Dropping in on the experience of a lifetime

Tremaine van Aardt

PULLING up to the aerodrome in the sleepy town of Grahamstown, you have no idea that this is about to turn into the most unforgettable 10 minutes of your life. If you thought bunjee jumping was exciting, brace yourself because you have not truly experienced free-falling until you have sky-dived.

After being greeted by the friendly staff at EP Skydivers, my nerves were at ease. The team does an exceptional job of welcoming you to what will be the closest part of heaven you will ever see while you are breathing.

Once the indemnity forms are placed in front of you to read and sign, you realise that this might be the last time your are on the ground with your internal organs intact.

But the trained professional team of Joos Vos (tandem-master), Etienne le Roux (pilot) and James Williamson (photographer) and their wealth of experience, calm explanation of the entire procedure and the reliability of the equipment puts your nerves at ease.

However, this phase was short- lived, as Vos began to strap up the harness. Once that was done, the walk to the Cessna 206 turbo plane accompanied by the jumpers and the intense feeling of anxiety in my chest, we boarded the plane. Le Roux positioned our plane on the runway and we were ready for take-off.

Never having been on a plane before, the take-off in its own was exhilarating, as I felt my breakfast repositioning itself in my stomach. But that was nothing compared to what was to follow.

Upon leaving the ground it hit me: “It’s my first time in a plane and in about 20 minutes I have to jump out of it!” At that point, my heart rate increased rapidly. But at about 1000 feet, I had forgotten all about it as I was engulfed by the phenomenal view.

As we ascended, the beauty of the environment just got better. Once we had reached 3000 feet, I was in awe of my surroundings.

With the Indian Ocean on my left, the Winterberg Mountain range to my right and Grahamstown beneath me, there was the realisation that this was the single most spectacular view my eyes had ever had the pleasure of witnessing. But it was just a matter of time before nerves got the better of me. As we flew through a thick cloud, I assumed we should be nearing our jump altitude soon. Looking to Vos for confirmation, he explained we had just reached half way on our ascent.

It was then that I began to question whether I had made the right decision to climb on the plane. Looking out of the window as we cruised above the clouds, I asked myself: “Would it be just a matter of time before I came back here without the weight of my body?”

 As we reached 6000 feet, the sliding door of the plane opened for Simon le Roux – a young skydiver who would be doing an individual dive. The overwhelming surge of wind and fresh cold air took me by surprise.

As he leapt out the plane my heart started pumping as if it wanted to burst out of my chest. Watching him disappear my adrenaline began to give me a head-rush – and we were still going up!

Before I knew it, Vos tapped me and said we had reach our jump altitude. He ran me through the procedure again as he hooked me up to his harness. At this point I wasn’t listening, the only thing that mattered was the hair rising on the back of my neck, the cold rush through my spine, my legs feeling weak, chin shivering and my mind shouting, “You idiot – you’re about to jump off a plane!”

 Positioning my body outside the plane, I looked down and heard Vos shouting, “You ready?”

After I replied in the affirmative, the most mind- blowing, adrenaline-pumping 35 seconds of my life had begun. The wind felt as it was pulling my face clean off my skull. My heart pounded as if it was about to pop. My hair being pulled from the roots. It was a feeling of anxiety, excitement, adrenalin and sheer pleasure unlike anything could ever provide.

Feeling a tap on my shoulder was an indication that Vos was about to open the parachute. My body got instantly pulled back, signalling the end of the most intense 35 seconds I have ever experienced.

 This was followed by seven minutes of the most spectacular views as we glided to the drop site. Vos entertained me with great conversation and interesting facts about the area, also allowing me to control my own decent until a minute prior to our landing.

As we landed, the reassuring bump of the ground ended the most phenomenal experience I have been fortunate enough to have. My sincere thanks go out to Vos and his team for an amazing opportunity. And speaking from a newly established adrenalin junkie perspective, I highly recommend skydiving to all who are looking for the thrill of a lifetime.

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