We Jumped off a plane!!
Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either adaring adventure, or nothing. – Helen Keller
I’m so happy that my 12 year old daughter already understands these enlightening words, and has never shied away from experiencing, and enjoying every crazy activity or adventure that she’s been introduced to! Both of us have already trekked at 10,000 plus feet in the Himalayas, had thrilling encounters with wild animals in safaris, slept peacefully with snakes and a scorpion for company, rappelled 450 feet in the Sahyadris, and spent quality time in Hanging Tents overlooking a vast valley. But, what we were about to attempt was way beyond all of this!!!
Ever since my brother, Vishal, had the thrilling experience of skydiving in 2015, me and Sia were keen to give it a try. He jumped tandem, at Cairns, and we wanted to do it at the same location. Unfortunately (or fortunately :p), the timings clashed with our pre-booked tours, and the plan had to be dropped.
We were in Australia for a full 4 weeks, but it just wasn’t happening. Time was slipping away, and the odds were heavily against any window of opportunity.
But during our last week at Sydney, my uncle showed me the website of ‘Skydive Australia’, and strongly suggested that we take the dive at Wollongong. After a long debate, the dive was booked for the evening of 3rd Jan, 2017.
Father-daughter duo was super excited!!!
Well, activities like skydiving are heavily weather dependent, in spite of all the technological advancements that man has made. If the wind is too strong, or it starts raining heavily…it’s advisable to abort the plan. And the adventure sports market down under is so matured and organized – absolutely no compromise with safety!
Around 9 am, we received a text message about the dives being delayed by 90 minutes, due to weather. Mentally prepared for this, we boarded the train for our 2 hour trip, and then came the call!!!
All evening skydives had been called off, and we were asked to turn back. It was frustrating. Of course, they would refund, but I didn’t want the money. Our hearts were begging for the adrenaline pumping experience.
Thankfully, they called us back the next day for a 7 am jump. So, our date with the skies was fixed! Before…
As soon as we checked in, a detailed form had to be filled up on the tab provided. After weighing in, and ticking an additional $30 for insurance, an optional charge of $149 was my unflinching choice- for the images and HD video of the dive! So, the total amount spent per head,
including the online payment was $420 (all amounts in AUD). Roughly translated, that’s Rs. 21,000. Would it be worth it? The answer would reveal itself in the next 45 minutes.
Our group of 8 got introduced to our tandem instructors, and we got into bright blue jumpsuits. A proper briefing followed- the neck, leg and back position while jumping from the plane; arms to be opened up on a triple tap from the instructor, and the ‘hands under the thighs’ landing posture. Harnesses were secured, and a life jacket was also fit on the waist (in case the wind forced us to land in the ocean). Didn’t I say, these guys leave nothing to chance!!!
In the Air
A 15 minute drive in the bus, and we reached Albion Park Rail Airport, where a small plane awaited us. Eight crazy eager skydivers, mostly first timers, boarded the flight. Each of us was accompanied by an experienced tandem instructor. Mine was the cheerful Sandros, a German born Aussie, and Sia’s instructor was a jovial Aussie named Robbie. Both highly experienced, with a few hundred jumps to their credit! The GoPros on their wrist had already started recording before we got in, and some ‘butterfly in the tummy’ expressions were shot. We joked and nervously laughed along the way, and I was the last to board the plane, just after Sia. I compared this flight to the regular ones we have, and chuckled to myself. Firstly, I was on the floor with no seatbelt on…secondly, I was seated facing the other end…and thirdly, just a thin fibre shutter was between me and the vast sky. Insane!
As the plane took off, after a brief run, I asked myself- Is this what I signed up for? Have I lost my mind? Am I really going to do this? Sia too appeared a bit nervous, but Robbie was doing a great job of casually chatting up with her, and she eased up a bit! A round of high fives, and my nerves disappeared. For our instructors, it was just another day at the office.
Soon, we were up in the clouds, and on cue, we wore our protective glasses. Sandros asked me to sit in his lap, and attached my harness to his, and repeated the instructions given earlier. At 14,000 feet, the moment of truth had arrived. There was no turning back now!
Here we go…
My heart was thumping so loudly, all other sounds simply dissolved into thin air. The shutter was slid open, and a blast of cold air hit me. Swinging my feet out was the next step, and at 14k feet, it defied all logic. So, here I was, hanging out of the plane, literally…and after what seemed ages, Sandros launched us into the wide open sky….
…and then it all happened superfast. The ultimate thrill of freefall -from 14,000 to 4,000 feet, in hardly 45 seconds, rushing down at a mind-numbing 200 kmph!!! Before I knew it, the parachute had been opened, and the fast forward movie suddenly shifted to slo-mo.
A spectacular view greeted me as I soaked in the stunning landscape below. North Wollongong with it’s well laid-out houses, the green-blue ocean waters sparkling, and the sun-kissed sandy beaches. The endless blue skies made me
realize how tiny ad insignificant I was, compared to the elements.
I could see another parachute in the distance below, and was happy to learn that it was Sia’s.
In Sia’s own words
When my Papa announced that we were going to skydive, I was thrilled. I have always enjoyed all the activities that he has introduced me to, and I trust him completely.
Having said that, I did suffer from nerves as the plane took off. But, Robbie and Papa made me feel comfortable. They chatted and joked with me all along. As my Papa jumped off before me, I knew this was it! Seconds after he went, I was out of the plane, and we went at a breakneck speed, straight down. It was then that I enjoyed the rush of air against my face, and was soon making comic faces into the GoPro that was attached to Robbie’s wrist. It was a heady feeling!
Once the parachute opened, he even allowed me to steer it for a while. Gliding like a bird, we went down at an easy pace, overtaking Papa along the way. After landing safely, I looked up to see him swooping down, and as soon as he landed, I rushed to embrace him. I was over the moon to know that I was one of the youngest to ever do this at Skydive Australia.
Thank you Papa for such a thrilling adventure!
– Sia (12 yrs, 8 m, 16 days, on the day of the skydive)
Back on terra firma
Soaring like an eagle, Sandros steered the chute expertly, and soon the Skydive office, and the lawns in front came into view. Our landing was smooth, and Sia came rushing to hug me. I was so proud of her. The cherry on the cake was, knowing that she was one of the youngest to ever attempt and complete this crazy feat.
Waiting for the video and photos to be readied, we spent the next half an hour excitedly narrating the jump to mom and uncle, who had seen us land. The videos were
amazingly clear, and the images would be treasured for life.
One more off the bucket list!!!
It’s surreal! The thrill of what we had just accomplished was yet to sink in. Hats off to these guys for making it so comfortable. No hiccups, no unpleasant surprises. Everything went just as planned.
Thank you Skydive Australia and Adrenaline, for an unforgettable experience. We will cherish it forever!
Until next time…
Co founder,Mid Earth
Describes himself as Teacher, nature lover, offbeat traveller, poet, author, public speaker, motivator, knowledge sharer..
You can contact him on firstname.lastname@example.org