Little soft and fluffy tufts dotting the way. A fabric interspersed with streaks. Not so much only white, that purity barely known, but all the different hues that one shade offers, just like a paint chart compendium. They look so tempting and inviting, a glowing haze luring you in to a delicate cloud cuddle. I just want to jump into them.
Which is just as well, as I am ascending at what feels like a 45 degree angle in a small sardine can with wings and wheels, strapped to a gentleman called Dave, about to embark on my first skydive.
I’m strangely calm, the reality having not hit me. This is, after all, a perfectly good plane that I am about to throw myself into Newton’s favourite force from.
Dave fiddles with my straps, adjusts some belt, hands me some goggles, and I just gaze out of the window. Byron Bay is known for its soft golden sands, turquoise and cerulean water, and foamy white surf, so why not eat it in with my eyes from the sky? From here, there is so much more, patches of green fields dotted with cows, cars winding down narrow tracks, the white spire of the lighthouse on Cape Byron, the most easterly point of Australia, and of course, the stretch upon stretch of beach.
‘Nice isn’t it?’ says Dave, as he leans over my shoulder. Indeed it is, and I sigh. Then, before I know it, let alone can think about it, we’re on the edge of plane, 14,000 feet above the sea, and Dave throws us out.
There’s a moment of panic, of course. I’m falling and falling and it’s thrilling and exhilarating, a rush of air and cool breeze, wafts of cloud, the atmosphere hitting me as gravity grabs and pulls me down. Quivering and fluttering, capitivated by the sheer power and pressure, it’s one of those experiences that straddles excitement and fear and has you on the see-saw of reaction. I think I am grinning and about to cry, but I can’t be sure.
Then, suddenly, there’s a jerk, the parachute opens and becomes our sail, and everything slows. The canopy above shelters the two of us as we glide slowly down. A gentle and lesiurely descent. The ease of it all (a person in the air, forces pulling towards the water and land below) are so simple, so elemental, and something we forget so often. But the complexity of the world is also startling.
How it all unfolds beneath, the world, or at least Byron’s little corner of it, unravelling, as people and plants and life all blossom below, moving, seeing, surfing, shopping, loving, arguing, changing, the domesticity and dramatic.
I feel relaxed, even when Dave hands me the straps whilst he loosens by harness. At 9,000 feet above sea level, there’s something about being up here that is clearly calming. We meet the grass with no problems, in fact I barely notice it, and as landings go give me a parachute over a plane anyday. There are some people screaming and shrieking, hugs and kisses and high fives. Some are just smiling in contentment. Me? I just want to go back up to my parachute and hover above the world. What a nice place to be.
Need to know: Sky Dive Australia do exactly that – let you skydive, in Australia. Tandem jumps are available in Sydney, Coffs Harbour, Byron Bay, Mission Beach or Cairns, and passes can be used anywhere.