At long last, my travels can begin anew! I have just enough in my budget to go have a fantastic time on the South Island. There’s been setbacks, but I’m ready to go.
So naturally, the day starts off with me misreading the time and getting to the bus 30 minutes later than planned. It’s also running late, and I realise that if it takes as long as the driver claims, I won’t get to the airport in time to check in baggage. I’ve already bought an $18 ticket, but I get out and hail down the first taxi I see – I CAN’T be late. This of course, means my trip is starting with a $70 deficit right from the start, and my driver decided to try and endear himself to me by getting into a road rage war with another driver on the way.
Thankfully, I made it to the airport in one piece and the rest of the trip was calm. Unfortunately the weather in Nelson wasn’t. It was cold and wet and I was suddenly very grateful I’d brought my additional boots. In order to get to the city, I booked a shuttle for $19, and arrived in town in the middle of a downpour with 4 hours to kill.
First things first, I take my bags to the I-site and use their lockers to dump my rucksack and go explore ($4 per use). It’s pretty tightly packed, but the weather makes it difficult to enjoy. Did hunt down a Saturday market, but wind and rain meant even the vendors were struggling with their stalls. I ended up hiding in a Starbucks for 2 hours before going to the Countdown and grabbing as much long-lasting food so I can eat easily the next few days.
The bus is meant to pick us up at 3, but shows up 30 minutes late due to additional drop offs. Our driver is Leftie, and he’s training some new guys, so we have plenty of people helping us. The downside is that it’s a full bus, and I’m relegated to the back where my motion sickness is kicked into high gear. I’m actually grateful when we get to Motueka for a shop stop as it means I can rest outside in the sun.
Yes, now that we’ve left Nelson, the sun has started to beam down on the South Island and the temperature has sky rocketed, so I’m feeling less nervous about my clothing options now.
This weather change also means that I’m getting off the bus a little earlier than everyone else, because I’m going skydiving! I had planned to go tomorrow, but this means I get 2 full days of Abel Tasman without having to get driven back into town. Ten minutes later, I’m dropped off at the front door of Skydive Abel Tasman.
They have to speed me through as I’m going on the next flight leaving in the next ten minutes. I bought a voucher from Peter Pans so I don’t need to pay for anything but the camera should I want it. I’m hesitant (13k jump already costs $299 while the camera adds another $199), but eventually decided that it’s one of those things you have to get for your first, or you end up regretting it.
Once I’m signed in, they take me round back to be fitted for a jump suit and harness, and meet the guy I’m going to be strapped to and thrown out of a plane with. Five minutes later, and we’re squeezing into a plane with at least 8-10 other people. It’s so tight I’m sitting on my tandem’s knees and have another guys legs wedged between mine.
It takes at least ten minutes to get to 13,000 feet (at least, I think it does – hard to tell when you’re in the plane). The engine is loud as well, but I’m getting a briefing as we go on what to do.
We finally reach the necessary height, and the nerves suddenly hit. Don’t have time to think about it though, cause the first jumper is out the plane. I just see the white suit falling from the plane and my body freezes. Only my tandem telling me to move gets me into position. Leg bent under the step, chin back, back arched and hips out. Next thing I know, we’re falling through the air.
There is nothing like the feeling. It takes a good several seconds to equalise and register just what is happening, but when it does you’re hit with the force of the wind and the views of the ground. I couldn’t stop screaming, but it was unbelievably awesome to experience.
While I’m falling, my cameraman is not too far away, encouraging me to move around and play to the camera. In hindsight, I didn’t get to enjoy the jump as much as I’d like cause I was very focused on him a lot of the time. Next time I jump it’ll be without the camera so I can really appreciate freefall.
The freefall lasts about 30 seconds, and then the chute opens up and the wind pressure vanishes to be replaced by a strong force on your legs from the parachute straps. My tandem guided us down with the odd spin here and there, and had a fairly solid landing five minutes later.
Back in the office, it takes about ten minutes to make up the movie of my jump, and have to admit it’s pretty awesome. I actually enjoy watching the movie more than the playing around to make it – it’s a pretty good keepsake – much like the photos of my Barrier Reef dives.
Afterwards, they take me to Abel Tasman in a shuttle, so I can meet back up with the bus at our accommodation in the park. Unfortunately, the road they take is both high and winding. Between my ear issues, the jump (ears still haven’t fully popped) and my motion sickness in general, this is the half hour trip from HELL. When we finally get to The Barn in Abel Tasman, my first stop is the toilet to throw up.
The Barn is a backpackers deep inside Abel Tasman National Park, and consists of several independent buildings in addition to a campground. Stray spend 2 nights here, but I decided to add an additional night and head out on a later bus, so booked online. It’s been a painful day for my card.
Tonight is BBQ night for Stray, and I’ve signed up before my stomach went nuclear, so rest up in my room as long as I can before heading over to the kitchen. The menu by Leftie is Lamb, sausages, mashed potato, coleslaw, salad and garlic bread. Not a big fan of the lamb, but the sausages are awesome – I like them so much I have seconds – which is a mistake because there’s apple pie for dessert and my stomach doesn’t know what’s going on.
Tomorrow is my first day in the park, so planning to go buy a ticket for the aqua taxi and go do some heavy duty walking.