When I found out I was going skydiving I just kept thinking, “Skydive, skydive, skydive… WOO!” It had always been something I wanted to do. Now I was going to do it on the beach (stop that). This was going to be great.

The skydive company drove me from Sydney to Wollongong, where I signed my life away and put on a jump suit. We were shown the proper way to jump from the plane and how to land.

I had met the strange man who I’d be hooked to and before I knew it, eight of us, along with our professional skydivers, were packed into this little aeroplane.

I was getting nervous. But we were soon up in the air looking at the ocean below us. Way too soon the door was opening and people were starting to fall out of it.

We were fifth in line and I was feeling a mix of excitement and nervousness as I watched everyone ahead of me get to the door and freak out a little.

Then it was my turn. I got to the door and made the mistake of looking down. I couldn’t help myself. “Shit,” I thought. “I’m going to die.”

Thankfully the strange man hooked up to me didn’t really give me much time to think about it. Suddenly we were out of the plane and falling 14,000 feet.

The rush was unlike any other. I couldn’t help but scream and enjoy the fall. It was pretty much the greatest feeling in the world. We fell for a good long minute and then I felt the pull of the parachute and we began out slow decent to the ground.

My partner, whose name turned out the be Shane, congratulated me on a jump well done and we started to land. Once I hit the ground I was a little sad to see my adventure gone, but I’m determined to do it again as soon as I possibly can. AS

The details: Skydive the Beach (www.skydivethebeach.com)

Shark Diving

“You can go skydiving or shark diving.”
“I call shark diving,” I screamed, raising my arm as high in the air as I could!

After the endless array of goodbyes and will-writings, I was on my way to meet Jaws. After the ferry ride from the city to Manly and a walk along the beach, I arrived at shark HQ.

By the time we were all geared up, I was the most excited out of all four of us. But when I stepped into the water the nerves hit me straight on.

When we swam through the crawl-space my body had begun to shake from the idea of what lay ahead. It was as if my entire body had become an unshaken chocolate milk carton avalanching down a mountainside.

We were told to stay together or at least attempt to. I soon figured out how hard it was to stay balanced with 21 pounds strapped on your back.

Knowing the luck I have, I could see myself falling backwards and failing miserably to get up, like an awkward turtle.

Everything was going well until our instructor indicated we were crossing over into shark territory. I could feel everyone tense up, myself included, as we prepared ourselves to look as unappetizing as possible.

As soon as we rounded the corner, a group of massive grey nurse sharks came swimming into view. Hello teeth.

They were at least twice my size and could have easily consumed me within seconds. My life turned into slow motion as these giant creatures swam within inches of my face.

As crazy as I am, part of me wanted to just reach out and touch them, but my more intelligent half stood frozen solid, drifting in the shark empire.

I turned my head to see five sharks heading straight towards me. I had nowhere to run. What was I supposed to do?

I quickly remembered what our instructor told us to do in this situation: calmly dodge the shark. But how was I going to dodge five of them?

Praying and hoping this idea would work I quickly submerged myself below the oncoming predators.

Even though I’ve never been in outer space before, I felt like Neil Armstrong on the moon or even Keanu Reeves dodging bullets in The Matrix.

Eventually I was able to slip beneath them just as they made their way over the top of my head. Phew.

After a good 10 minutes underwater, you got used to the sharks and they became used to you. I was pretty much in awe for the next 45 minutes underwater. The place was alive with eels and sharks and stingrays and fish.

The sharks literally come within inches of your face and stare at you with these black, lifeless eyes before streaming past.

The experience was one of the most thrilling and exciting in my lifetime. KJ

The details: info on Oceanworld Manly’s Shark Dive Extreme at www.oceanworld.com.au

Bridge Climbing

You just don’t realise how big the Sydney Harbour Bridge is until you’re walking right under it, about to climb it, and let me tell you, it’s massive.

For a minute it’s intimidating. I was thinking, “Wow, I’m going to climb that? It’s a good thing I’m not afraid of heights.” But even if you are afraid of heights your fear will vanish sooner than you think.

