Tamara vs. the Auckland SkyTower

Hey guys,

It’s been too long! Sorry. I’ve decided to take a drastic measure to keep myself from falling off the blog wagon and have signed up for Beeminder (thanks @tahnok for the link), which will make me pay actual money if I don’t blog once a week at least (but it’s free if I do).

So I have a pretty big backlog of posts by now, which I need to ideally write in the next week (before I leave Auckland). But I’m going to ignore them all in favour of something new! As some of you know, I conquered the Auckland SkyTower twice this weekend– once in the form of the SkyWalk, which is a harnessed walk around the upper edge of the SkyTower, and once in the form of the SkyJump, which is a controlled base jump from the same edge (192 metres up!).

Firstly, why? (Believe me, I asked myself this question many, many times both before and after committing to the jump!). Because you don’t grow if you don’t challenge yourself. You don’t get stronger if you don’t step out of your nice comfort zone sometimes. If you find a 5k run easy, why keep running only 5ks? Step up your game and run 6k, then 7k, then 8. Or do something completely different and start doing circuits instead. Your 5k will improve too. Life is short. Sometimes too short. Don’t get stuck in a rut– keep growing, keep learning, keep moving forward.

In other words– Fears vs. Dreams. Which one do you want to come out on top?

(I wish I had taken a picture, but I actually have a Fears vs. Dreams shirt — courtesy of TWLOHA — which I was wearing during my awesome activities. I thought it was appropriate.)

So my Saturday started with a delicious breakfast and flat white at Best Ugly Bagels (I’ve posted about them before), which I mostly spent sitting on their patio, staring up at the SkyTower. I was really gonna jump off that thing? Time flew, and before I knew it, I was checking in at Mission Control in the basement of the SkyTower. Luckily for me, the SkyWalk was first, so I’d get used to having 192m of city below me before actually having to drop that far. I put away anything loose or which could come loose (bobby pins!) and suited up in prison orange (orange is the new black, right?) before getting the harness put on me by the guide. It felt like a regular climbing harness– nice and light. I was the only one doing the 11:45am SkyWalk, which was a little odd, but kinda cool too (I’d booked the 10:30am one, but it had been full– I guess 11:45 was the overflow). We headed up in the regular elevator with people going to the observation deck but took a turn after getting off and got into this little room just off the outer deck. I was clipped into the special sliding contraption which keeps you attached to the building while you’re outside, and we headed out.

It didn’t feel too bad at first– it was just slightly windy, but the platform was nice and wide (1.2m, if I recall correctly), and I have a lot of faith in harnesses and caribiners thanks to doing top rope rock climbing previously. Of course, those rock climbing problems weren’t nearly as high up as we were, but I just tried not to think about that. After a bit of walking, the guide instructed me to sit down into the harness and slowly back towards the edge. After getting comfortable, I was able to take my hands off the rope in front of me. Here’s what that looked like:

skywalk_tamara

That’s the Auckland Bridge in the background. You can apparently bungee jump off it, but the guide said it wasn’t that great of a bungee. You can also see the Viaduct (I’ve posted about that before too, I think) and some really expensive apartments on the waterfront.

We kept walking, and eventually the guide challenged me to look up at the sky while walking (you can see the railing your harness is attached to, which helps you judge the curve of the path), but the next challenge– walking backwards– was pretty tough. I ended up walking backwards on an angle towards the edge, so she stopped me before I got too close :P. The good news is that even if you step off, the harness and ropes will just swing you back in. She’s apparently never stepped off though. Around the other side of the tower, it was also a lot more windy.

Once we reached the other end, a couple of things happened. We took more pictures:

DSC08181_rt_rs DSC08179_rt_rs

… and I got to watch a couple of hapless people do the SkyJump, realizing that was going to be me after lunch. That was when I made the decision to not HAVE any lunch, because that just didn’t seem like a great idea right then.

We went back in, and down, and I got out of the prison jumpsuit. Trying to get out of those things with shoes on is actually really tricky (or else I’m just uncoordinated). I had an hour to go before the jump, and I got a free pass to go up the tower because of the SkyWalk, so I went back up and got a coffee on the 50th floor. The cafe was empty, which was perfect. I felt like my nerves were written on my forehead or in a neon sign hovering above me or something. I kept hearing snatches of conversations in the elevators– “you can jump too, look, see those wires…” “…I’d never do that in a million years!”. The guide had told me that more girls than guys chickened out of the jump (but it was the other way around for the walk– really?). I was determined to not chicken out. Fears vs. dreams, right? (smart marketers– they even have shirts for people who chicken out, which say “I nearly jumped off the SkyTower,” or something like that).

