Next stop on the trip up the coast was Airlie Beach. It’s a beautiful spot, known primarily for being the gateway for sailing tours around the Whitsunday Islands.
Estef, Olivia, and I reached the town a day ahead of the others, and spent the first day relaxing around Airlie.
Views from a hike we did, overlooking some of the nearby islands:
Coral Beach, near Airlie. The whole beach was covered in old pieces of coral that clinked under your feet:
Someone had turned some of the pieces into decorations:
The next day, the rest of the convoy caught up – we were reunited once again!
We booked a sailing tour altogether for the upcoming Thursday/Friday, and then spent Wednesday just relaxing around Airlie lagoon and our campsite.
Movie night at the campsite. One friend had a projector and we often set it up for movie nights:
A few of my travel mates and I had been talking, since the start of the trip, about how we really wanted to go skydiving. We’d decided that we wanted to do it on that trip, and that Airlie Beach would be a phenomenal place to jump, as you’d be falling over the reef, Whitsunday Islands, and blue waters below. We figured we would likely do the skydive right after the sailing tour.
Then on Wednesday afternoon, we got a call that our sailing tour was bumped to go on Friday/Saturday instead. Suddenly we had an extra day wide open.
Coehn called the skydiving place Thursday morning, to see if they had any availability for that day or – we thought maybe more likely – Sunday.
As it turned out, they had room!
“Hey,” he said, “You want to go sky diving in half an hour?”
I gave a quick thumbs up and then it was a mad scramble as we all packed up our stuff, secured our campsite, and drove the 15 minutes to the airport.
At the skydive centre, things continued to happen fast. I think they keep things rolling quickly so that you don’t have too much time to overthink or get nervous about it. As soon as we got there and had signed in, we met the people we were going to be strapped to (we all did tandem skydives). My instructor, Andrew, did a great job chatting with me and making me feel relaxed (and like he knew what he was doing – he said he’d done four “successful” jumps already that morning, and over 4000 skydives in his life).
Very quickly I was strapped into a harness. We managed to sneak in a quick group photo before going up:
A couple minutes later we were boarding the plane, and a couple minutes after that we were airborne.
It took ten minutes to get up to an altitude to 15 000 feet. The plane ride alone is worth it – the views were incredible:
Looking down on the hills, the islands, and the blue waters of the reef… it was one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen:
Excited and ready to go (we had to wear the masks in the plane, and took them off just before jump time):
As soon as we reached altitude, they opened the door and things kept happening fast.
Coehn was the first one out of the plane. He’s been skydiving 40+ times before, so he went out backwards, which was incredibly freaky to watch. Also freaky is how fast they disappear out the plane, one second they’re by the door, the next they’ve stepped back and are instantly gone.
I was second out. Andrew maneouvered us over to the door. You sit on the edge of the plane, legs curled up underneath it, and hold your arms onto your chest. And once again, it happened so fast: before I ever had time to think, we were falling.
There was an instant, incredible rush, accompanied by the strongest thought that: ‘holy f*ck – I’ve just killed myself.’
The first moment I truly believed this was it, I was going to die, and then I forced myself to remember that I was strapped to a guy who had a parachute ready to deploy (and a backup parachute, just in case).
And then – bizarrely – I just sort of stopped worrying. At that point there was no worrying anymore. What was going to happen, would happen, and I couldn’t do anything about it. I just relaxed, spread my arms out like wings, and enjoyed the view.
You freefall for about 45 seconds, going at a speed of 200km/h. It was quite cold and the wind was exceptionally strong – the goggles are just so that you can see without the wind tearing at your eyes. And the views were incredible.
And then, after an eternity or a split second, the freefall ended. I thought there would be a big jolt when the parachute opened, but it was very smooth. Instead of falling we were gliding peacefully, the air was suddenly warm again, and we were still high, high above the rest of the world.
Parachuting down was so lovely. Andrew let me steer the parachute for a bit, and showed me how to yank one side hard so that we spun in circles. I couldn’t stop laughing:
We landed, just as planned, in the sports field near town. There was nothing but smiles afterwards:
We didn’t do anything else for the rest of the day. Our whole group was so awed by the experience and still processing it all. We spent the rest of the day back at the campsite, relaxing and reflecting.
Someday – I can’t wait to go again