In Safe Hands

Lenska Papich is Tourism New Zealand's International Media Manager who also happens to like jumping off/out of things...

Safe hands.  They rest calmly, reassuringly on my shoulders while the plane’s engine whines into its climb. My sister provides the entertainment for us in the back – it’s kind of like the naughty kids in the back seat of the bus, except we are grown up, in skydiving gear, stacked into a little aeroplane and joking about sex. It’s amazing what you talk about when confronted with the reality of leaping out of a plane at 15,000ft.

The ribald conversation continues as does the constant gradient of the plane. The view is breathtaking and getting much wider, things on the ground are getting mighty small. I’m still smiling, but as we climb ever higher, my stomach starts to churn like the plane’s engines.

But those safe hands still rest on my shoulders. Those hands have done this over 20,000 times and they seem reassuringly still attached to a very tall very relaxed Serbian jump master’s body. The same body I’m about to be strapped to and hurled out of a plane with at 200 clicks.

As the plane plateaus I’m a little quieter. It's the 10,000ft drop off point. A few people disappear out the now open door – seemingly to be seen again on the ground below. The engine kicks in again and the plane reassumes its climbing position – 5,000 ft to go. I’m very quiet. Safe hands. They are still there, thank god.

My ears start to pop and we seem to be chugging into the cloudy heavens – the tops of the Remarks are far below. Safe hands have started clipping me to him, putting on my funny little jump cap and my goggles. Can’t say I’m not relieved. Clip, clip, clip that part’s important! 

I’m a silent stupidly smiling little rag doll – looking at the open chasm that is the door that we seem to be sliding towards. My photographer climbs out into the screaming wind and hangs there happily - all so he can get good shots for me. Shots which later tell me that I wasn’t really smiling so much as looking on with a very open mouth – I think the word for it is gaping.

You are supposed to put your head on your jump master’s shoulder, your legs under the plane and make like a banana. I’m not sure if I was very banana like. Just a little rag doll in safe hands hanging out of an aeroplane.

Then I’m falling, dropping. Fast. And it’s out of this world. Safe hands tap me, I don’t respond. There they are again reminding me of this world. That’s right arms up, assume the banana. And the cameraman is there too – we’re having a party in the sky whilst falling at 200kms per hour.

I can’t close my mouth, I give up trying I'm too excited. The wind speed is phenomenal lashing me in the face as we fall, fall, fall through it freely for a whole 60 seconds. We are still above the mountains or thereabouts when Mr Serbia decides it’s time to slow down. Goodbye cameraman we seem to stop dead in the sky. The screaming wind ceases, my harness grabs (thank god) and my legs fly up. Then we are floating, drifting, flying in stunning silence – Queenstown splayed out below putting on a very nice show.

It’s like someone has flicked a switch and decided ‘right it’s time for part two’. It’s so quiet and still incredibly high. We drift over towards the mountains and away again, sightseeing at its best. I just relax and absorb it all, the effortless feel of gliding through the air. I don’t want it to stop I’m at peace.

We do a few fancy turns but the safe hands seem to understand that I’m keen to hang around for a bit.  Even so the landmarks are getting closer, the geographic perspective offered from above reducing. My universal view is in decline but at least I’m still flying.

And then we are landing. Easy. Feet up. Feet down. I’m on the ground.

The cameraman is waiting. Big smile. Old safe hands knows what to do. And we are walking back to the base – walking – how odd. I thank safe hands – he’s off to do it all over again with some other brave soul.    I’m almost reluctant to part with him. He does this every day, me I feel a weird sense of attachment to the giant Serbian who just literally had my life in his hands and handled it with absolute care. I shake my head, there must be a name for it, some weird attachment syndrome born of risking your life with a complete stranger. 

Fleeting obsessions dealt with I float out of NZONE. For days I am on top of the world – parts of me still in the sky. Every moment is relived – assisted by the photos and video. This is the best thing I’ve ever done. I would pay three times the advertised rate for the experience so good, so professional so incredible was it. I feel brave. Proud. Revived. Do it – you are in safe hands with NZONE.

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