New Zealand - Hangover at 15,000 Feet


I'm often asked "What's your favorite place?" or "What place did you like the most?"   It's a hard question to answer because I like to think I've had great experiences everywhere I've traveled.   And the "top 5" or "top 10" list is always changing.   But, New Zealand, and particularly the South Island of New Zealand, are almost always on that list.  In fact, if I had to live somewhere other than the United States, New Zealand would probably top my list of second choices.

I've only been to the South Island once, but I spent almost three weeks there in April, 2008 with my friend Stan Luker.   We were both Peace Corps volunteers in Tonga at the time and were excited to be in a place with hot showers and good beer.

Beer was an important part of our trip.  While some may come to New Zealand for the wine, we spent a lot of time trying the different craft and local beers available throughout the country.   My favorites were the Mac’s Brewjolais and the Montiefs Celtic.

While in Queenstown, I asked Stan if he wanted to go skydiving.  It was something I had always wanted to try.  He wasn't as excited as I was about the idea, but he agreed and we booked a jump.   Then the jump got cancelled due to high winds. And there were no available jump times the following day.  We put ourselves on a waitlist and went to a bar.  We had several beers.  I don't remember how many I had, but that's the point of this story.

We got back to our room and had a message that there had been a cancellation and that we needed to be at the skydiving company first thing in the morning.   We set the alarm and went to bed.

The next morning, I had a bit of a hangover.  But I was determined to skydive, so we headed to the office and boarded a bus to the jump site.

We got our parachutes, met our buddy for the tandem jump and boarded the plane.   We cruised up to 15,000 feet above New Zealand and out we went.  Our jump included a 60 second free fall.  That means no open parachute.   60 seconds may not sound like a long time, but when you are freefalling with the ground getting closer and closer, it seems like a long time.  It was exhilarating.   Finally, the parachute opened as you can see in the photo below.

Steve Hunsicker skydiving above Queenstown, New Zealand

The view was amazing and I couldn't believe how peaceful it was.  Very quiet, almost like time was standing still as we slowly made our way back to earth.   I was feeling fine.  Until I got close to the ground.   I normally don't get dizzy, but I started to feel the hangover and had this horrible feeling that I was about to get sick.    Thankfully, we made it to the ground with no stomach problems.

Stan landed a few minutes after I did. He was feeling fine.   At the time of our jump, Stan was 24 years old and I was 48.   As we were walking back to the hangar, we saw these two women.   One looked at us and said to Stan, "How cool that you and your father got to skydive together."  I suddenly felt old not only because of the women's comment, but my hangover from just a few beers.


I've linked below the video of my skydive as well a link to the blog post I wrote about our trip to New Zealand.

Dates of Travel

  • April, 2008
  • November, 2008

Places Visited

  • Auckland
  • Whangarei
  • Hamilton
  • Rotorua
  • Wellington
  • Nelson
  • Christchurch
  • Queenstown
  • Manapouri
  • Franz Josef




This post is part of my series "One Photo - One Country."  I'm am selecting one photo and writing one story from every country I have visited.   Your comments and questions are welcome.  

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  1. Hi, Steve, Joel and I both enjoyed this story. We've been skydiving, we've been to New Zealand, and we enjoy good beer wherever we travel. Lynne