Lake Wanaka, Sky Dive @ 15000ft, Walk around town and Lake, Mt Iron Sunset, Cinema Paradiso
We woke up to glorious sunshine and after breakfast walked down to the lakeside and took some more pics of beautiful Lake Wanaka. It was also perfect weather for a skydive, so we drove up to the airfield, parked up and went inside. We were a little late, but it was no problem, and I sat through the info video in the 'departure lounge'. Ajay decided to do the highest jump possible (15,000 ft) and have pics taken and put onto a CD. We waited for about half an hour and then it was time for Ajay to get into the suit and put on the parachute, and then meet his jumping buddy before heading to the plane. I was on photography duty and took some pre-take off photos. I had seen that Ajay's parachute was red before he took off on the plane, so as I was looking up into the sky and waiting for him to land- when I saw a speck of red that gradually became bigger and bigger- it looked amazing!
I saw Ajay land and he had a massive grin on his face when he walked over and kept talking about how brilliant it had been and how much he had enjoyed it. The weather had been so sunny and clear that he had been able to see the Southern Alps Mountain Range, and many of the lakes in the local area- the views must have been spectactular. We waited for the picture CD and then drove into the small town of Wanaka. When I was in NZ previously I really enjoyed my time in Wanaka and it was one of my favourite places, just because it is so beautiful and chilled out. After lunch we did a walk around part of the lake and then did a short hike up to Mt Iron for sunset
After dinner we went to Cinema Paradiso- the local cinema that has sofa's, comfy chairs and seat and parts of old cars in the theatre! It also serves lovely home made cake and ice cream, and so we chilled out on a big sofa and watched Rise of the Planet of the Apes. It wasn't our first choice of films to see, but the setting was cool and the film was better than I thought it would be, as well as being thought provoking. It was a fitting way to end our time in lovely Wanaka.
The big day had arrived. This morning I was going to jump out of a plane at a scary 15,000ft. I had planned to do a tandem skydive at some point during the stay in New Zealand and had researched potential dive spots - the one that stood out for me, mainly due to its stunning location in the Southern Alps, was Wanaka. It also happened that we would be passing through Wanaka at around the time of my birthday. Birthday skydive? Why not. Am very kindly offered to fund the jump (as my birthday present - thank you baby!) so everything fell into place and there really was no better moment to do this.
It was a beautiful sunny day with clear skies and after breakfast we quickly took some pictures of the beautiful lake that was a stone's throw from our camping spot.
We drove to Skydive Wanaka airfield, who were based a few kilometers outside of the town, and I went through the process of completing the necessary paperwork and watching the safety video in the departure lounge. I was booked onto the second flight of the day so watched as the first group of skydivers got kitted up in jumpsuits and took off in the plane. Once they had left, I got kitted up along with the rest of my group and we hung around outside the hanger watching out for the parachutes of the first group. The faces of the first group upon landing were full of smiles - they were raving about the experience. It was now my turn!
I got introduced to my skydive partner, a Brazilian named Benjamin, who was quick to put me at ease and explained how the jump would take place. He also had a digital camera strapped to his arm so was on photo duties. Am had skydived before, over Lake Taupo - again during her previous trip to New Zealand, so sat this one out and made herself comfortable in the viewing area outside the office. After waving goodbye to Am, I boarded the plane with Benjamin and the rest of the group in the reverse order of our jumps - the three Chinese girls that were jumping with me were doing so from 12000ft whereas i had plumped for the full fat 15000ft so boarded the plane first and sat in front of Benjamin. The plane took off and as I enjoyed the amazing views of the Southern Alps, Benjamin started to strap me to the harness on his jumpsuit, joking that we would be getting rather comfortable for the next twenty odd minutes. As we hit 12000ft, the door of the plane opened and one by one the girls started to jump out of the plane with their skydive partners. For a lonely few minutes, but what seemed like an eternity, I sat in the plane while we ascended to 15000ft. The green light came on and we shuffled to the jump position at the entrance of the plane door, my legs dangling outside over the edge, head looking up and arms crossed over my chest. A quick smile for the camera and we were off.
The jump from the plane happened so quickly that I didn't really feel anything - essentially within a few seconds I had reached terminal velocity - and the nervous energy that had been building up inside me had transformed to a feeling of exhilaration. Freefall was amazing and the views were absolutely stunning. Below me I could see the snow-capped peaks of the Southern Alps, surrounded by lush green forests and sparkling blue lakes and i was breathing in some premium grade mountain air to boot. It truly was a moment and sight that I will never forget. After about 45 seconds of freefall, the parachute was opened, the harness was loosened slightly and I was able to take in 360 degree views of the surrounding plateau at a less frenetic pace with Benjamin pointing out famous peaks and landmarks. Within about eight to ten minutes of leaving the plane we had floated down to ground level in an orderly manner, the landing was smooth and I was completely buzzing as I walked back to the hangar. Top birthday experience!
Needless to say I was in high spirits for the rest of the day. We drove into Wanaka and took a wander around the town centre and the lake. There is a really chilled and laidback vibe in this small town and the lakeside setting is beautiful - I can see why people really enjoy their time here. After walking around the lake, we hiked up to the summit of the nearby Mt Iron for sunset. In the evening we watched Rise of the Planet Of the Apes (not much else to choose from!) at the quirky Cinema Paradiso which had big comfy sofas for seats and even an actual car which you could sit in to watch the film.