With much trepidation, I went back down to Mission Control, and got suited up again. This time, the process was more rigorous– the harness took a lot longer to put on, and it was heavy; at least 4-5 pounds on its own. The girl yanked the waist strap tightly, and I attempted to joke (this is my reaction to nerves, more often than not– I crack bad jokes)– “it’s a good thing I didn’t have any lunch!”. I was weighed (they adjust the main harness depending on your weight), and came up to 52kgs with harness and all. Hm. They wrote the number on my wrist and on my jump pass (they cross-check these numbers once you’re upstairs) and sent me up with another girl who was celebrating her 14th birthday by jumping (this made me feel old– I didn’t mention to her that I was a full decade older). She seemed really nervous. I would have been too, at 14! (I probably wouldn’t have done this, period, actually)

We ended up in a room next to the SkyWalk room, and the other girl decided to go first. They had told us that the most nervous person should go first– I guess to cut down on the time those people are cooling their heels in the waiting room, working themselves into a nervous lather? Her harness was double-checked, some pictures were taken, and then she headed out. I watched the process, but couldn’t hear them. She didn’t hesitate to jump when the guide let go. Good for her! Suddenly I was aware that my legs felt like jelly. My turn…

It was the same process. My harness was checked and rechecked, my shoes were checked to make sure they wouldn’t come flying off (no chance– they were super tightly tied), and a GoPro was attached to my wrist to ensure that any swearing was caught on camera :P. Then came a picture:

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Those cables are the ones which are attached to you on the way down– they unwind and then re-wind with every jump. The sound is super loud when they’re unwinding!

I was clipped onto a temporary track to go outside, and we headed out. I think I was still in disbelief at this point, but there was no turning back now. They turned on the GoPro at this point (video to follow) and then clipped me into the main cable. One last picture:

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I was given instructions on when to let go, and the main cable pulled tightly, lifting me onto my toes– I could feel my weight in the harness (this is good, because it means you’re not freefalling before it ‘catches’ you). Then I was unclipped from the temporary cable and after verifying with the other person inside that everything was all good, the guide yelled “3! 2! 1! GO!”, letting go of my harness on the last word.

And then I flew.

You’ll see it in the video once it’s up, but I went through 4 stages– disbelief, man-screaming, enjoyment, relief. The first 3 seconds, I was pretty quiet– it didn’t really feel like I was falling. And THEN it suddenly felt like I was falling (I must’ve hit my max velocity at this point) and I pretty much man-screamed (it sounds like I’m roaring with a really terrified note in my voice) for the next 4 seconds. And then, quiet for a bit while my brain realized I was actually enjoying myself, and the next sound which comes out of my mouth is WOOOOHOOOOOOO! Then the landing. I felt like a rag doll. The other girl and her family were waiting there as well, and the SkyJump person at the bottom gave me a high-five and asked me a bunch of questions on-camera which I don’t recall too clearly.

The rest isn’t too important– I went back in, got out of the jumpsuit, got upsold a bunch of merch (pictures, video, shirt, etc.), and left (I came back at 8pm that night to take advantage of my second free tower pass and do some night photography). But the whole time I was thinking, wow, I just did that. It’s one of those things which makes you feel invincible afterwards, like you could do anything and succeed. If I ever have the chance to do it again, I probably will (I can do it again for cheaper if I bring in my certificate)– and I definitely recommend it. It’s a thrilling experience, and the views are amazing, but it also helps you challenge your own boundaries and grow as a person. There’s really no downside– as long as you aren’t afraid of heights (this might be good for that too, who knows!) :).

Cheers,

Tamara

 

2 Replies to “Tamara vs. the Auckland SkyTower”

  1. You’re right about growing as a person, Tam; I knew you when you were 14 and I definitely don’t think you (DEFINITELY nor I) would’ve had the guts to do this. I’m always a little teary-eyed when I hear of your exploits in other parts of the world – you’ve been so incredibly daring and brave; so much more than I ever would have believed. I’m so proud to still be called your friend, even though our paths haven’t crossed in a long time. Keep dreaming, and keep exploring. I’ll always be here if you swing my way. 🙂

    Love,

    Ryn

    Like

  2. Remember when we practically had to force you to come on the West Coast Trail with us? And now you would be the one forcing me to jump (although, good luck with that…)
    I’m really not liking the fact that you moved away, because I feel like I barely know you anymore! You’ve changed so much (in a good way. C; ).

    Like

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