Some years ago I traveled to Greenland. Whilst there I ate a seal. I can’t say I enjoyed it. Nor, I imagine, did the seal. But I did write a story about it. And, last year, that story won a contest. The prize: being sent on commission to write a story for AA Directions travel magazine.
The moment I heard this I started thinking big. Perhaps I could write about a road trip to the Wairarapa. Or the nascent restaurant culture in Waikanae. The magazine, however, was thinking bigger still. “Please,” they asked, “go and investigate the Nelson Backpacking Scene”.
No doubt they thought that any man who had been to Greenland would be a backpacker par excellence. This was true – once. Now it isn’t. My backpack and I fell out a few years ago and haven’t spoken since. But, the occasion – my first ever commission – was big. Bigger than the past. Bigger than our differences. So we negotiated a temporary reconciliation and accepted the commission.
That was when I saw the itinerary. A trip to Farewell spit. Kayaking in the Abel Tasman. The World of Wearable arts museum. Sky Diving. Sky Diving.
Which was a bit much. Even for my backpack.
Still it was my first commission. I couldn’t say no. All I could do was hope the weather did that on the day.
It didn’t. And so, in late October, I found myself spiraling up into the sky in a Cessna with a dangerously open door. 13,000ft up into the sky. Heading for a date with gravity.
Gravity which, when it came, did so with a rush. And a roar.
And fragmented thoughts, flying past me like small confused clouds.
Will the seal be waiting for me there?
The answer to that last question was silence. Silence as clear as the air at altitude.
Silence because the parachute opened.
And all of a sudden dear reader I found myself suspended in a place that shouldn’t be. But is. And is rather beautiful thank you very much.
Not so beautiful, mind you, that I’ll be racing up there again any time soon. But not bad.
Funnily enough, the only sleepless night eventuating from the whole affair was the night after the jump, where recalling the truly disturbing feeling of pitching forward out of the plane and into nothing kept my heart and head racing late into the night.