October 22

Today was a pretty normal day for us. Oh wait, no it wasn’t! We did a 16,000 foot skydive! That’s right. I jumped out of a plane and went into freefall at 200 km per hour for 70 seconds. I have never been more scared of anything in my life. We had initially agreed that we weren’t interested in skydiving as both of us are terrified of heights. But in Waitomo we met a Dutch couple who inspired us. The weather was poor in Taupo when we headed back that way to do it, so instead we went with Skydive Bay of Islands which offers a much higher jump than Taupo anyways. Most places only do 12,000 feet, but we decided to go big or go home. Fortunately, we went big and still made it home (to our car at least) at the end of the day.

We arrived at 10 am for our scheduled jump. As usual, we signed our lives away. Lindsay had found her inner zen and wasn’t nervous at all. I could barely open my mouth the entire morning because I was so nauseous. They brought us in to watch a safety video then suited us up in jumpsuits and harnesses. My tandem master was a Kiwi (nick)named Ups. He was absolutely wonderful. He checked all my equipment multiple times and kept me distracted. He had done his first jump at 21 and loved it so much that he went to school for it. He has completed over 1,700 jumps. Lindsay was jumping with a man named SG. He seemed very confident and experienced.

I was handling it fine until we got into the plane. Ups told me that there was a 15 minute wait from the time when we took off until we jumped. That is a long time. In fact, when you’re waiting to plummet out of a plane it feels like a lifetime. Around 10 minutes in, they gave us oxygen. There was a girl with us who was doing a 12,000 ft jump. She and her tandem master sat hanging out of the side of the plane and it looked like they got unexpectedly sucked out. It was terrifying. After that we had to wait another few minutes before we were up to the correct altitude. We were hooked tightly together with our partners. I very much felt like I was invading Ups personal space, but I wanted to as much as possible because I was worried we would detach (and he had the parachute). I went first. We slid to the edge of the plane and waited there for a long time. We actually got over 16,000 ft. I shut my eyes for nearly the whole time. Lindsay told me later that Ups did a slicing throat motion to SG right before he threw us out of the plane. I can only assume that I wasn’t hiding my terror very well. We did some very fast spinning motions and I couldn’t tell which way was up or down. I kept opening my eyes to see clouds everywhere. We were moving so fast that I could barely breathe. I’m fairly certain that I drooled on my partner. It felt like a lifetime or maybe a second (I had no concept of time) before he opened our parachute. It jerked us up and he opened part of my harness (after warning me not to freak out). We glided down (he let me hold the reins briefly) and we landed very easily. The view during the float down was amazing. It was incredible to see the land and ocean. Lindsay jumped last and her jump was actually closer to 17,000 ft. She had a blast and said that she would definitely do it again. I am so proud of myself that I faced my fears and did the highest jump.  I would struggle to repeat it, but I feel that I could now.

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Afterwards, we found an amazing gluten-free cafe in Kerikeri (pronounced KiddyKiddy), called Santee’z. We indulged in way too much amazing food. Definitely our best meal yet during this roadtrip. We agreed that the walnut caramel slice took the cake (haha). It was around this time that we got a call from the skydive place telling us that we had forgotten to pay. Oops. We went back after lunch and endured jokes about being bandits, while paying our bill.

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After this we took off for Cape Reinga. We experienced the strangest traffic jam ever, four enormous bulls being shepherded down the street. They were the length and at least half the width of our car. It was amazing and, frankly, quite frightening. We made it up to Cape Reinga in the early evening. It is quite a remote area, but we want to go sand dune surfing on the giant dunes. Also the Cape is the northernmost point on North Island. On our roadtrip, we have traveled from Days Bay, which is right down south, all the way to the top of the island. It is at this point that you can see where the Tasman Sea meets the Pacific Ocean. There is actually a line in the water where they meet. The currents seem to push against each other and create a barrier. It was beautiful.

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(The picture above shows the whirlpools created when the two currents clash.)

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Our campsite for the evening is a very short drive from the top. It is right on the ocean and absolutely breathtaking. It is also much warmer up here! Lindsay and I pulled out our camp chairs and sat in the sand and drank backpacker (boxed) wine to celebrate our successes today.

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We really liked Kerikeri (not to mention Santee’z) so we are planning to head back down the east coast the way that we came. We are going to spend at least one more night in the Bay of Islands!

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