I woke up before the sun at 5:30 on Friday morning, but this time not because of jet lag or because the room was too warm and bright or because I wanted to make it in time for a free breakfast, but because I was going to jump out of a plane. Yep, I am terrified of heights but for some odd reason I felt inclined to go skydiving while I had a beautiful Australian ocean view to dive into, so that’s just what I did.
I surprisingly didn’t feel nervous leading up to it; I was able to fall asleep calmly the night before and woke up feeling like it was just another regular day. Even on the two hour shuttle bus to Mission Beach I felt normal. The first brief shudder of nerves crept up on me when I signed my life away and agreed that I understood the dangers of skydiving and the risk of death that can result. But if I’m being honest, I more hated the germ-infested iPad being passed around the bus that I had to use to register for the dive… it was a total germaphobe’s nightmare and was almost worse than the skydive itself!!!!! (Ha not even close)
Following the long ride from Cairns to Mission Beach, I was placed in the second last group and had to wait another three and a half hours for my turn to jump. The waiting wasn’t quite as bad as I expected it to be but I really just wanted to get the darn dive over and done with. I definitely have a fear of heights but I didn’t realize just how bad it was until that day.
The second wave of fear hit me when we arrived at the skydive office and I watched the videos playing over and over of people diving into nothingness from thousands of feet above. Knowing that that would be me in a few short hours definitely made my stomach twirl.
Now fast forward and I am taking off in a dinky plane, getting higher and higher above the clouds wondering why the hell I ever thought this was a good idea. Any calm I had been feeling before quickly flew out the window and my stomach flipped upside down. I honestly thought I was going to pee my pants. For real.
My fear only escalated when I looked out the window nervously and commented on how high we were only for my instructor to assure me we were only halfway up! Oh goody!!!! I just about threw up right then and there!
We finally reached our height of 15,000 feet and by that point, any tiny figment of excitement left in me had dissolved into pure fear. I was that annoying girl who asked multiple times if everything was attached properly… as if he didn’t do this ten times every day. He probably hated me for doubting his abilities and I don’t blame him. I felt like an annoying child asking the expert over and over if I was locked in properly, but my greatest fear of the whole thing wasn’t that the parachute wouldn’t open but that my harness would somehow detach and I would be flying through the sky alone, plummeting to my death.
I mean think about it! We’ve all had those dreams where you are falling and falling but you always wake up before you hit the ground. Ah, the sweet, sweet relief when you wake up safe and sound in the comfort of your bed. Except this time I would just continue to fall and fall and fall through the nothingness of the sky. Nothing to grab onto, just dropping through the air hopelessly. That is a total nightmare for me… and probably every other sane human being, which is why it’s crazy that I paid good money to fling myself out of a plane in the first place. ANYWAY, back to the good stuff.
I was the second last one out of the plane, although I would’ve liked to go first and not have to watch as my fellow divers somersaulted out of the plane and were instantly sucked into the wind and out of sight. I dangled my feet over the edge just as I was instructed to do (probably the scariest feeling in the whole entire world) and before I could think about it I was dropping through the sky. Dropping, dropping, dropping. Through a cloud of white, then back into open air, the bright blue sea looking like a cement wall thousands of feet below me. I tried to take in the gorgeous views of the Great Barrier Reef from above and the turquoise colour of the water, but it’s hard to appreciate a view when you’re plummeting from the sky and fearing for your life, ya know? I can hardly even remember those 60 seconds of free fall; I was in such a state of shock and fear and excitement and amazement and terror and every other feeling you can imagine.
I was screaming as soon as we leaped into the sky and couldn’t stop smiling throughout the whole free fall. I didn’t know what to do other than to smile and enjoy the feeling even though it was the most unnatural and terrifying thing I have ever experienced. My mouth became so dry and I desperately tried to lick my lips but when you’re dropping through the air at 200 km/hour, it’s quite impossible. It was the craziest feeling I have ever experienced and probably will ever experience. It feels like you’re flying, because you kind of are, and it’s both amazing and completely terrifying. As much as it was crazy fun, I don’t think there was a single moment I wasn’t fearing for my life… but I’m also a huge worry wart. It was just insane. There are no adequate words to explain how it feels to be falling through the sky. You just have to do it!
I was so relieved when the parachute flung open, not just because it meant I most likely wasn’t going to die, but because my ears were starting to hurt like crazy in the last few seconds of the free fall. The worst part was just how bad the extreme pressure affected my poor sensitive ears.
The cruising period that followed the wildest 60 seconds of my whole existence lasted about 6 minutes and it was absolutely surreal. The crazy adrenaline finally slows down and suddenly you’re just floating above the earth in your own little bubble. It is pure bliss up there; you can’t hear a thing except the wind blowing through the parachute and wow is that ever a soothing sound. As much as I wanted to fully relax, we were still far too high up for my liking and I hadn’t survived just yet. I took in the calm peacefulness that comes from being so isolated from the world and it was honestly incredible, but the irrational fear of having a faulty harness still lingered in the back of my mind. It didn’t help when the instructor loosened the harness to “make it more comfortable”. I literally thought I was going to slip out and have another terrifying free fall but this time to my death. Miraculously, I lived to tell the tale!
We floated for a while up there, quite a bit longer than the rest of the group and when I saw all of the other parachutes already on the beach I started to worry that something went wrong and we would never make it back down…. ya know, rational worries. He adjusted the ropes to make us swing around in circles, which felt like being on a swings ride at an amusement park except a thousand times more terrifying because there is nothing actually holding you up. I loved it and hated it all at the same time. I got to control the parachute for a bit before we finally landed back on the beach. Hallelujah!!!
As soon as my feet touched the ground I was able to breathe again. It was only then that I could truly appreciate the experience since I knew with certainty that I had survived. I don’t know how to put the feeling into words… the the best way I can explain it is that it feels like you’re in a dream. Not a near-death nightmare but a blissful, euphoric dream. It was really something… truly the experience of a lifetime.
So there ya have it! My first, and probably last skydive. I say last because I don’t feel the need to do it again… at least not right now. It was so amazing and unreal and crazy and I’m so happy I pushed through my fear and did it, but I think it’s a one time thing for me. Plus I highly doubt I’ll ever have a better view to fall into than the one in Mission Beach. Whew!!!! What. A. Day.
I only have two days left in Australia and my heart is hurting. It’s very bittersweet as I am looking forward to seeing everyone at home and having my own bed and clean clothes and a closet, but dang I am going to miss this slice of paradise and the freedom of travelling around and just enjoying life. Now it’s back to reality and back to work, but at least my bank account will be happy. I skipped over my time on Magnetic Island because I wanted to get these thoughts out while they were still fresh but I will have another post up pronto to take you back a few days to my time on that tropical paradise!
See you all soon!
Ps. I am WELL aware that I look like a rodent from Whoville in the free fall footage, but I have attached the pictures anyway just for laughs…. and they are screenshots from the video so that’s why they aren’t great quality. AnyWHO, enjoy!!!!