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Free falling from 14,000 feet – My skydive in Cairns

Before we left the UK I had already decided that I wanted to do a skydive at some point on our trip. I didn’t know where or when, just that I wanted to do one.

The pressure was on after Kirsty had her moment of madness and jumped off a cliff in New Zealand and I knew I had to do something soon (before we headed into South East Asia where the safety standards would likely drop!).

While we were in Cairns, we came across a deal on a skydive that looked promising. It would be a tandem dive from 14,000 feet with views of rainforest, ocean and possibly the Great Barrier Reef if the conditions were clear.  It sounded good. The date was set, and I was ready.

I can do this!

I can do this!

The morning of the skydive, conditions were great – with bright blue skies with the odd cloud dotted around. But, my jump wasn’t until 11:30am and by the time my pick-up came, dark clouds had started to roll in.

No backing out now!

No backing out now!

Arriving at the skydive centre, I filled out various legal forms and was given a safety briefing before getting geared up and meeting my jump partner, Todd.

Signing my life away

Signing my life away

It turned out Todd was the lead instructor, so I knew I was at least with someone capable. At this point I was feeling surprisingly calm despite the fact I was going to be falling from the sky with my life in the hands of a complete stranger!

That was before it started to rain… a lot!

The weather conditions didn’t improve and the jump at 11:30 was called off. I was gutted. This was the only chance I had to do the jump before we left Cairns and the weather had been great for us all week. My disappointment came as a bit of a surprise – I thought I might be a little relieved, but being told I couldn’t jump made me realise just how much I’d been looking forward to the experience.

Luckily, Todd decided that, after looking at the weather radar, we could jump a few hours later with the conditions expected to improve…

Still waiting!

Still waiting!

and sure enough they did – two hours later we were given the go ahead!

By this point I’d had a lot of time to think about what was actually about to happen and had started to feel a bit nervous. The moment we heard we were going, everything started moving very fast. Before I knew it I was strapped up to Todd and the plane was taking off!

Loading up...

Loading up…

Taking off!

…taking off!

This was it. There was only one way down, and it wasn’t the conventional way! It took the plane about twenty minutes to get into position and the whole time Todd was talking to me in between relaying wind speeds and directions to the rest of his crew.

I don’t know if it’s a tactic used to keep people distracted by what’s about to happen, but he was asking all about where we’d been and what our future plans were. Sure enough, I wasn’t thinking about the jump at all, so it came as a bit of a shock when the side of the plane had opened up and Todd started signalling to the first of his crew that they were clear to jump!

One after another with very little hesitation from anyone they all jumped in what seemed like seconds…

I was the last of the group to jump (Todd had to make sure everyone else had exited safely) and by this time I was wondering whatever possessed me to do this. Who in their right minds wants to fall from a perfectly good plane 14,000 feet!?

Suddenly, I’m on the edge – looking down at the clouds – and Todd is counting down. “Three, two, head in position, one… GOOOO!!!

I’ll never forget that initial feeling of being completely terrified. I was screaming a lot but we were travelling so fast that nothing was coming out. After a few seconds, the awful gut-wrenching feeling of falling passed. We were still falling, with the wind ripping at my face and hair, but we had reached terminal velocity. The adrenaline rush was unbelievable! I was looking down at the cloud zooming towards me and it was incredible – I was actually enjoying it!

Next came the small matter of passing though one the blanket of clouds below us. It was not soft and fluffy, like you might think, but like being hit in the face with a thousand hail stones!

It was only a second of stinging and burning and then we were through. The earth came into view and I could see rainforest stretching away for miles on my left, sea on my right and Cairns in between.

By this point we had been free falling for sixty seconds, reaching speeds of 220km/hr and Todd gave me a small tap on my shoulder – it was time to pull the parachute!

It was the moment of truth, will it open? If it doesn’t, will the reserve parachute open? What happens then?! All these thoughts rushed through my head, just before I felt a huge yank and it was as if we were suddenly going backwards.

The parachute was open and, after a few seconds of the feeling like I was being pulled back, we were floating down to through the final 5,000 feet and I could take in what had happened.

Parachute deployed!

Parachute deployed!

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Todd let me have a go at steering on the way down.. he also liked to yank the ropes a lot, so we swung around in the air - at times we were horizontal!

Todd let me have a go at steering on the way down.. he also liked to yank the ropes a lot, so we swung around in the air – at times we were horizontal!

Amazing!

Amazing!

It didn’t feel like we were going quickly – it was peaceful – until the time came to land and the ground rushed up at us incredibly fast!

Landing with a bump!

Landing with a bump!

What an amazing experience and something that I’d definitely like to do again in the future… Maybe Kirsty will do it with me next time!

Couldn't have done it without Todd!

Couldn’t have done it without Todd!

All I can say is I never jumped… It was more of a push!

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