Posted by: Rebecca | April 2, 2012

Indescribable!! (But probably my longest update, sorry!)

I honestly don’t know how I’m going to write this one! It’s the skydive 🙂

Before I left the UK, a friend said to me, if you do nothing else in Australia, you have got to do a skydive. Now plenty of people said “do this…” and “do that…” but most of these were things like drinking Tooheys New, seeing the harbour from the water via the Manly ferry, driving down the GOR, riding on a tram in Melbourne etc. These kinds of things are all touristy things which you’d expect people to tell you to do. Whenever people come to York, they want to go to the Railway museum, the Viking Museum, the Minster etc. It’s the usual suspects. But for someone to say “if you do NOTHING else, do a skydive” was unexpected. So it stuck in my head.

Where to do it?

When we got to Melbourne, I asked the guys around the track about it, and everyone seemed to say that the adventurous stuff, extreme sports etc all seemed to be in Sydney, where the weather was better. When we got to Sydney, I asked Tim (the boat skipper) about it, and his view was to do it in Cairns, where you jump over the reef. Of course, made sense; if you’re going to jump from so high, and see an amazing view, you want the view to be worth it, right? I checked this out with Neil, when we were out for early doors, and he totally agreed, but added that I had to jump from 14,000 feet; anything less was half a job. OK, so I need to find a dive centre. Google – Skydive Australia – Australia’s highest skydive, 100% safety record for over 1 million jumps, and an awesome experience guaranteed. Sorted! We got the choice to dive over Mission beach (drop zone on an amazing sandy location about 60km south of Cairns) or the over Cairns (known as the Reef jump) – erm, no brainer! Why would you land on a beach when you can dive over the reef?

So, we booked in for their first jump of the day (a 7am meet in Cairns, an hour from Port Douglas) and prepared for a 5am start. What am I doing? I’m on holiday? 5am? The sun’s not even up yet? But hey, I’ll go with it…

On arrival at the Dive centre, we are given a heap of paperwork to complete (the expected stuff about insurance, medicals, basically releasing them of any liability whatsoever and taking our lives into our own hands – every page begins with the words ‘Skydiving is a dangerous sport’… fills you with confidence! But how many times a day / week / month / year do these guys take people like me up? Any how often do you hear of accidents? You’re probably more likely to get hurt crossing the road at home! So I sign it all and take my seat with the other 4 jumpers to watch the training DVD.

The dudes

We’re then escorted out to the waiting minibus, and suddenly we’re joined by the dudes! A driver, 3 cameramen and 5 divers. As each dude gets on board we spot they’re all wearing chutes – reassuring, where are ours? The first hops aboard and looks at dad, “Dave? Hi, I’m your dive partner today, how’s it going?” They shake hands and start yakking. Cool, dad’s sorted. A few more get on then appears Mike – a hot looking Kiwi who (on first impressions) doesn’t look like a dive dude. “Alrighty then, who’s Rebecca?” “Yeah, that’s me” I reply. “Hope you’re ready for some fun this morning Rebecca? I’m Mike, I’m your dive partner today”… oh lordy; on a proportion of excitement to nerves, I was dabbling around about 70:30 but this has now tipped to 80:20.

We arrive at the aviation centre (can’t call it the airport, that’s next door where Qantas is king) and hop off the bus. Each dude takes their respective diver aside and starts to kit them out in their harness. “Don’t worry” says Mike, “it might feel a bit loose at the moment, but I’ll tighten it up on the plane and you’ll be strapped to me tight” – OK!

The plane taxis over – it’s tiny! Imagine the interior of an average sized people carrier – in that space we have 2 parallel benches running the length of the cabin. Each couple climbs in and sits astride the bench, with the dude sitting behind the diver. I leave, what I consider to be, courteous space between those in front and behind me, as you do, but Mike has other ideas! Grabbing my harness, he pulls me back towards him to make more room for the others to get on board – clearly this isn’t a sport for the faint hearted or the prudish! As we take off, it occurs to me that, despite our seating arrangements being cosy and basic, and taking off with the door open (I say door – it’s more like a plastic sheet  which rolls down to cover the gap) take off is actually as smooth, if not smoother, than in a jumbo. I don’t feel at all uncomfortable, nervous or worried. This was probably the thing I was most worried about, as it happens; being in a tiny plane. But it was absolutely fine.

