“Cancel all your plans and come – the weather is perfect.” That was the extent of the phone message. Suddenly the light-hearted idea of a fun activity for the indistinct future had become the dauntingly solid reality of the present.
During the journey my thoughts rollercoastered between abject fear and mounting excitement. All of which could account for the number of times we got lost finding the place. But eventually we were in the halls of Skydive Cape Town, signing the papers to declare that the company would not be responsible in the event of a parachute not working. Naturally that did not make me feel safe.
Afterwards we had time to watch some of the brave people who had already dared to jump, as they landed on the sandy ground. Some of them arrived elegantly, some less so. But each of them had a wide smile, and almost inevitably the first thing they did on landing was to thank their guides for the incredible experience.
Their adrenaline thrill was contagious, and my enthusiasm began to get the upper hand over my fear, at least to the degree that I was pliable enough to get strapped into a harness and be led out to the plane. Here we got our final instruction for jumping: “Feet back, head on my shoulder.”
The whole plane ride took about 15 or 20 minutes: plenty of time to doubt my skills in rational decision making – but also to view the beautiful scenery. Squeezed into the tiny plane we could see TableMountain, which looked unbelievably small from above, the ocean and vast swathes of the beautiful scenery surrounding Cape Town.
As we got higher it inevitably got colder, and it almost seemed like time slowed too. As we circled I kept glancing at my instructor’s altimeter – 6000 ft, 7000ft, 8000ft, until we were finally up at 9000ft.
Everything seemed to go really fast from that point on. I was tied to my instructor, the door was opened and suddenly my feet were hanging out of the plane. But it wasn’t time to jump yet. Several times in the next 30 seconds I caught myself thinking “Are we already falling?” only to realize that it was only my stomach doing belly flops.
But eventually it had to happen. We jumped. Though it was more a kind of helpless falling, since jumping is an active event and I was as passive as a person can be.
But when we fell, it was amazing, breathtaking, liberating. All the tension – let’s call it a natural survival instinct – fell away and I simply spread out my arms and I was flying. There was no time, no temperature and no sense of the ground coming closer extremely fast.
We fell for a full and glorious 35 seconds and then, when the parachute opened, everything was suddenly silent. No wind in my ears and my nostrils, just silence, soon broken by the hyperboles tripping from my tongue.
Drifting down under the parachute was like one of the fun rides in an amusement park, as we curved around and landed on the ground after about 10 minutes. The happy grin plastered across my face spread only wider as I caught sight of the next lot of punters staring at us. Their evident nervousness – the mirror of my own just half an hour before – now seemed ridiculous.
Skydiving is a huge act of trust and faith in a stranger. You give them control over your life and, despite the fact that they too have a wish for survival, losing all control is a daunting thought. Yet, as scary as it may be, skydiving is an extremely rewarding experience of freedom, adventure and belief in your own courage. Given the opportunity to do it, don’t hesitate. Jump.
The following companies offer Skydiving experiences in the Cape Town area: