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The plane is tiny. Will it manage to take off? A group of us have just arrived at Ground Rush Adventures‘ drop-zone in the Namib Desert, most of us about to experience our first ever tandem skydive. My heart is pounding, as it has been for the last two hours, and my palms are clammy. I don’t do planes and I don’t do heights … and yet here I am anyway. I’ve been hopping about since lunch, incredibly excited about the prospect of jumping out of a plane … But gosh that plane really is incredibly tiny.
One of the instructors takes us aside for a safety briefing. We are shown how to hold ourselves as we are dangled out the plane door, and how to lift our legs as we come in to land. I laugh at his parting line: The only dangerous thing about skydiving is that it’s addictive.
And so we wait. Two people are allowed up at a time so we are paired off and randomly put into a jumping order. I happen to be on the last jump of the day, which is a bit of a bummer but also means I get to skydive as the sun sets over Namibia … I can deal with that.
The first two of our group are suited up and packed into the plane. Somehow, seven people (1 pilot, 2 jumpers, 2 instructors and 2 cameramen) cram themselves in and it’s time to go. The engine sputters into life and the plane rolls off, gaining speed over the bumpy desert floor. I find myself cringing with every second that goes by and the plane is still earth-bound, but then, miraculously, it takes to the air and quickly becomes a speck in the wide, blue sky.
The ascent to 10,000 feet takes about 25 minutes. We are eager to see the first skydivers jump out of the plane so spend most of the time craning up and squinting, hoping to catch sight of them. We all have achy necks when one of the girls shouts, “There they are!” Way, way up in the sky we see a blue dot, soon followed by another. It’s not long before the first parachute opens (a slightly larger red dot) and it becomes easier to follow them as they spiral down towards the ground.
The landing is probably the scariest part to watch. The whooping, elated skydivers come back to earth at quite some speed and I half expect to see them crash into the ground. Actually, it is quite a graceful landing and as soon as the harness is off, the first girl to land is jumping about, screaming and making us all giddy with her adrenalin rush. My turn soon!
I have to wait a few hours. All that time in the sun, as well as a few ciders, has helped me to chill out but the second they call my name I have butterflies in my tummy. Really violent butterflies that sort of make me want to vomit. I am suited up and strapped into a harness and it’s time to go…
I am about to jump out of a plane at 10,000 feet. This is the most ridiculous thing I have ever done. I can barely contain myself! I choose to skip about and giggle like a child instead.
I am introduced to the person who will shortly be holding my life in his hands. I think this photo was taken just before the cameraman asked me for my last words which, for the record, were “fuck yeah!” Deep, Hannah.
Without a second thought, I hop into the plane, squeeze in right next to the pilot and off we go, all the way up to 10,000 feet…
I was dreading being in the plane far more than jumping out of it but somehow, I am not scared. If anything I feel peaceful up here and the 25 minutes it takes us to reach the altitude we need seems to go by in the blink of an eye.
Suddenly, my skydive buddy Jo is out the door and my instructor, to whom I am now safely attached, shuffles me along to the door. I am not afraid. I am not even excited. I am just about to jump out of this plane as casually as I get out of bed in the morning. Except that I can’t help but look down…
And we’re off!
I’M FUCKING FLYING!!!
It doesn’t feel like I am falling, even though I am rushing towards the ground at about 200km/h. No, it feels as if someone has placed a warehouse full of industrial fans in front of me and hit the ‘on’ switch. I find it hard to breathe and feel myself making chipmunk faces. I can’t help but hope I don’t look like a complete douche on the video.
I find myself gasping for air and just as I start to wonder if I might pass out, the parachute opens and the best part of the whole experience begins.
The Namib Desert stretches out beneath me, sand dunes as far as I can see. At one point it melds into the glittering Atlantic Ocean. I can see the drop-zone below, the people like ants. I have looked down into craters and valleys from high up in the mountains but I have never ever had a view quite like this. I am awe-struck and my heart is so full of wonder all I can do is smile and occasionally scream in glee. “Do you ever get bored of this?” I ask my instructor. “Never. That’s why I do it every single day,” he replies. I can see why. I want to live up here, suspended in this beautiful place between the heavens and the earth.
We glide down for what feels like between 5 and 10 minutes. My instructor occasionally pulls maneuvers like spiralling in tight circles, or closing the parachute slightly and making us drop. That makes me feel a bit sick but I don’t want it to end. Sadly, the ground is ready to greet me once again.
The second my feet touch the ground, the adrenalin rush really kicks in. I feel euphoric and all I can do is jump and scream and hug people. I DID IT! And now I want to do it all over again :)
The instructors told us at the beginning of the day that the absolute best thing to do after your first skydive, is have a beer. We’re all happy to oblige!
I am on a high the rest of the evening and just as we were warned, I am addicted. The adrenalin rush is unbeatable and if money was no issue I would be back at that drop-zone the very next day. All I can do now is count down the days until my next jump and watch the video to keep me entertained in the meanwhile…