Skydiving

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.

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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.

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5…4…3…2…1…jump!

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.

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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!

 

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Working in paradise

Another person’s misfortune was my ticket into job at a dream dive destination on a island in the Mozambique Channel.

If you read my introductory article you will know that I am a slave to diving. Warm seawater reefs are my favourite. Once the little monster took total control of my life, I quit my well-paying cushy job which had no job satisfaction and became a PADI Instructor, working for a 5 star IDC in Pretoria for half the pay. I am relatively sure that one of my dream destinations on my bucket dive list was Bazaruto Island.

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On the way to the dive site.

So one morning my boss waltzed in with a “is your passport in date?” question in my direction. Yeeeesss? I answered hesitantly with a frown. Him being all friendly and asking about my passport, I did not need a fortune-teller to predict hard work in my immediate future. But here was the surprise! The Dive master at the Indigo Bay resort (5 star luxury to say the least) has injured himself while climbing onto the dive boat (rookie mistake I would say) and they needed a substitute for a month. Definite yes!

How do you pack for a month on an island? Carefully. Because it is a small chartered plane, you are limited on luggage weight. Just the necessities and one or two more decent pieces of clothing were packed. The all-important dive gear was trimmed to the bone to fit in. With a hollow stomach I set off on my adventure.

Arriving at Indigo Bay’s private airfield, I got treated as a guest. But I could not play the part for too long and after a nice arrival cocktail I was taken to the staff quarters. I was pleasantly surprised by the staff amenities with the layout well thought out. Each person has their own bedroom area, satellite TV and a shared en-suite bathroom. The whole complex is laid out in a U-form with BBQ facilities and a pool. All areas are connected by wooden walkways and a brisk 5 min walk got me to the dive centre on the beach each day.

Indigo Bay is the dive destination for travelers from all over the world. They get treated like royalty (because they pay for it) and experience “Africa” in the only way they know – 5 star. If you know scuba diving, you will know that you need not be too fancy about the whole thing. It is an adventure sport after all. With this being my first experience as Dive Instructor at a luxury resort, it was a steep learning curve on how to treat the rich pampered persons – like they are swaddled in cotton wool. Some have the hidden muddy streak you need for adventure sports, but others are used to the Mediterranean where everything gets done for you. You only have to breathe.

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School of juvenile Coachman.

But this instructor is a little bit more hands off and a bit more get your own hands on. I always assume that if it is my life, I would like to check that everything is in working order before I hit the water – but that is me. Luckily most of the visitors only do one or two dives, because it is quite a trip to get to the site and scuba is work, even if everything is done for you. They would much rather lie on the beach, working on an even brown body.

Luckily you cannot dive the whole day, even if you would like to. Returning in the mid-afternoon from the trip all involved are exhausted and you get to relax after minding the gear and staff. The water sports area has its own bar with a view you only get at tropical sea destinations. Watching the brilliant sunset shading from light pinkish-blue to darker orange and red to the dark indigo of late evening is something I will not forget easily.

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The plus side of this is that I got to meet nice people from all over the world, dive some of the best spots around Bazaruto Island and get paid for it. The smiles on newly qualified divers’ faces are the reason I became an instructor, it never gets old.

Scuba diving is a monster in disguise

Scuba, fins, relax, dollars

Be careful.

It is such a cliché, but once the bug has bitten, you will be in love forever. Bugger the boss, bugger the housework, bugger the poor dog/parrot/cat/marmot staying at home, diving I must go!

From the first day walking into my now favourite PADI dive shop Reef Divers, in Pretoria South Africa, the smell of neoprene and chlorine became a drug of choice. Chlorine was exchanged for the salty smell of the ocean, but by that time it was too late, I was addicted. Learning the theory and practicing the skills were a thrill, but the first dive in the ocean was the best! You ain’t seen nothing until you put a mask on and peek below the waves…

After that I tried to self-medicate as often as I could, to the detriment of the bank balance. Had to love the boss a bit more so I could feed this monster I created. And what a monster it is. Once you have all the newest gear on the market with the bells and whistles, they entice you with new goodies. A better computer, new technology in fins, better working regulator than the one you just bought as top of the range, wetsuits that glide on like your favourite stockings (ugh, who still wear those?) and then the coup de grâce – Underwater cameras! This is a whole new topic for another day, but you get the picture.

Suddenly a dream – lounging in my  bathtub – became a wondrous reality.

And just when you thought, this is the ducks’ nuts (Aussie slang for the best thing ever!)  you realize that your habitat – Earth – is about 71% water! Now you REALLY have to love the boss and the job, so you can start overdosing on your new lifestyle in other parts of the world. Get out the atlas (or Google Earth) and start planning.

Hobbies are for old people and golfers, I love my monster!

Oh, this reminds me, need to sell the dog/cat/parrot/marmot for pocket money…

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