New Zealand Tour: I FLEW A PLANE!

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It was time to leave Queenstown. It had been a tiring day of one adrenaline rush after the other and luckily we only had a short drive ahead of us to Lake Wanaka. It was sad saying goodbye to such an iconic city, but as is the nature of tour, it prepared us for more of those moments along the way. We arrived in Wanaka in the dark, so there wasn’t a mad rush to get out and take a lot of snaps. Instead we headed to the hostel to make dinner and chill out before the next day’s activities. We opted for frozen pizzas, so you’d think that with three university degrees between Miles and I, we’d be able to figure out that in order for on oven to work, you need to turn it on. Apparently there is no course available that teaches common sense…seriously I’ve checked.

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The next morning I abandoned the group once again to take on another bit of adventure. Back in December I skydived for the first time in Byron Bay and as soon as I landed I couldn’t wait to do it again. The views of the coast were incredible, but I feel like I would have enjoyed it more doing it a second time, knowing what to expect and being able to prepare myself for it. This is why I booked another dive in New Zealand, and I’m glad I did, the views here really are remarkable. Another lake in amongst the Southern Alps was just the place for another jump, despite the temperature at 15,000 feet getting as low as -20.

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I met Chris, my tandem diver and compatriot from Bournemouth, England. Chris came out to NZ to basically become a professional skydiver and hasn’t looked back since. I have to say that I’m considering doing the same thing, but that was a complete lie, I just wanted to scare my mum a little…sorry mum! Anyway, Chris has jumped from a plane 7,000 times and hasn’t even died once, so I trusted him enough to take me up. When I asked Chris if he could do any tricks, he laughed and said “yeah, we’ll have some fun.”

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I didn’t feel nervous going up this time, I kinda just felt like I was getting on a rollercoaster. I knew what was to come and I knew I’d enjoy it. When we jumped, Chris wasn’t kidding. The tricks started straight away as he fell out of the plane backwards so that I could see the plane as I fell away from it, which instead of a blood-curling scream (which my Byron diver was lucky enough to get), produced a “Woooooo” more genuine than I’ve ever shouted. Then he started spinning us, which felt amazing and helped me get more of a gauge of how fast we were falling, which I can scientifically confirm was approximately really fucking fast.

It also helped me forget about how fucking cold it was up there. The wind hits you in the face and dries out your mouth in a matter of milliseconds if you’re not careful. Also, there seems to be a myth that you can’t breathe while you’re falling and I want to shut that shit down right now, because if that’s the reason you’re not doing it then stop being daft. You can breathe fine. When the parachute popped, the views were as I expected. The lake was glistening and the snow-tipped mountains were reaching far across the horizon. Even the tiny town of Wanaka looked picture-perfect.

Also shoutout to Chris’ landing too. The guy in Byron landed so hard that I had a bruise on my arse for about a week afterwards, Chris was such a badass that he made both of us land on our feet. I joked that he could probably land on a five-pence piece, which he replied “yeah probably.” Damn Chris. As much as the views were incredible, I refused the video package, mainly because these things are hella pricey, and I was about to take my own snaps from above the lake as the next stop was U-Fly, a stunt plane company literally on the same street as the skydive place.

I walk into an office and I’m greeted by Kylie, an experienced pilot who runs U-Fly, oh and also her toddler who took no interest in me at all as she was busy riding her tricycle through the office. There was a family in front of me to go for the plane ride, so I sat in the office and waited my turn. Then when one of the workers had to pop out, I was asked to babysit. Now, I have two nieces and a nephew so I don’t mind watching a toddler to make sure it doesn’t put anything metal in a plug socket, but I was shocked at how trusting these people were putting the safety of their kid in the hands of a complete stranger.

Coming from England and living relatively close to London, I suppose it makes you more cautious, but this kind of just sums up New Zealand and especially the rural parts, they just have very little reason not to trust people, because nobody has ever given them many reasons not to. It was really sweet, even if the London part of me still thought they were nuts. We got along fine, apart from when I had to confiscate a bottle of surface polish which was met with a bit of a glare. Luckily, it wasn’t long before Kylie returned and I got into my jumpsuit and joined her in the plane.

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Now, when these guys said they’d give me control of the plane, I thought it was more of a gimmick, like when I used to sit on my dad’s lap on the tractor when I was a kid and “drive” it around the fields. But no, they actually give you complete control of the aircraft. Obviously if I decided to nosedive into the lake then they’d take back control of the plane, but I was surprised and impressed at the amount of leeway they gave me.

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Flying the plane was pretty easy. To keep the plane rising at a steady pace, I kept the nose just underneath the peaks of the mountains, and when we wanted to pick up a bit of momentum, we’d nosedive a little and bring it back up. It’s all pretty simple stuff. Now let’s get onto the tricks. The loop is fun, and the feeling of zero gravity when you’re upside down is insane, but be warned if you are squeamish or you’re easily nauseated, do not do this. I have a pretty good constitution and even I felt it a tiny bit.  When it was my turn to do the loop, it didn’t go as well as I’d hoped, but I still made it, even if it was at a funny angle, and by funny angle I mean like 45 degrees. Luckily, my barrel roll was better, so good in fact that Kylie told me it was even better than hers. So suck on that haters.

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The plane only really has one control, almost like a joystick from an old Nintendo system. Your options are forwards, backwards, right and left, so not really much room for error. This was such a cool experience, and one I wasn’t expecting to be as much fun as it was. Also, for $200 it is an absolute steal and something really cool to say you’ve done.

That’s all for this blog for today. I’ll be back tomorrow with more about Lake Wanaka and our journey to Franz Josef and all of the pretty little spots we visited on the way. So look out for that post!

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Thanks for reading!

Goodbye and get a babysitter

IG: malzjames

SC: jamesinaus

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