22 February 2013

Falling out of an airplane

This is where any normal person should start praying to a god of some sort... any will do

 Next stop, Franz Josef.  Now you know how you have a bucket list going on in your head of things you’ve always wanted to do, well mine included things like dive the Great Barrier Reef (or as Aussie’s call it “The Reef”), travel the world, live in a foreign country, learn Spanish and French fluently, find my mother, hitchhike my way around America, take the Trans Siberian railway for a month, travel South America by motorcycle, and sky dive.  Well, there came a day on my trip in New Zealand where my travel group is given the opportunity to do the latter should the weather permit so I briefly express my interest in doing it to my tour leader thinking that the weather just won’t hold up.  Um, it did.  And I had about an hour’s notice before I found myself in a van speeding down the road to get to the skydive location before the sun totally set.  First piece of advice when suddenly presented with a scenario that involves falling out of a plane and a ton of adrenaline, don’t eat dairy products beforehand - it doesn’t help your stomach at all! 

So, we get there, and we’re introduced to our diving partner, mine being Francois, yes, he’s French but he also had a TON of experience and jumps approximately 10+ jumps a day in the high season.  CRAZY!  They have us watch a video as we’re getting into our jump suits, go over what to do when we are about to fall out of the plane and when we land, and then we’re off in a tiny little plane with no seats in it.  I was thinking we’d get one of those bigger planes, like ones you can stand in with no seats like what the armed forces might jump out of, but no, we had to crawl into this tiny little thing that they called an airplane.  Next thing I know, we’re up in the air and the plane just keeps going higher and higher and higher.  “Holy shit”.  That’s all I’m thinking.  That and “what the fuck am I doing?!”.  Oh and, “is this how I’m going to die?”. Then “oh fuck!  It’s FUCKING FREEZING up here”, that’s because it was like 20 degrees Fahrenheit up there.  Yes, one does tend to swear a lot more when they think their life is on the line.  “Oh, we have to put on oxygen masks too because we’re up so high?  Great.”  Finally, we reach 16,000 feet.  Yeah, 16,000 feet.  Because why bother at 14,000 when you can’t see over the alps!  Plus you get 15 more seconds of free-fall when you’re higher up.  Somehow, on the ground, that seemed important.  When I was in the sky, not so much.  I wanted the plane to go back lower, as if that would soften my plummet to the Earth should I go “SMACK!” with it. 

So I’m all strapped up to my partner (believe me, you get real cozy with a stranger really quick when you realize your life depends on them… and because you are literally sitting on his lap while you’re being strapped to him), a light goes on and our tour leader is first up there’s lots of wind sound, some talking, blur, blur, blur.  Then I’m up, and something, something, something, I’m told to look at the wing because apparently there’s a camera there (which only captured me looking horrified with my decision while of course, looking down), I get into the position that I’m told to (a banana hanging off of the edge of the plane looking up into the sky – praying to some God no doubt), then we’re OUT, falling through the sky STRAIGHT DOWN.  I can’t really describe the sensation of going from feeling some thing under you like your own weight while standing on the floor or on the furniture, to then feeling absolutely nothing but your stomach in your brain and the sheer tug of the earth wanting to grab you and throw you down.  It’s sort of like those free-fall rides at amusement parks but without the straps/harness pulling you down, and for MUCH, much longer.  At some point, I have no idea when, my little chute comes out to which we are able to fly (right, is that what I’m doing??) flat and finally assess what the fuck I’m doing… which is still falling through the sky… “But, oh wait, look at it, I AM over the snowy alps and they’re gorgeous!  And oh look, I really am looking at the ocean from sunset and I feel higher than the sun, and I’m looking down at rain forests and glaciers and lakes and fields with sheep, oh my!!!”  Now, what they don’t tell you on the ground is that when you’re falling through the sky, you will be freezing your face off… and your fingers… and your toes.  If I opened my mouth, I could feel ice crystals forming (or what I considered to be ice), so I kept breathing through my nose (which froze too). All one can do once they accept that they were falling through the sky, strapped to a stranger named Francois, is just admire the scenery and enjoy the sensation of flying (plummeting).  Soon enough, our parachute was out, I feel a tug and next thing I know, I’m upright and Francois takes me on some left and right turns, then some nice little spinning corkscrews, then hands the reins over to me.  Pulling all the way to the left or right, I make some turns then pull harder for some nice little g-forces.  At this point, we’re leisurely sailing (plummeting to the Earth but more slowly) through the sky, I notice the sheep below me and realize, well, we’re landing there, huh.  So closer and closer to the field until we’re just over it, Francois tells me to put my legs forward, I do and we skid on our butts softly on the Earth.  The sweet, sweet Earth that doesn’t have my body splattered all over it. 

We get all untangled and I give Francois a HUGE hug!  He saved my life!  Though I did put my life in his hands in the first place.  I’m soaring from all of the adrenaline and am beyond hopped up on life.  All of my travel mates made it safely, we’re all pumped and ready for a beer.  The amazing thing is that because of all of the adrenaline pumping through our systems, we only need one beer until we’re buzzed.  Now that’s something I could get on board with more often.  Would I jump out of a plane in order to achieve that again? YES!  A resounding YES!!  I would gladly plummet to the Earth all over again.


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