However, it is still something that, by no means, I regret doing. Falling from the sky is something that you do not get to experience every day – whether for one minute or twenty.
If you want a good laugh here is my embarrassing video of my skydive. You don’t see me passed out in the sky since the camera is focused on the scenery during that time – but the landing is pretty funny.