Top 100 Things I’ve Done – #23

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I was standing on a grass field, wondering where the runway was. I spotted a small plane, at the mercy of the wind, coming towards the ground. An instant of fear hit me before I realized that the field I was in was the runway.

It’d only been about 90 minutes since I stepped off the 747 I’d taken from Sydney to Christchurch, NZ. And now I was ascending back into the sky, with four uncmfortably calm tandem coaches and three other uncomfortably nervous backpackers. I was amused at how quick the coaches were to strap a complete stranger to their chest. However, the awkwardness disappeared as soon we hit altitude and the door opened. The wind was rushing so loud. Maybe it was the wind…maybe it was the fear, but I couldn’t hear anything. I had nonchalantly found my place last in line when boarding the plane. I didn’t think about the fact that it would work like a pez dispenser. Last one in is the first one out.

So my coach is yelling things at me, probably repeating the instructions he’d given on the ground. All I could think about was is this guy strapped to me tight enough. What if he missed a strap? Would that make all the others come apart? That went quickly though. As soon as I started to second guess what I was doing, I was flung into the sky.

The falling was like on a rollercoaster dive, but longer and harder. I couldn’t breath, nevermind scream. Then, after a few seconds, the air governed our speed and the sense of falling faded.

The wind was loud, but otherwise the sensation of falling had gone away all together. We were so high, that the ground did not even appear to be rushing towards me.

It was like the dreams I always have of flying. Seeing a 360 degree horizon, the curve of the earth, the start and finish of mountain ranges, entire lakes…the world was so expansive.

Eventually, the ground started approaching. We opened the chute and then everything slowed again. The flying had returned and was quiet this time.

I took my camera out of my pocket and shot from the hip, not wanting to waste a second of my first skydiving experience looking through a plastic viewfinder.

As things on the ground came into view, so did the reality of my height. I imagined the sensation of falling again. What if the straps snapped and I fell now? The ground would rush at me so fast. I wonder if I’d feel it. Probably not I thought, which somehow made the worry go away.

When my feet hit the grass, I couldn’t believe it was over. I wanted to go back up right away, but cash was getting thin. So I settled on reliving the experience as I laid my head each night of the days and weeks following. Still today, when I close my eyes, I can see everything in detail.

Overcoming fears and the intense falling sensation were pretty great. But mostly…the feeling of flying is what I’ll never forget.

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