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That time when I jumped out of a plane

August 29, 2015

I started this when I turned 28. That’s when I got my tattoo. I decided then that every year, from now on, I will do at least one thing that is on my so-called bucket list, if not more. At 28, I got a tattoo. At 29, I moved bag and baggage to a new country. At 30, I went on 10 holidays in Europe. At 31, I roller-skated, I ice-skated, I went on an all-girls weekend trip. At 32, I jumped out of a plane!

The experience was so surreal that I had to write about it. And so here we go.

15 August 2015

It’s a lazy Saturday afternoon and I am shuffling between the kitchen and the living room, doing a bit of cooking and bit of internet surfing. On a whim, I Google – Skydiving London – open the first link (looks pretty fine..!) and search for slots. Within the next 5 minutes, I have booked a ‘cancellation slot’ for next Friday, 21 August! YIKES! I go into the kitchen and tell the husband, “I am going skydiving next Friday…”. He just stares.

21 August 2015

Aah the lovely English weather (NOT). I wake up to see it’s cloudy but optimism runs deep in my veins, and so I get ready, and head to King’s Cross Station at 7AM to take the train to Cambridge, to take the next train to March, and then a taxi to the skydiving school. I am making a proper hike to a school, very deceptively called, The North London Skydiving Centre. I get into the train to Cambridge. I am staring at my Pret breakfast and can’t seem to eat. The nervous pangs have hit my lower tummy. I drink copious amount of water. I decide to call the Centre to find out what the weather looks like.

“Hello”

“Oh hii, I am on my way to the Centre but just wanted to check how is it looking.. how long is the queue?”

“Oh look hun! I wouldn’t bother coming today. The weather is absolutely shit. We have enough people for one jump, if that even happens.. so don’t waste your time and reschedule.”

“errrr… what? I am already in the train!!?!” *heart racing faster than the train’s speed*

“yeah, sorry, just return from Cambridge you know… save the £12 on the taxi from March”

(oh yeah, you are sorry.. I am just going to waste the £50 I spent on train. no biggie) “Ok thank you”

I reach Cambridge. It is still dark and gloomy, just like my mood. I take the next train to London King’s Cross. I come back home, cancel my holiday and start working. (total poop!)

I call them back and reschedule for 28 August 2015. Boo.

28 August 2015

I wake up at 4:30am, leave home at 5:30am and take the 6:30pm train from King’s Cross.

(Take that, early jumpers!!)

My Pret breakfast is sitting pretty again as my tummy gets all funny. I take a couple of deep breaths and drink copious amount of water again. I look out of the window and see bright blue skies and my heart soars.

After two hours and two trains and a cab, I reach the skydiving centre. It is in the middle of nowhere, amongst maize fields and country roads. One lone purple plane sits and clashes beautifully with the green grass and the blue skies. (It’s going to be perfect!) I rush to register, filling in the form as quickly as I can in my drunk-ants-on-paper handwriting.

Purple plane

“Ex.. Excuse me, what number am I in the queue?” *almost a gloating voice*

“you are 49 of 65.. you are in Training group B and think it’s a couple of hours waiting”

(WHAT???? but but I was here at 8:30am, when your centre actually opens!!)

I buy a cup of coffee from the adjoining cafeteria. My optimism is at 95% so I take my coffee outside, settle on a bench, look around at the bunch of divers and spectators, all shuffling about, looking excited and nervous at the same time. Oh! there are two adorable puppies too.

10AM. The first round of jumpers are called to get ready and line up. I rush with my trusted iPhone and start to take photos and videos as the divers board the purple plane. Along with 20 other spectators and 54 awaiting divers, I watch as the plane takes off.

(It’s going to be me up there in about 2 hours!!)

We watch the first dive really closely. Someone exclaims, “It’s so high!!” (Duh!) And then it happens, we see little white dots just falling off the skies like snowflakes. They are jumping!! There is a sense of camaraderie as we cheer for them divers that we barely know.

We take many photos of brightly coloured parachutes, stuck to two humans, touching down against a bright blue sky. Two more trips happen and 20 more people do their jumps. I am 19 people away from jumping.

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12 noon and it hits. The dark clouds come in and bring with them crazy winds. I am told, we are holding the jumps as it is too windy to go out. “Sit tight”, they say. I get myself a diet coke and burger and sit reading my book. I am 85% optimistic. Not. Loosing. Hope.

