This is already the fifth and second to last article of my Advent calendar! There’s only one week left until Christmas, and until the surprise I’ve been teasing you with since the beginning of the month. Today, I’d like to come back to a sunny afternoon four and a half years ago in Mission Beach, Australia, during which I lived the longest hour of my life…
📷 For more pictures have a look at my gallery of photos of Mission Beach.
🇫🇷 Cliquez ici pour lire cet article en français.
Click here to go back to the Blog menu.
Saturday 23rd of July 2016, 2.20pm
After a quick lunch on the terrace of a bar nearby, I am now sitting in the shadow of a tall palm tree on the gorgeous stretch of white sand of Mission Beach. The sun is shining, and a few people are swimming in the warm water of the Pacific Ocean in front of me, while others are just sunbathing on the beach. As I’m staring at the blue sky above me, my eyes get attracted by a multitude of little points quickly growing as they’re coming closer to the ground: skydivers.
I watch them going down until they eventually land very smoothly on the beach, apparently delighted from that experience. Then I stand up and walk back towards the village, in the direction of a little commercial gallery on a corner of main street where I have an appointment in 10 minutes.
I am slowly getting nervous as I’m sitting next to the desk in the waiting room. My legs are shaking but I can’t help it. On the wall in front of me, the videos from the people who arrived ahead of me are played on a loop. It’s quite a fascinating sight, but I’m trying not to look at it, as it stresses me out even more. I hope they will be on time, because every second of waiting seems to last an entire hour.
They were on time, but now I’m wondering if that young guy is experienced enough for such a job, as he begins to brief me about what’s coming next. He looks very professional though and he tells me a few jokes to help me relax a little bit; he probably always does that with anxious people. It’s actually quite effective, and I’m feeling slightly better. Five minutes ago, I was seriously considering giving up, but not anymore: I am going to do it.
We are now in a minivan, leaving Mission Beach in the direction of Tully. A Dutch guy is sitting next to me; it’s his first time as well, but he looks way more confident than me so I’m trying to hide my nervousness behind a fake smile. Suddenly, the van slows down: there’s a cassowary by the side of the road! It’s the only one I ever saw; too bad I didn’t have my camera with me at that moment.
It took us about 20 minutes to reach Tully Airport, where a little red plane awaits us. It’s time for our guides to start filming with the Go Pro attached to their wrists, quickly interviewing us before boarding. Because of the stress, I struggle to understand most of what they say, but there’s no time for a second take: we are on a tight schedule, and the plane takes off as soon as we jump in.
I’m feeling weirdly calm as we’re slowly gaining height. The landscape beneath us is wonderful: a mix between green and yellow fields and dark hills covered by a thick and dense tropical forest, with a river meandering in the middle. On the other side, it’s the Pacific Ocean, with a string of islands close to the shore. Seen from above, the largest one has the shape of a chicken. I can even distinguish the turquoise colour of the Great Barrier Reef over the horizon.
The plane is stabilising at an altitude of 15,000 feet, 4,500m above sea level. It’s been less than ten minutes since we took off, but it felt like a never-ending flight. My heart is racing, my palms are sweating. I’m about to skydive for the very first time of my life.
The Dutch guy’s instructor opens the door of the plane, and suddenly I am absolutely terrified. The wind blowing inside the cabin makes a hell of a noise. The Dutch guy and his instructor are the first to go; my heart almost stops when I see them fall. I’m putting my protective plastic glasses on as we’re slowly processing towards the door. In less than 30 seconds, it’s going to be my turn.
That’s it now. I’m sitting on the legs of my instructor, on the edge of the plane, with almost 5,000m of emptiness below me. I’ve never been more scared in my entire life. My eyes are wide open, and I’m holding on tightly to the braces of my equipment.
And we fell. We’re rolling over through the sky, and I feel like my last minute is approaching.
The instructor stabilises us. It only took him a few seconds, but it seemed to be hours. He pats my shoulder, which means that I can now relax and that I don’t have to hold on to the braces anymore. My terror is replaced by the most exhilarating sensation I ever felt. We’re falling at a speed of 200 km/h towards the ground. Fear has sharpened all my senses and it’s absolutely amazing. I can’t think of anything better than this.
After 45 seconds of free fall, the instructor opens the parachute. Our speed drops instantly and for a second, it feels like we’re suspended in the air, perfectly still, halfway between the ground and a few white clouds above us.
I’m flying! Now that the parachute is open, the anxiety of crashing to the ground is gone, and I can enjoy every second of the flight. The instructor shows me how to change directions by pulling a rope. It’s even better than a roller coaster ride. For the first time since an hour, I would like to hold back time and stretch this fabulous moment for as long as possible.
The ground is coming closer. Seen from above, the large beach seems to be very narrow and I can’t help but thinking that we’re going to miss it. But despite his young age, my instructor is an expert and we’re landing very smoothly on the sand. A young guy sitting beneath a palm tree at the edge of the beach stands up and walks towards the village. It’s his turn now.
Click here to go back to the Blog menu.