The plan was to head to New Zealand to undergo the one-week driver evaluation that all potential PETRONAS Syntium Team drivers have to take on, as part of the filter and selection process. While that is a story for another time with the team’s appointed driver trainer Richard Lester, I have another story to tell.
During the 10 days I was in New Zealand, I had some free days which I used for sightseeing. Putting up at Pukekoke, which is about a 45-minute drive to the city centre of Auckland, my daily mode of transport was this lovely manual bone stock 1991 Toyota MRII:
I went to the usual attractions of Auckland, visiting the Sky Tower and the Auckland Bridge, but I didn’t plan on and definitely did not expect this trip to be a total EXHILRATION of an experience!
What do I mean?
Well, I went to the Sky Tower and did their 192-metre Sky Jump, as well as walked around the edge of the Tower with the Sky Walk. Then on another day I drove 200 kilometres out to Parakai (about 40 minutes from Auckland city centre but about 1.5 hours from Pukekohe where I was staying) just to jump out of a plane! YES, I had my first ever skydiving experience with Skydive Auckland – 16,500 feet with almost 80 seconds of free fall!!!
Know what was the most awesome part of it all?
I went through all of that ON MY OWN!
Read on for my experiences…
Auckland’s Sky Tower stands at 328 metres (measured from ground level to the top of the mast) and is the tallest man-made structure in New Zealand, with breathtaking views for up to 80 kilometres in every direction. Part of the Skycity Auckland casino complex (which also has a theatre, a convention centre, 12 bars and restaurants and two hotels), the Tower is used for telecommunications and broadcasting purposes too.
The upper portion of the Tower has two restaurants and a cafe – the Sky Lounge, the Observatory Restaurant and Orbit, Auckland’s only 360-degree revolving restaurant. There is a main observation level (at 186 metres high), as well as the Skydeck, which is the top observation level at 220 metres high.
SKY JUMP – Look ‘n’ Leap!
I chose to do the Sky Jump first! At ground level, you first have to be suited up nicely in their standard yellow and blue overalls. Then you make your way up in the lift and wait for your turn. My heart started beating really fast when I was waiting for my turn and watching the others before me.
When it was my turn, I was taking deep breaths and telling myself not to be scared. Once all the buckles and straps were in place, a Go-Pro camera was secured onto my left wrist so I could self-record my Sky Jump experience. Walking out onto the platform in the open air and surveying the extensive views before me, I took an even deeper breath.
The instructors take a photo with you and do a little interview with the Go-Pro before you walk to the edge of the platform. That’s when the heart started accelerating rapidly.
Before I took the jump, I took a look 192 metres vertically downwards at the target board below and that was really scary. Once all is set up, the instructor will count to 3 and you just jump!
I jumped on the count of 3 and let out a BIG scream!!
The thing is, after jumping off, the instructor will stop you after 10 metres so you can look up and get a picture.
Once the smile is captured, off you go again!
All the way down to the target board this time, where another instructor is waiting for you.
Once I was back on the ground, I felt like it wasn’t that scary after all! It’s just that moment before you jump that’s the scariest, but once you overcome that, everything else is fine! Something I noticed while watching others jump – the males generally don’t make much noise when they jump, but the females practically scream their lungs out. It’s quite funny too, as everyone on the observation levels and those eating in the restaurants can watch you fall past them!
For good reason, the Sky Jump’s tagline is called Look ‘n’ Leap! There is a maximum weight limit of 122kg and the minimum age is 10 years old. There isn’t really a maximum age, health conditions permitting of course, and the oldest jumper for the Sky Jump was actually a 91-year-old woman!
Watch the video of my Sky Jump here (Count the number of times I said “OMG”!):
Sky Jump is open from 10.00am to 5.15pm every day of the year (wind and weather permitting) except Christmas Day and in times of extreme weather, such as the winds being over 70km/h. It costs NZD 225 (adult price) for the Jump and if you ever decide to go for it a second time, just show them the certificate from the first time and it will only be NZD 75.
Top up to NZD 290 and you can go for the Sky Walk as well.
SKY WALK – Live On The Edge
The Sky Walk is a different kind of scary.
It sounds fairly simple – just a 360-degree walk around the Sky Tower! Well, it is 192 metres off the ground with no handrails and only a harness and an overhead railing to hold you in place on the 1.2-metre walkway.
Although I’ve already done the Sky Jump and feeling like it wasn’t all that bad and I could do it again, I still felt the jitters when I was doing the Sky Walk. It is a 30-minute guided walk with an instructor leading the group and the first five minutes was a little nervous. As I got used to the height, I got braver and was doing things like sitting out over the edge and standing on tiptoes at the edge!
Each Sky Walk group can take up to a maximum of six people, but during the time I went, it was just me and this other guy.
Actually, the Sky Walk is an adventure activity with a very low real risk but very high perceived risk. Each of us has two safety tethers from our harness, up to the overhead rail. One safely tether is a climbing rope designed as a failsafe and the other tether is a seatbelt-type retraction system that allows the tether to be adjusted to your individual height. This means that if you do step off the pergola, you simply swing back like a pendulum.
SkyWalk is designed to carry a maximum weight of 130kg and the minimum age is 10 years old. The only physical requirement is to be able to reliably walk around the pergola. People with some physical limitations can still participate by using a Hand Gliding harness, where you can simply harness in and ‘glide’ around.
Open from 10.00am to 4.30pm daily (wind and weather permitting) except Christmas Day, Sky Walk has scheduled departures during the day at NZD 145 per person or NZD 290 with the Sky Jump. This is inclusive of a ticket to go to the observation levels as well so you don’t have to purchase a separate visitor pass to access the Sky Tower.
For both activities, comfortable clothings and proper closed-toe shoes like sneakers are sufficient, as you will have the flying suit and full body harness provided.
You are not allowed to bring your own camera equipment up but they have photos and videos that you can purchase. There are various options you can choose from – two printed photos for NZD 30, the USB package (all digital photos + movie file on the USB + two printed photos) at NZD 65.
The Sky Tower is a definite attraction to go to when you visit Auckland and if you have time, do go for the Sky Walk or the Sky Jump if you have the guts to!
Corner Victoria and Federal Streets
Phone: 0800 SKYCITY (08007592489) – this is toll free within NZ
There is another form of adventure within the Auckland city centre – the Auckland Bridge Climb and Bungy.
This is the world’s first harbour bridge Bungy Jump and is operated by the Bungy originals – AJ Hackett Bungy. Basically you will jump off a specially-constructed ‘Bungy pod’ on the bridge and leap out from 40 metres over the Waitamata Harbour.
For the less courageous, there is the Bridge Climb, which is a 1.5-hour guided walk all around the Bridge.
I didn’t have the chance to take on the Auckland Bridge this trip, but I will do it the next time I visit!
Next up – my inaugural skydiving experience!!!
*Note: Prices are all in NZ dollars and at adult rates Visit the respective websites for other pricing tiers.