2PM. Everyone around me is getting restless. It is still windy as ever. I hear the sheets flapping and shutters clanking. I read my book and occasionally look around for some hopeful sign. Well at least it isn’t raining. We get an update. “Guys, it doesn’t look that good. The rest of the day looks pretty similar and we have a 70-30 chance of jumping. You can take your ticket and reschedule but if you want to stick around, that’s fine…”

Insider tip: They never cancel a skydive. Something legal-legal.

I resolve to not move my butt.

4PM. They come out with another update. “It’s looking worse. Sorry guys, there is only a 20% chance that we will jump. I strongly suggest you reconsider and reschedule.”

(NOOOO…. I cannot do this again! I cannot spend 4 hours on the train again!)

“I am not going anywhere until 8PM and even if it means you do one plane ride today, I am going to be on it.”

More than 80% of jumpers have left. A couple of us sit huddled on the benches outside, looking up and silently praying for the winds to stop.

4:30PM. And just like that, the clouds part and the sun comes out. The wind slows considerably. My hair isn’t a flapping mess. We cross our fingers and sit tight.

5PM.

“Can everyone assemble and get ready with their suits on. We are jumping!”

(Wheeeeeeee!!!!!) I start to put on my suit. My hands shiver. (Wait a minute, what am I doing? I can’t jump off a plane! I am so stupid!!!)

*tap tap*

“Hiya! I am your instructor, Gale and it’s a fine evening. Are you ready to jump?”

(NO I AM NOT!!) “Absolutely.. can’t be more excited”

We line up and I can feel that same funny tummy feeling that you are all so familiar with now. I have a weird grin plastered on my face, I guess it is a coping mechanism I have just discovered. My instructor asks me again, “Are you excited? are you ready? It’s a beautiful evening.”

(YES YES IT IS BEAUTIFUL.. SHUSH NOW) “Oh yeah… *cracks some sort of silly joke*”

Pre-dive

We get into the plane and guess who is first in line? *takes a bow* (HOLY FREAKIN’ GOD)

I sit in my position and the plane starts its taxiing. All of a sudden, a sense of calm takes over me. I look outside at the perfectly shaped fields – patches of green and brown, a stream, blue skies with specks of clouds. I am actually enjoying this.

Posing

Posing!! (and a photo bomber looking all cheeky)

My instructor fixes the hooks and tightens everything he can get his hands on. We are in the air for about 5 minutes and I see that things down below have become tiny little specks. Still calm.

“Put on your headgear and glasses.”

HOLY SHIT!

Not praying, just focussed!

Surprisingly I have stopped talking. My instructor inches me forward and the photographer accompanying me opens the door. I hang my legs outside and the air hits me. I somehow remember the instructions for the dive.

Tuck your legs under the plane’s side. Stick your hips forward. Hold your harness and put your head on your instructor’s shoulder.

Before I have the chance to say anything, my instructor takes two swings and BOOM!

I was falling.

JUMP

They had promised 60 seconds of free fall. I am falling really fast. Through the clouds. I am not sure if I want to keep my eyes open or close. I get brave and keep them open. I think I am screaming. I can’t hear a thing. It is so quiet. I thought it would be loud and windy. I should look down. I shouldn’t.

The photographer appears suddenly in front of me and I feel a tap – I am to open out my hands and do the quintessential hand signs associated with skydives and other adventure sports. My brain remembers that i need to smile. I think i am smiling. I see the photographer moving away. My minute is over. WHAT? NOOOO… I WANT MORE!!!!

free fall!

My instructor opens the parachute. I can hear myself again! I can’t stop saying, “Oh my God! WOW” over and over again. I put my arms out, shut my eyes and take in the feeling of absolute abandonment. Only attached to a man, but what the hell. I was flying and cruising. HELL YEAH!!

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My instructor senses my happiness and delight as opposed to panic and screaming associated with many divers. He does a few spins, takes me for a longer ride, does some swish and some swash and my toes tingle in the process.

He heads for the landing.

towards landing

We land beautifully and I can’t feel my legs as we touch the ground. I punch the air and can’t stop laughing. My instructor laughs and we hug. We walk back and I have the biggest rush ever. I see my brand-new friends are cheering and clapping. I do a little jump in the air.

I turn to the instructor and say,

“This was my one thing to do in 2015. I think I am going to make this my every year thing-to-do thing!!”

Adrenaline rush!

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