As New Zealand is my first destination as a Solo Traveller I wanted to start by wetting my feet with a group tour. The idea of a group tour made me feel more comfortable and safe, yet, conscious of the possible rigidity and constraints that such a tour would likely have. The Kiwi Experience Bus seemed to offer the best of both worlds by providing a ‘Hop on, Hop off Bus’ with pre-designed routes which you can follow at your own pace. I purchased the Whole Kit and Caboodle Pass which is their most comprehensive pass and which will take me on a tour of both the North and South Islands over the course of the next 5 weeks.
The first leg of the Pass started with a trip from Auckland to Paihia, the day started early with a 7am pick up from a stop near the Hostel. By the time I got to the stop, there was already a large group of people sporting backpacks and eye bags - It was a good sign that I was in the right place! At 7:15am the Bus arrived, we all jumped on and the driver introduced himself as Jarrad.
Throughout the bus journey Jarrad explained the Admin side of the Kiwi experience and the bookings procedure we would have to follow during our trip. To begin with, all the information being thrown at us was confusing and overwhelming, especially at that time of day. Jarrad was really helpful and patient (I suppose he must be used to the Idiots Abroad ) and repeated himself multiple times, until we had all completed our paperwork. Once the busses and accommodation had been sorted, it was time to go through the selection of activities available at our first destination. It was at this point that we had to choose which activities, if any, we wanted to participate in - the bus driver books everything in advance during the bus ride to secure our places, obtain discounts and make things slightly quicker on arrival.
One of the available activities at a this stop was a 16,000 ft Skydive. Initially I had written this off as my plan was to do a Skydive in Taupo, however, Jarrad explained that the weather forecast for Taupo in the upcoming weeks wasn’t looking good and unless weather conditions are optimal, Skydives often get cancelled. Doing a Skydive in New Zealand has always been pretty high on my Bucket List, therefore due to the fear of missing out and the excitement of starting my trip with a bang (not literally) I decided to book myself in for the jump…that same afternoon. Once myself and a few of the other girls on the Bus had booked the Skydive the excitement, nerves and adrenaline started to flourish. We were dropped off at our hostel in Paihia (Pipi Patch) at 12:00pm and were picked up by the Skydive coach at 1:30pm.
With little time to overthink, freak out and back-out we completed some forms, signed the disclaimers and were taken through to meet our instructors. Once the formalities and introductions were over, my instructor sized me up, provided me with very attractive overalls, an horrific hat and goggles to match and helped me into the harness. Having made sure that I was all strapped in correctly and therefore less likely to fall out and plummet to my death, I was all ready to go!
Four of us were going up together so once we were all ready to go we walked up to the plane that would take us 16,000 ft high. One of the four girls had opted for the 12,000 ft jump therefore she got in last (bare in mind, first in, first out!!) I was the second last to get in, which meant that once we had reached the full 16K height I was the first one to jump out!
I always imagined being a ball of nerves before doing a Skydive, freaking out at the last minute weeping and hanging on to the side of the plane for dear life, however, to my own surprise the only emotion I experienced was excitement. When it was my turn to jump we shuffled forward, for a few seconds whilst your instructor is getting ready to jump you are literally dangling out of plane…and this is what you feel like ....
The next 5 seconds happened VERY quickly, you are out of the plane, Spinning, Falling, Flying.
There are no words that can describe the feeling of plummeting through the sky, with nothing between your body and the ground but 16,000 ft of air. The free fall from this height is 70 seconds long, 70 seconds of the best feeling I have ever experienced. Once the parachute opens (and you can breathe a sigh of relief) the whole world slows down, it is a stark contrast to go from a high speed descent to slow, lulling cruising. It is at this point that you can really appreciate your surroundings and enjoy the views. You are above the world, looking at it from a brand new perspective - it is a surprisingly peaceful experience.
As hard as I may try, I don’t think I will ever be able to successfully describe the experience by simply using words. All I can say is that I wanted to be up in the clouds again as soon as my feet hit the ground, so If you have ever considered doing a Skydive, DO IT.