12,000 feet above New Zealand
Holly from the team shares some of her extensive travel experiences in New Zealand – culminating with a breath-taking leap from a plane 12,000 feet above Wanaka!
Lets see… Bungy? – check. Swimming with dolphins? – check. Bungy-ball? – check… What’s next on my list? Ah, of course: the skydive! And the thought of this tugged a small, excited grin across my face. A few weeks later it’s booked, and having manhandled my backpack into the back seat of the car, I’m setting out across the docile Canterbury Plains and forging ahead into the adolescent landscape of the South Island of New Zealand, as dramatic and tumultuous as pubescence – but then of course, it is the youngest country on earth, so can you really blame it?
Now, most of New Zealand I found beautiful but placid, the scenery dramatic and varied, but the towns a little on the serene side. Queenstown, however, is not. Queenstown is a melting pot of youth and excitement, an eclectic swirl of the cultures each visitor brings. And as the sun merges into the horizon in a departing flourish of crimson, the towns’ bright eyed lights blink into existence and the bars and clubs spring into action with all the bustle of a nocturnal anthill.
The earth moves
It was on one of these deliciously exciting evenings, the atmosphere busy with the tang of revelling youths, that I felt the Earth shift beneath my feet. Appropriately, I was standing in the World Bar at the moment the tectonic plates chose to ruffle their earthy feathers, and rather than the expected reaction of ‘oh my god, get under a table!’, my first thought was a lament for my new white top, now harbouring the globule of red wine that had leap with fright to the refuge of my shirt – how utterly inconsiderate.
Only after this brief train of thought had left the station of my mind did I really take in the bouncing shelves and shifting floor, the looks of surprise etched across faces and realised the magnitude of the quake. There isn’t an easy way to describe an earthquake because it simply defies everything you have ever experienced about the ground; having for my entire life been solid and stoic, for it to be suddenly shuddering uncertainly beneath you is quite a startling revelation. Everything your sensory education has taught you is thrown about in chaos and it’s enough to plunge you into a stupor of awe for Mother Nature, the size of the planet and in comparison, your absolute insignificance in the interminable universe.
Fortunately the Kiwis are apparently quite used to these mild disruptions and in their blasé Kiwi manner, I am assured that the cure for such enormously sobering thoughts is just across the road in the form of a Fergburger. It’s amazing how quickly our minds flop back into the haze of the mundane through a cushion of tasty lamb, mint and bun! Mmm.
The next morning glancing worryingly up towards the clustering groups of grey clouds overhead, I press my foot against the accelerator, trying almost to out run the gathering gloom. I turn into Wanaka Airport and at last the time has come: the sky dive! Donning the oh-so-attractive red and yellow flight suit, I am strapped and buckled into my harnesses like a cargo box, and with just enough time to hazard a speculative glace at the small, almost rickety aircraft, I am swept into the belly of the plane and we depart the safety of the ground (now unassumingly still, with an air of sheepish embarrassment for last nights tantrum) in a swoosh of propellers.
I am second in line and as I watch the pair in front of me disappear over the edge of the craft, my stomach lurches sickeningly inside my belly, but there is no time to dwell on this as now I am sitting precariously on the edge myself, feet hanging over the side and then I’m dropping. Just falling… Air whips past my ears in a deafening roar but I barely hear it, the chill of the atmosphere stings my skin and teeth and frosts the edges of my goggles but I hardly notice; I am too busy enjoying the explosions of adrenaline that are blossoming inside my veins when suddenly the parachute puffs out behind me with a violent jerk. As we glide serenely back to earth, the world unfolds itself beneath my feet in a glorious ripple of snow dusted mountains and sparkly, azure lakes and I know that no matter how insignificant my simple being is in the vastness of the universe, our gigantic planet is ripe and brimming with beauty, all mine to discover. The world is literally at my feet.