The Year of the Awesome, when conceived, needed a grand sendoff, and the plan for New Year's Day took hold one day in a kebab shop in Dunedin: jumping out of a plane.
I'm not a big believer in the ceremonial, but if any year would be an exception to the rule, it should be this one. And reaching terminal velocity while jumping out of a plane seemed to be the ideal way to shake off the demons of 2008. And, better still, a friend works at a skydiving company in Taupo! I called Alastair, and had a conversation like this:
"What do you think about jumping out of a plane on New Year's Day?"
(pause) "That would be ... awesome."
A simple, elegant plan, and one that came all too easily undone. It turns out that they didn't do dives on January 1st, and with a flight back to Dunedin impending later wasn't realistic. Eventually, begrudgingly, we settled on a date of December 30th, planning a day trip from our retreat in Raglan 3 1/2 hours east for an afternoon dive, then returning that night. I crossed my fingers that 2008's final surprise wouldn't be a parachute failure at 7,000 feet.
And then December 30th came, and the weather was pissy and miserable, and it became obvious it wasn't going to clear up anytime soon. A few texts later, confirming it was the same in Taupo, and that plan was cancelled.
To add insult to injury, around 3 pm the sky cleared and the day was as lovely to hope for. While I didn't confirm the same was the case in Taupo, I suspect it might have been, and we could have skydived after all.
On the 31st, a beautiful day, we went to the beach. Lying in the sun, unconsciously inflicting sunburn upon ourselves, Al paused and said: "We should be up there."
Above us, paragliders.
I went on a lengthy expedition, and finally found a paraglider, a Russian traveler who had already been accosted by an eager Indian who also wanted to fly. The Russian was bemused. He, like the others in the air, had come here on his own, an independent paraglider with no ability or interest in taking others with him.
Defeated, I trundled back, cursing 2008 under my breath, when I noticed three confused-looking people getting out of a van and an older, not-at-all-confused looking guy holding what looked like paragliding equipment.
A brief conversation, a plan set for the next day: mission successful.