We climb and climb and it seems to take ages to get to 9,000 feet. All the time, Mike is pointing out landmarks and chatting with me to put me at ease. He obviously realises I’m not too nervous and happy to chat, as his next questions is “So, how does it feel to be strapped between the legs of a strange bloke you’ve never met before?” The smile that’s been etched on my face for the past 2 hours erupts into laughter, and I reply “Not something I’m used to, but I’m strangely excited by it actually!”

RAG status with a difference

So we hit 11,000 feet and Mike starts to give the instructions. “The 3 lights at the back; when the red light comes on, put on your goggles. When it goes to amber, the door will open – it’ll be windy and noisy, but don’t worry – just take a big deep breath in and out, and relax. When it goes green, it’s ready steady spaghetti! We’ll move to the door, you hang your legs over the edge, I’ll say ‘Ready, Set, Go!’ and we jump. Cross your arms like this, tilt your head back onto my shoulder and smile at the camera! When I tap you on the arm, uncross then and enjoy the fall. OK?” Blimey, I think so! Lets do it, COME ON!!!!!!!

I jump fourth, and the girl before me is screaming so much before she’s even at the edge, I’m half expecting her to jib! But the divers won’t let that happen – you paid your money, you want to do this, you’ve made it this far, I’m not going to let you regret it for the rest of your life by jibbing out now! (They didn’t say this, but if I was in their position, that’s what I’d be thinking!). Oh my god, they fall so fast! Jesus, it’s my turn, here we go!

*Christ, I’m buzzing again just writing about it! I’m getting so excited right now, the table I’m sitting at in the bar is shaking as I’m hitting the keys so hard! Yaaaaayyyyyy!*

What Mike actually said to me when we got the edge, I have no idea. All I remember, is that when my legs went over the edge of the door, they were pushed left by the force of the wind. Mike said something and we were gone. Wooooooooohooooooooo!!!!!! Freefalling!!!!!! For about 60 seconds, there was nothing beneath me but land, approaching bloody fast, and nothing suspending me, it’s a really strange feeling! For the first second or two I didn’t how to feel; I don’t remember feeling scared or excited, just numb really? Then Mike tapped my arms and I held them out wide and remembered to arch my back and bend my knees. At that point, it was like the sequence had begun and I just screamed obscenities! It was amazing, f*****g amazing! Nothing I’ve ever experienced came close. Then suddenly there was a tug and the chute went up – complete change of feeling, from fast falling to sudden peace, silence and tranquillity. “Rebecca? Welcome to my office” says Mike. Wow. This is amazing. And for the next 5 minutes we just glided down, chatting and Mike teaching me how to steer the chute – pull down on the right to turn right and pull left to turn left, and if you pull down on both, woooh, we stop, suspended in mid-air! Man, this is just sensational!

Finally, as we approach the ground, Mike tells me “bring your knees into your chest and lift your feet, then when I say, stand up. Perfect landing 🙂 (Unlike dad, who lands shortly after me, arse first, sliding on his backside across the grass!)

I’m down! But I want to go up again! I turn to Mike “thank you so much, that was just amazing! Woooohoooo!” We high five and I wander over to see how Dad found it. He is as excited as I’ve ever seen him, he picks me up and spins me round, saying “When can we do this again?! It was amaaaaazing!”  (He might be an OAP now, but he’s still 21 at heart 🙂 )

So that was today. The best experience of my life. I got back to Port Douglas at some point (no idea when) and just wanted to hit the beach and spin! Nothing else I could’ve done today would’ve come close to this. I don’t think anything I’ll ever do again will come close to this.

If anyone reading this ever has the chance to do a skydive, especially in a place where you can see amazing things, and it’s warm enough not to have to wrap up like an Eskimo, I dare you not to take the opportunity. Everyone I know who’s done this says they felt as I do right now. I don’t like heights, and in a way, this was me taking on one of my two biggest fears, head on. I didn’t once think about my fear of heights, I didn’t once think about anything going wrong. I really didn’t think about anything, except that what I was about to do was undoubtedly going to be amazing, and something I’ll probably never ever do again.

This is amazing. If you get the chance, do it.

ttfn dudes /Boxy xx

PS – I have photos but they’re on DVD, so I can’t access them until I get home (Vesper has no CD drive) but I’ll get them online as soon as I can!

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