Sunday, December 27, 2009

To fly like a bird :)

In the list of things I would like to do in this lifetime, parachuting has always been right up there near the top :) To be almost weightless, to glide like a bird, to defy gravity, to feel the wind on my face, to be suspended in thin air high above the earth, it has an almost dream-like quality. Well, I finally got my chance :) Sky-diving. Or to be more precise, tandem sky-diving where you are hooked onto an experienced skilled diver who operates the lines and other stuff and you are left to just enjoy the experience. So as soon as I arrive I sign up for the sky-dive.

Their bus comes and picks me up and drops us all at the airport which is quite tiny really. There we are fitted with overalls and strapped up and given instructions. Then a tall bald guy comes and introduces himself “I’m Freddy” he says, “I’m going to be your best friend for the next hour or so.” Grin, grin, grin :) I feel safe already. The aircraft arrives which looks nothing bigger than a model plane really and looks almost as flimsy but I’m not put off by such minor details. We all get aboard this model plane which has no seats but just a twin row of benches. Each instructor for our batch of six gets behind each ‘adventurous’ person and the fellows who are going to video shoot us get into the front of the plane. The plane takes off and climbs steadily. Freddy turns out to be quite a character. He tells me he’s been doing this for 27 years, has done 17000 jumps, 15000 with other people. So he’s an old pro. I ask him why the life jacket is inside a pouch all zipped up, how are we going to retrieve it in a hurry? He replies not to worry, we’re not going to need it. Such confidence :)))

The landscape from up there is mindblowing. A little river snakes its way to the lake, fields appear as checkered patterns and the highway with its gleaming metal appears tiny and far far away. Freddy gets philosophical, he comes up with such gems as “this will not give you an adrenalin rush like bungee-jumping does, this will give you a serotonin high.” “This will open doors into your soul, doors that have not opened before.”

At 12,000 feet, the first couple of people jump off. Before they jump, he tells them, you’re going to heaven, we are going to space because we’re going to jump from 15,000 feet. It gives you about 90 secs of free-fall before the parachute opens.

Then suddenly it’s my turn. Freddy inches me closer to the door. Strangely enough, I feel no fear, only excitement to really experience what I’ve dreamt about and a great curiosity to find out what it’s like. I had always imagined myself being stricken with fear and chickening out of the jump but now I find myself actually looking forward to jumping. He had told me to kneel at the door and not jump but that he would slowly ease me out. So I kneel at the door and look down. In awe... and perfect calmness ...

The videographer jumps first, then Freddy eases me out and we are out of the door and in thin air. It was just like walking out of any ordinary door. We gets turned upside down at first but a little chute opens and we are face down again. Freddy signals me to spread my arms and I am flying like a bird.

What follows thereafter cannot be described. It doesn’t feel like falling, just a glide at great velocity, the wind whipping against my face and clothes. The lake is spread out below in all its splendour, gleaming in the sunlight. We pass clouds like one would pass trees on the road and Freddy says poetically, “now you know why birds sing...” I have to say, I agree. My happiness is so huge and overwhelming that a huge smile spreads across my face and sits there. The video guy tries to get me to look at the camera but I’m so intent in what lies spread out below me that I ignore him and his camera, even though I’m paying extra to get him in the air too :))) It is such an other-worldly experience that I don’t even have memories maybe because my mind had shut down and was not recording anything.

Finally, Freddie gives his parachute a tug and we go from vertical to horizontal with a big tug. The fall is arrested somewhat and we are now gliding serenely above Lake Taupo. The sun glints off clouds and sparkles on the waters and the world looks so much at peace. I wonder if this is the view that God gets. After all his universe is perfect in all respects, it’s only our mind that messes it up. Freddy does some swings with his parachute, so we veer to the left and right in graceful arches like two huge birds. Finally, it’s time to get down to earth and we land on the grassy landing area.

To fly like a bird, that dream of mine has finally come true ........


P.S. The rest of the photos and the video I shall post later ......