On Tuesday, the 2nd of November, Gabe took me out for an amazing breakfast at a garden cafe in Hamilton - picture a garden store-nursery/restaurant with a landscaped back patio, amazingly fresh food, good music and sunshine. We relaxed there for a while, then took a stroll around the actual Hamilton gardens, which take you from Japan to China, India, Italy and back again, through gardens styled after each corner of the world and even include a Maori garden with traditional carvings, a "perfume" garden and modernist garden that channels a Hollywood vibe.
Around noon, I called Taupo Tandem Skydiving again to check the weather and got the go-ahead, so we ran back to campus to rally the troops. This time, since Gabe was on R.A. duty at the hall, Erika, Izzy and I took Izzy's car back down to Taupo. We got there by 3 p.m., signed in and suited-up and were in the air within the hour! After a 20-minute plane ride we reached 15,000 ft, where strapped to our instructors and accompanied by our personal cameramen (to document our daring act of stupidity), we were flung out of an airplane, free falling at 200 km/hour (125 mph) for a full minute through the clouds, 3 miles above lake Taupo. The jump seemed so surreal that 60 seconds flew by in about 10, by the time my brain could process what was going on.
Surprisingly, I never really got nervous, which I chalk up to this delay in mentally processing information and the fact that I was strapped to Joel, a Kiwi who has done over 6,000 jumps over the past 6 years. We fell so fast that I hardly remember making any faces besides sticking my tongue out at my cameraman and screaming in excitement. The only stomach-turning moment was during the paragliding ride down, when Joel did some sharp 360 turns to give me the beautiful view of Taupo and the snow-capped mountains in the distance, towering below a brilliant blue sky, speckled with glowing white clouds. Erika told me that as her tandem partner, Darcy, pulled their shoot he said: "Welcome to my office." I must say, his day job comes with quite a spectacular view.
Back on the ground, we celebrated our survival, got to view our free fall DVD and photos, donned our Taupo Tandem t-shirts and paid our fee (when we had asked about paying before gearing up, the instructor's reply was: "You pay after... upon survival" ;) Very reassuring).
We got back on the road and back to Hamilton by 8 p.m., where we stopped for a much-needed sushi dinner before returning to the halls - we were simply starving after our adrenaline-filled afternoon! Over all, a fantastic, fun-filled day! We celebrated the end of an amazing semester by jumping out of an airplane and I wouldn't have it any other way!