Why jump out of a perfectly good aeroplane? This is usually the reaction you get when saying that you are going to skydive. I was one of those and felt that my talents would be much more appreciated while I am alive – although I started cave diving. So jumping out of planes were not very high on my list of must-do. Not even close to my bucket list, let alone in my bigger bath-tub list.
Given the opportunity to try it for an article in the local dive magazine, I was at first apprehensive. Thoughts of what will my newly acquired husband do when I am there no more, one with the earth, flattened by the high velocity stop. Or like my dad usually say, it’s not the falling which kills you, it’s the sudden stop. But if I were not to do it on this occasion, when?
The drive down to Carletonville was very quiet with me going: yes, no, yes, no, OK yes in my head all the way there. And with me not being a loud panicky person, the editor/driver had no clue what was going on in my head. He was just telling me all his horror stories and the voice that told him to stop doing it about 10 years previously. Now that is something to boost your confidence if ever you needed one.
Not being one to go back on my word, I stuck to my guns and decided that I will do it. What a story it will be. Glen, the instructor at the club was a friend and went through the whole procedure and safety features in a calm and professional manner. He was very reassuring and with this not being his first tandem jump, the butterflies in my stomach started to fly in formation.
Jumpsuit on and harness tightened to the point of cutting off my blood flow, we walked to the airfield to await our chariot. My brave face is on and the thought of “what am I doing here?” fleetingly went through my mind. The group before us board and we watch the plane disappear from sight into the blue. Then squinting you can see the jumpers and seconds later, the colourful chutes all opening up and the gentle float down to earth begin. Not long after that, the plane lands and it our turn. I am sure that plane dropped the 11 000 feet in 5 seconds flat. Some guys prefer not to take the trip back down, they’d rather jump, that is how fast he gets down. Without warning, those butterflies are out of formation and wreaking havoc in my stomach.
Once on board, there are some light banter from the veterans but the 3 newbies just get more quiet by the minute. Then suddenly we clip onto our instructors and the announcement come that it is 10 seconds to jump. Watching all the other people going gives you a bit more assurance and you have no choice to put all your trust in the instructor.
Being the fun guy that he is, Glen makes a somersault when we got out of the plane – which I only realised afterwards – and now there is no going back. The first thing I notice is the crystal clear blue of the sky where it meets the earth, with the curvature very prominent. It was simply beautiful.
8 seconds of free fall and whoof, the chute opens without any trouble. Except for the wind and the harness trying to cut my leg off, this is the most exhilarating experience I had in my short existence on earth. Looking down, you can see the houses getting bigger, the mine dumps – Carletonville is a mining town – and then you start seeing the landing area coming into focus. Suddenly you realise that this is not over yet, you have to land safely. Glen shouts instructions into my ear as we get closer, lift up your legs, no higher, OK hold onto the harness, ready…
A safe landing on the bum ensures no strained ankles or broken legs and then it is all over. You could not get the smile off my face for a full 10 minutes afterwards. I would definitely recommend it for anybody. Last year an old school friend of mine’s granny did a jump – think she is a 100 years old, or very close to it. And she did it for fundraising, probably will do it again this year, so there should be no excuse for us “young ones”, take the leap!