Skydiving: I can fly, I can fly!

Oh my goodness. If you'd have told me a year ago that I'd be jumping out of a plane and throwing my life into the hands of a random guy I definitely wouldn't have believed you. On the 7th August I completed my first ever tandem skydive and bloody hell I think it's unleashed something inside of me that may be difficult to tame. I, Rachel, declare that I may be a little - okay a lottle - bit of an adrenaline junkie.

It all started when I moved back to Cairns and I got talking to various people about their experiences and the one that got thrown about the most was skydiving. Okay then! Let's enquire. I popped to one of the travel shops my friend was starting work for, had a real good chat to the lass behind the desk, and we came up with a figure of $435 for a 14k drop with just the photos added. Crikey. This might be an expensive affair... I put it to the back of my mind and decided I couldn't afford it. I spoke to other people about their prices and we all agreed that $435 was a little steep. 

When I met up with my friend Sarah (whom I'd met previously in Agnes Waters and on Magnetic Island) I decided I just had to do it and walking back from meeting up that evening I popped into a travel agents who had a special offer on. 14,000ft dive, beach landing, photos AND video, for $410. I got pretty damn excited but didn't book it, knowing I could use this figure to my advantage. The next morning I popped down to the travel shop below Global Backpackers (central) and, once taking the figures, said she couldn't beat it but she could match it... and throw in a free upgrade to 15,000ft - the highest you can go without aid of oxygen (I believe?). Holy crap - it was actually getting real. I had Sarah at my side as I popped my card into the EFTPOS machine and threw away $385 ($25 was paid on the day as the levy to join the Australian Parachuting Federation). 

The night before the dive I watched Sarah's skydiving video (and actually nearly cried with fear and excitement) and then waved goodbye to her and a couple of her roomies - fabulous girls and a bundle of laughs - and tried to calm my nerves with a few drinks. Silly mistake. I crept back to my room at about 12.30am and I couldn't sleep, nerves wrecking havoc and keeping me awake until about 3am. Wonderful. I was to be up at 6.30am. 

When the morning came, bleary eyed and full of terror (seriously - my heart was in my throat and I kept shaking). I threw on some clothes, debated whether to eat (no...) and just drank a lot of water instead. I made my way to the Tandem Cairns shop on Lake Street, filled out the necessary paper work on the iPad (how fancy), joined the Federation, signed my life away which stated that this was a dangerous sport and at any time the parachute could fail resulting in death. If this happened we couldn't sue (doh).

Then it was time to pile into the bus to the Mundoo Aerodrome, Innisfail. On the way the heavens opened (literally), rain came bucketing down, the clouds rolled in, and our skydive was on hold until the weather improved. 

Unfortunately my beach dive was off - cancelled - and as I'd already had a free upgrade to the 15k jump I was reimbursed the $30. Not bad really. I'll do it again for sure but maybe over Mission Beach or even anywhere in the world that has a good reef. 

So, we arrived at the skydiving centre, watched another safety briefing video on the bus just before arrival, piled into the common room of the centre, and waited, and waited, and waited for the weather to get better, for a little patch of blue to appear in the clouds.

And then it arrived.

I cannot tell you how nervous I became when I knew it was time to dive. I looked at the departure screen and there at the bottom of the list for the first plane was my name. Crap crap crap. Swallowing my heart and waiting for my name to be called by my instructor I sort of paced around, swore a lot, and giggled at random things, until Greg (bloody awesome guy) introduced himself, got me into my harness, and made some little jokes about how he's not very good at this. Funny man, funny man.

What am I doing?!!
Once in the harness I felt oddly at ease. We did our little interview pre-dive (I look horrendous but I don't give a damn, to any one who's seen my video) and then all clambered into the plane.

Did I mention I was scared of flying...?!!

Since I was the only one from the plane (and out of the whole group) doing a 15,000ft jump, Greg and I got in first, clambering our way to the back of the old plane which was hollowed out - no seats, just floor, to sit on. This is when the nerves seemed to disappear. How odd. I don't like flying in the slightest - it really makes me nervous - but maybe I'd just gone past it all. Greg went in first and I sat in between his legs whilst he fastened up the seatbelt (only on during take-off), and then the rest followed.

The take-off and flight was a little bumpy but yet I felt at east. My harness straps kept sliding off and Greg made a few jokey comments about how that's not normal (actually it probably wasn't normal but nay mind, it was easily fixed) and how I should just hold on in case I slip out during the fall.

 It probably took about 15/20 minutes to reach 14,000ft when everyone else left the plane (except for the pilot of course, that would've been a little problematic). Once the doors opened and the rush of air was heard and felt, I watched as everyone in the plane jumped - one by one. Then I started to feel a little nervous. The doors were closed again and Greg shuffled us both forward, gave me my goggles, and positioned us next to the door. Then it was time to wait until we reached 15,000ft.

The next 15 minutes or so were a total blur, and I mean a total blur. My heart suddenly started to beat extremely fast - all I could think of was, "shit - what on earth am I doing?" - and then the doors opened. It was freezing but exhilarating to be looking down over the world from the sky. I couldn't see much through the clouds (even there was a little patch of blue) but I didn't really have time to think before it was time to jump.

Greg stuck the GoPro in my face the entire time and looking back I wish I bloody smiled!! I was petrified but in a complete daze at just how amazing the whole experience was. My video is hilarious mind, I don't look very happy at all even though I was on cloud 9 (literally).

As we left and my arms were crossed across my chest, we went headfirst into the clouds and waved goodbye to the plane that disappeared rather quickly. The feeling of free freefalling at 120mph from 15,000ft was out of this world and I can't describe it. It doesn't feel like anything I've ever done. I didn't get the stomach turning sensation that you get on a rollercoaster, nor did I feel scared. The sensation of the wind battering your face and feeling your skin flap around in the wind is rather funny and at times it was hard to breathe (probably why my face looks oddly distorted and uncomfortable 99% of the time), but wow. I would do it again, ten times over, just to feel what I felt for those 65 seconds.

It was over quicker than expected but that was probably from the intense adrenaline rush and prospect of falling to the ground. As soon as the parachute was deployed you entered an intense calm where you could talk, breathe, and just observe everything. Unfortunately it was deployed just as we hit some cloud so I was surrounded by white nothingness as Greg asked me how I was. Asides from a little sore from the parachute (just a lot of tugging) I was insanely happy. I couldn't stop screaming and laughing and smiling.

Descending below the clouds (rather quickly might I add), the reality of what had just happened hit me. Had I really just jumped out of a plane?! Insane. The wind was in our favour as we twisted and turned towards our landing zone (with a few 90 degree turns thrown in for fun) and Greg maneuvered us down to safety on the ground. 

I actually couldn't get my head around it.
Once we landed I just hugged him and thanked him for everything whilst acting like an overexcited teenager at her favourite gig. I couldn't contain it all, even with the jelly legs, all I wanted to do was get up there and do it all again... 

Next time I'd like to try doing a proper beach landing... Or maybe one in New Zealand over the beautiful scenery... Or maybe - just maybe - I'll take it a whole new level and learn to skydive, solo style..... Until the next adventure xX




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