Skydiving the bay
20.10.2007 - 31.10.2007
From Hervey Bay we headed back South, via Brisbane to Surfers Paradise on the Gold Coast. We took a bus to Brisbane, then changed to another one for the hour drive to Surfers. The bus stank. There was rubbish strewn all over the seats. A bunch of old biddies got on and sat right next to us and their leader went on and on and on and on and on about the smell. She wouldn't shut up. Then to make matters worse the guy sitting in front of them was sick on the seat beside him. Absolutely revolting. It sprayed all over the people next to him. Disgusting. Then he didn't even wipe it up, just took his T-shirt off and sat in his own vomit. Unbelievable. Luckily the old bag hadn't noticed otherwise she would have had an episode. Very glad to get off the bus. We stayed in quite a plush hostel, and spent a couple of days on the beach at surfers. The beach was pretty amazing. Really wide white sand. It is kind of spoiled by the skyscrapers and the road that it backs onto.
A bit like a more glamorous version of Benidorm. The town itself wasn't up to much either. It's clearly trying hard to be like Miami, and their are a lot of numpties wandering about the place thinking they're glamorous. They're not. They're numpties. It was ok, it's just trying to be real glitzy and trendy and fails. Neon signs, Irish bars and run down casinos is basically what it amounts to. We spent a couple of days here before catching another short bus South to Byron Bay.
Byron is cool. It's a total hippie haven, with loads of long haired, heavily beaded, guitar sporting old dudes and women wearing clothes they've made from things they've found kicking about the place. It's just a cool little town though, with a really laidback atmosphere.
The beach is really pretty, with the lighthouse perched on the rocks at the easternmost point of Australia, at one end.
We spent 5 days here. Unfortunately the weather was a bit changeable, but we did spend some quality time in the sun on the beach. We also took a couple of trips up to the lighthouse. On our second visit we were lucky enough to see whales again. They were just off the coast, breaching.
Was really incredible to watch. Difficult to catch on camera so this was the best we could do. There was quite a large group of them, and they seemed to be just larking about jumping about and splashing for shits and giggles illustrating where the phrase having a "whale of a time" comes from.
We also did a bit of surfing whilst we were in Byron. We hired a board between us. Unfortunately we picked a pretty rubbish day to do it as the waves were all over the place, and it was pretty grey.
Was good fun.
Jenny was far more proficient than I was. I never even managed to stand up once. She did a couple of times. The surfing was made all the more exciting by the fact that a woman was attacked bya great white shark in the bay a couple of weeks before we arrived. Jenny was convinced they were waiting for us, and every 30 minutes would point and ask "did you see that?" which was quite alarming just before entering the surf. We both survived however.
The highlight of Byron was doing a skydive. Jenny was too chicken to go up. Did it in the afternoon, and spent most of the morning in the toilet at our hostel. I actually wasn't nearly as nervous as I'd thought I might be. The worst bit was the hanging about in the minibus on the way to the airstrip. We went to a really plush hotel to pick up some delegates from some conference who were doing it too. They were delayed, so we had to hang around about an hour longer than was expected. An hour longer to contemplate death.
When we got to the airstrip I was harnessed up by my instructor, and given 5 minutes instruction on what body shape to adopt. Then off we went. The plane was ridiculously small. There were no seats, and we sat astride each other in two lines facing the back of the plane.
There were 4 others doing their first jump with me, and a bunch of idiots doing their own thing. Was pretty nervous when we were climbing up into the sky. We did a cirlce over the lighthouse and beach. Amazing view. We climbed up to 14,000 feet then the plane levelled out, and someone opened the hatch at the side of the plane. Then the group of divers started shouting and screaming and slapping each other on the back. They all climbed out the door and hung onto the outside of the plane before disappearing into oblivion. Very quickly. I started getting a bit panicked at this point. Also the whole plane had lurched to the side as they jumped out. I was first in, last out, so had the opportunity to watch everyone else leave the plane. Didn't inspire confidence. Only at the last minute did my instructor, sitting behind me, clip me onto him and pull the goggles down over my face before shuffling our way to the gaping hole in the side of the plane. With every shuffle you could feel the plane moving with our shifting weight. Then I was dangled over the edge of the plane, hooked my feet under the bottom of the plane had a quick look down, almost had a heart attack, tilted my head back, arched my hips forward as instructed, then we rocked back once before bowling head over heels into the sky. I wasn't quite prepared for the initial feeling of dropping like a stone, losing my stomach, like you would on a rollercoaster, before straightening out and freefalling towards earth. It was absolutely incredible. Never felt anything quite like it. So exhilerating, words can't quite describe what it's like. I was doing a lot of yelling and screaming and laughing. It was so fast and the noise was almost deafening. The speed was the thing that really shocked me, and the fact that you could see the ground coming up so quickly. The view was absolutely unreal as well. I could see the whole of Byron Bay and the lighthouse. There were only a very few clouds. We dropped for 70 seconds. 70 very long seconds. 14,000 feet is the highest height you can jump from in Australia, and 70 seconds, the longest freefall. It was unbelievable. Then my instructor pulled the chord and the parachute billowed open. Needless to say that was quite a big relief. The rush of air stopped and it went silent. I was still screaming like a little girl, much to the amusement of the guy strapped to my back. There was a huge jolt as the parachute opened, and then we were floating. Before I could say anything the instructor said " I'm going to make you a little more comfortable, don't worry this is perfectly normal I'm not doing anything unsafe." and he unclipped something round my undercarriage, and the straps seemed to come a bit loose. I also dropped slightly, probably only an inch or two, however it felt like I was about to fall out of the harness. I just about wet myself. Turned out it was fine, and I was still firmly attached.
The ride down wasn't quite as sereen and floaty as I'd imagined. In fact it was the opposite. The instructor kept yanking the chords attched to the sides of the parachute, sending us into a tight downward spiral. Was really good fun as well though. After 3 minutes of this we came inot land.
I brought my knees up and we landed on our feet. I was on cloud 9. I couldn't stop smiling. It was absolutely different class. Would recommend it to anyone.
I must have shaken the instructors hand about 20 times. Obvioulsy I've bored Jenny to tears since I've done it describing it over and over again and how great it was, and I am for having done it. It was simply unbelievably great fun though, everyone should do it. I would now quite like to be a skydive instructor. Getting out of bed in the morning would be easy if that was what I was doing every day. Amazing.
Other than that we've just been lying on the beach and today travelled back to Sydney. We're staying here for a couple of days before flying out to Singapore on Thursday. Will be sad to leave Oz, as it's been great. Can't wait for South East Asia though......