High above the tropical paradise of Cains, Australia I prepare to jump from a perfectly good airplane. Newly married and on our honeymoon, my new husband and I decide to begin our lives together with adventure. We’re literally ‘taking the plunge’.
Skydiving, one of the greatest thrills of my lifetime, is made even more thrilling by the fact I honestly can’t remember all of the detailed instructions I received in my 20 minute briefing. Is 20 minutes really enough time to prepare someone for all of the intricacies of falling to the Earth at 200 kph? ‘When do I pull the ripcord? Am I supposed to arch my back or not? Did the instructor really say that my legs would snap like twigs if I didn’t bend them up at the last moment before landing?’ A flurry of panicky questions race through my mind as the airplane, a PAC Cresco 750, ascends to 14,000 feet above the ground.
Granted, I am skydiving tandem with the instructor himself but I am anxious about the waiver that I signed, heavily dotted with the words ‘injuries’ and ‘die’. The thought, ‘am I really doing this’ races through my mind. The airplane door opens and my worries are silenced by the roaring sound of the engines and the howling of the wind outside the aircraft.
With a heavy Aussie accent, my instructor tells me to put on my ‘buggers’. I slip the clear plastic goggles over my eyes and wave to my husband as I step off the edge of the airplane into a free fall. My heart beats like a hammer as I plummet to the Earth in downward somersaults, not sure which way is up and which way is down.
In a dizzy and disoriented descent, my instructor orders me to extend my arms in a V-like shape above my head to steady us out. We stabilize and begin falling at a ‘Belly to Earth’ orientation. I can feel the strong resistance of the air against me as my jumpsuit flaps in the 120 mph wind. My body reaches terminal velocity as I fall horizontally for 60 seconds though a seemingly endless sky. My vibrating cheeks and lips are plastered back in a fixed smile. I break out into a silent scream as my voice is swiftly carried away…whoosh.
At 5,500 feet my instructor calmly pulls the ripcord and the parachute opens with a jarring jolt. Suddenly the roaring of the wind quiets and the sky becomes tranquil and silent under the protection of the giant nylon canopy. The only sound I hear is my Aussie instructor’s voice proudly pointing out the breathtaking panorama below.
Cairns, Australia is one of the most beautiful places in the world to skydive. The five minute canopy ride allows spectacular views of Cairns, a cosmopolitan city in far North Queensland and the surrounding natural wonders of the Daintree tropical rainforest and the Great Barrier Reef.
I soar through the air with ease as I soak up the bird’s eye view of the area. Gravity pulls us toward the Earth and this exhilarating experience comes to an end. I see the ground and begin to fold up my legs for landing. ‘Not yet mate’, my instructor says. I wait for his cue and do as he instructs. We land by bending our legs up and skid along the ground on our backsides.
The adrenaline pumps through my veins and I feel a buzz I can’t justly explain with words. My husband safely lands minutes after I do. I run to him and jump in his arms, clinging to him like a koala. ‘What a rush!’ I excitedly shout.
While the reality is that driving a car is more dangerous than most of the adventures you will experience abroad, adventure travel shouldn’t be reckless or put you in any real danger. Check safety records, do your research, and be sure your memories are good ones and not of assorted hospitals around the world.
Travel and do whatever qualifies as exciting to you. ‘Life shouldn’t be measured the number of breaths we take but by the number of moments that take our breath away’.
For more information on skydiving in Australia: The Australian Parachute Federation online at http://www.apf.asn.au/