• Day43

    Sam's Birthday

    August 21, 2015 in New Zealand ⋅ ☀️ 13 °C

    Sam's birthday today and she was given a chorus of Happy Birthday from the cuddly toys. We had room service continental breakfast then headed down to the harbour to take our seaplane flight. We arrived at Auckland Seaplanes about 8.45 just as the plane was tying up at the dock. We had to wait a few minutes for another couple who were on their way but having trouble finding it. They had the back row when we boarded and Tash and Edward played rock, paper, scissors to see who would sit in the front. Tash won, which made Edward whine, but actually I think the view was better from the middle row as the windows were bigger. Sam took one window, I sat in the middle and Ed had the other window.

    We started off and circled close to the quayside, with Tash given the important job of waving out of the window at the passers by - she got a few waves back. Then we taxied across the harbour, turned around and sped up for take off. The water was smooth so the take off was too, though it was strange to see the water spraying up from the floats of the plane. Once airborne we flew along the main Auckland shoreline, over Devonport on the left where Sam and I had got a ferry across too last time we were here and bought the picture that hangs in our bedroom.

    Then we went on to Rangitoto island, which is an old volcano, with the crater clearly visible, though covered in trees and vegetation - we circled this a coupe of times so we could all get a good view, then on to Waiheke island. This is the most populated island in Auckand and in summer is one of the most densely populated anywhere. It's about 30 minutes ferry ride to Auckland central.

    From here the flight continued out to some of the further islands, which had been used as addiction clinics amongst other things in the past - one was for sale for $35m, as was a grand house o another for $37m. We circled back and headed back to Auckland harbour, on the look out for dolphins or whales - Ed says he saw a dolphin but the rest of us were not so sure.

    The conditions had been perfect for the flight with sunny cloudless blue skies and no wind to create any turbulence - a great birthday memory. Landing was a little bumpy across the waves and again was strange to see the water splashing up under the plane. We tied up at the harbour, had a photo in front of the plance then headed off.

    Coffee beckoned and we went to a coffee shop/ice cream parlour on the harbour front. The ice cream was amazing and the sorbets even better - Sam had passionfruit and Ed lemon and they were so creamy we had to double cjheck they were dairy free. No wonder they had won many awards for their wares.

    I had decided to do the Skyjump from the Skytower and so we set off to do that. On the way we had to wait for the bridge in the mooring dock to lift up to allow a large motorised yacht to go through - looked a splended boat and must have cos tens of millions. We came out close to the i site we had been at yesterday so popped in to book the Adventure jet boat on the harbour. This was running at 1pm so we booked that, then booked the Sky Jump for 3.45 (3.30 check in). Have to say I had been hoping to do it quite quickly to stop being nervous, but actually having a set time did make me feel a bit calmer as up to then I had still been debating whetehr to catula go through with it.

    The Adventure jet was fun as ever. Half an hour of blasting a round the harbour - faster than others we had been on at 100kph and we went under the Auckland Harbour bridge and saw the factory where all of NZ's sugar is refined and the place where naval ships get their munitions. This was the wettest jet we had been on and our hair was soaked by the end (clothes not too bad due to splash jacket we were given) and was like a fast scenic tour of the harbour. We saw the bungy site under the bridge where you could go right into the water if you chose.

    When we got off the jet the guys gave us some vouchers for free McD's cheeseburgers, so of course we had to head there for lunch, then we went back to the hotel to drop off some of the things we had bought in the morning and wait to get back to the Skytower for the jump start time.

    We arrived at the Skytower and headed downstairs to the jump reception. This was also the reception for the Skywalk, which involved walking around a ledge on the outside of the tower, no rails or anything. No way could I do that! I was checked in, weighed twice and the weight written on my hand - felt a bit like I was going for soe kind of operation! We then had a few minutes wait until I would get kitted out. During this time we watched the looping video of people doing the jump and the walk and my biggest fear, the actual stepping off the top, didn't look too bad - people jusy seemed to almost fall off. Tash was watching this too and decided that she wanted to do it as well, so we asked if she could do it with me and that was fine, so she went through the same weighing in process. Then we were called to put on our jumpsuits and fitted into our harnesses - very similar to the ones we had worn for the ziplines in Queenstown and Rotorua. Tash had to take her Ugg boots off and use some of their converse trainers as you had to have lace up shoes to make sure they didn't fall off. We emptied our pockets of everything and took off all loose items, (wedding ring, St Christopher, even my Rugby World Cup wristband).

    Then it was off up in the lift to the 53rd floor - first test was the glass floor in part of the lift. Sam and Ed were taken out to the landing site. Tash and I found our way to the jump waiting area and there was a girl from the company doing a jump. We watched her get clipped on then hop off the side and fall down. The noise from the wire uncoiling from the drum was very loud, even in the room next door. Then Tash was up, she went through, got clipped on to a safety harness, had her harness checked by both girls in there and shoes pulled again to make sure they were tight. Photo 1, then out through the door onto the platform, stop to change to external safety wire, clip on go pro and have a look around with it to show the view d the landing site. Then out tot he end of the gangway and look back for a picture, then hold onto the side rail while the main wires attached. at this point Tash was right on the edge 192 metres up and turned to hold ono the sides before jumping, but she got nervous and so tried it backwards without looking, but couldn't get into position and got worried so came back inside to watch me and maybe go after.

    I went through the same process as Tash, taking photos and using the go pro - asked how I felt I said nervous, but the girl tried to convince me I was at least a little bit excited. Once clipped on I held onto a metal rail on one side, then the other and leant forward so I was looking down to the ground, feet right on the edge of the ledge. The girl unclipped me and said she would give me a 3-2-1 jump countdown. This seemed to take a long time and my hands were sweaty which made me worried i would slip off too soon! Eventually she gave me the count and i let go and sort of stepped forward and I was off. The harness was quite tight so you always felt suspended rather than falling, but the speed quickly picked up and the fall (as I expected) was enjoyable and the mechanism slowed me from about 10m above the ground for a landing on bended knees on the target. My heart was certainly pounding but it was good fun and was pleased I had done it and would do it again. Once unclipped the harness went back up and we waited to see if Tash would do it, but she said she didn't want to so she came back down in the lift - still an achievement to get as far as she did right on the edge.

    We went back inside to view my video and get changed and it was all over. We went back to the hotel to freshen up before heading back to the Skytower to the Orbit restaurant to celebrate Sam's birthday. We got up the viewing area about 5.30 ahead of th 6pm reservation. There were various segments of glass floor around the tower and Sam managed to walk across and stand on them despite her fear of heights, after photos of Auckland in daylight we went up tot he restaurant. A nice window seat (it rotates about once and hour) and the kids were fascinated by the rotation.

    The food and wine was nice (Snapper and linguine for Ed and I, Chicken for Tash and rabbit for Sam, with ice cream all round for desert, though not quite as good as the ones that morning)and gradually the day turned to night and we saw Auckland all lit up. At various points there were bad smells during the meal which we blamed on the next table. However after our meal we went down 1 floor in the lift back to the viewing level o take more pictures of the lights and the smell appeared again - it was Ed. We pitied the people left in the lift for another 51 floors. A quick visit tot eh souvenir shop, then to bed for our last night in New Zealand.
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