Published: August 20th 2009August 3rd 2009
Mused upon by me at some point, the frequency (around 1 a day) of earthquakes in New Zealand. Naturally, most of them are too small to worry about in any capacity, but the small set of islands in the midst of the South Pacific also is home to an incredibly violent geological past. Lake Taupo, for instance, the giant bullet hole in the centre of the North Island, was created by a gigantic explosion some 25,000 years ago. On my stay on the East Cape, we addressed the numerous safety measures in the event of an earthquake, most importantly, to run like mad up the nearest hill before the impending tidal wave strikes the coast.
A side effect of this intensley meaty explosion at some point in the past is a rather attractive aerial view of Taupo.
Or so I have been told, and decide to witness this first hand with my very own aerial tour of the lake. Unfortunately the weather had plans differing considerably from any sunshine whatsoever, which postponed this trip repeatadly. First day - getting to the airfield and being sent home. Second day - too rainy and decide to walk around in the downpour
past an aromatic sewage farm (oh to be back in Rotorua) until I'm so wet my skin has gone wrinkly. Third day - suit up and get into the plane to have a taxi to the runway then a taxi back to the hangar. Intense!
After sitting around for a while contemplating why I'm sitting in a jumpsuit on a sofa eating pork scratchings, there is a break in the weather (just about) long enough to get the plane climbing into the air. One of the few facts I discovered about this small plane is that it makes an incredibly bumpy, uncomfortable, and generally unpleasant landing.
Knowing this, I decided it would be best to jump out halfway through.
The flight up was a considerably nerve racking experience. Ask the video evidence of my pathetic last words ever - "If I don't make it down... er... No, I've got nothing." Witty. Note - comic genuis and high level of 'the shakes' appear to be mutually exclusive. I don't feel it's necessary to ask Benny* to make sure I'm strapped onto him properly.
So... Here I am, sitting out the door of an aeroplane, on the lap
Where the hell did he come from?
of a guy I've just met, with my feet dangling 15,000ft over a lake. I'm in the sky, about to fall out of a plane and all I can see is clouds as my eyes are fixed with fear deciding if this is a good idea or not. Important note - by this point it is irrelevant what I think is a good idea or not. Benny thrusts into me and I resign myself to exiting into the abyss. Nope... Not going that time. Ok, another thrust and I'm about to go... Nope, still sitting on the edge. A third thrust, but this doesn't bother me as I've by now given up all brain capacity to thinking,
"WHY THE HELL HAVE I DONE SOMETHING AS STUPID AS JUMPING OUT OF A PLANE??????"
I can't remember feeling any acceleration, wind, or seeing the plane depart as we somersaulted out. All I am is a banana being gripped by a very over protective (and trustworthy) monkey tumbling out of a tree. As the speedo rapidly approaches 200km/h, I look up to see an unnerving sight of a guy appearing in front of me. It's easy to believe this might be
a surprising, even shocking, sight to witness in the middle of the sky, but by this point my shock-o-meter had quite definitely maxed out. I would have been no more shocked if I saw a string of sausages or a dinosaur appear in the sky in front of me.
I eventually free me hands from their white-knuckle grip on my harness and, for reasons that still escape me, the first thing I attempt to do is flap like a bird.
(Note - no noticeable effect on rate of descent, not recommended for a gentle landing.)
Almost all my brain power is going into thinking how stupid it is that I'm falling in the middle of the sky. This was definitely the most remote, the most alone, the most lost I had felt, while at the same time being the most intense, exhilarating and mind-numbingly stupid thing possible. Obviously I couldn't see Benny - as far as I was concerned, I was one person in the middle of the sky, with the clouds, lake, mountains, and the best view of New Zealand I think I might ever get.
I don't notice any tapping on my shoulder or
any sign of the parachute opening or indeed any slowing down until I realise I was just... Hanging in the sky. The view is absolutely stunning, we completely fell through the clouds and so I can see all the way to Mount Doom to the South, and now my brain has begun to function enough to properly process exactly what I'm seeing. Oh yeah, I've just fallen 10,000 ft out of a plane. That's a crap of a long way.
Eventually we come into land. I thank and hug the man who saved my life. Funny how now your perspective changes. Before I left, I would have thought myself quite capable of pulling the cord at 5000 feet , but now, looking back, there would be no way I would have even considered pulling it until long after my brain and body (and the ground) had experienced what the industry likes to call "an amalgamation".
Anyway. I can't honestly recommend doing that enough. Yes, it'll put you out of pocket for a considerable amount of drinking hours, but there is honestly no way I can possibly do it justice with mere mortal description. Now, back to the now relatively mundane life of normality.
Apologies for the delay in the publishment of this (and all) blogs. I shall return with a summary of the rest imminentely!
*Note - life entrusted to a man called Benny. This may be something I'll need to have counselling about later in life.