I had been handed a little handy dandy information booklet about BridgeClimb: Over 2.2 million people have climbed the Sydney Harbour Bridge in the 10 years since it opened. Now that’s a lot of people, which reassured me that it’s safer than it looks.

Between an excellent tour guide named Kate, and a sturdy cable that connects you to the bridge the entire trip there’s practically no way you can fall.

It can even be a potential way to get rid of your fear of heights permanently, because once you get up there and you see the view you can’t possible think of anything else.

We were about halfway up the arch when I realised something. Damn was I out of shape!

But I think our leader realised that it’s quite a workout for everyone because we stopped and took a second to get our breath back while we checked out the sights.

From way up there I had a great vantage point of the Opera House, the Anzac Bridge, and all the beaches.

I was fortunate enough that it was a gorgeous day, perfect for basking in the sun, enjoying the exercise and getting a history lesson.

Kate took a couple of minutes to take each of our pictures with the amazing view in the background. It’s a great way to remember my little adventure.

Kate also told us about a man, one of the original builders, who managed to survive an unbelievable fall into the water about 30 meters below. Back then workers weren’t connected to any safety harnesses. Again, I felt very grateful for mine. AS

The details: Sydney Harbour Bridge (www.bridgeclimb.com)

While trying to drive across the Simpson Desert, LIZZIE JOYCE and her partner were forced to hitch a ride with some dodgy truckers.

Early one January morning my boyfriend Dan and I set off on our trip across three states, covering 3,000 miles on what would turn out to be the best trip I have ever done, not to mention the most dangerous. We were attempting to cross the Simpson Desert on our way to Alice Springs from Sydney. We were fully prepared and set off in our 4WD loaded with equipment, including 60 litres of water, a double swag, a laser beam,
and an Epirb signal.

After 10 hours of driving, watching the landscape turn from highways and tall buildings to red earth and eternal horizons we glided past an old mining town called Cobar, stopped for a wee and drove on through, thankful that this ‘Hicksville’ town was not our destination. But while driving at an average speed of 120km per hour, the trusty car (which I was assured had “just had a full service and was made for driving across such terrain”) was disintegrating and the entire wheel was about to fall off.

Ugly mothertruckers

Suddenly, the brakes started to fail and smoke started pouring out the front passenger tyre. We were 120km from the last town and with at least 100km to the next, Dan decided we should drive on (without brakes) and see if we could make it to our destination. Luckily it didn’t last long anyway as the car stopped in defiance and we were forced to pull off the road in the middle of nowhere. Within minutes two semi-trailers driving in convoy by brothers, pulled up to offer us help and I’ve never been so glad to see two spectacularly ugly truckers before in my life. Freaky Brother One then began to undress me, with his eyes, almost frothing at the mouth at coming in such close proximity to someone of the opposite sex, while Freaky Brother Two was pretending to be a mechanic and baffling Dan with his bullshit. It was turning into Wolf Creek.

Nothing could be done with the car, and we had no choice but to accept a lift from Freaky Brother One to the nearest roadhouse 13km up the road. But then he said there wouldn’t be enough room in the cab so Dan should travel with his brother and I should hop into his cab by myself. By this point I was close to hysteria and there was no way I would be getting in that lorry by myself.

So we both hopped in with Brother Number Two. Dan settled in the middle of the very spacious cab which had enough room to house a small Albanian family! Relieved to be on our way to a phone box and in relative safety, (even if we were in being driven by an axe wielding maniac I had enough faith that Dan could knock him out if it came to it) I thought it would be plain sailing from here. After a couple of minutes on the road Brother Number One starts becoming agitated – he thinks he has lost his keys as he can’t use the radio to contact his brother. He pulls into the side of the road and asks me to hop out to see if he had left them in the door lock. This forced me into ungraceful acrobatic maneuvers in order to hang myself out the door and reach round to grab the keys, with freaky brother one more than enjoying the view of my ass in the air. The keys were there, so off we set again in stilted silence.

Roadhouse blues

Finally we caught sight of the roadhouse and saw our escape was only minutes away and we made a sharp exit from the freaky brothers. Good riddance!

The roadhouse turned out to be a petrol pump and a shop that was about to close. They had a phone though and we arranged for a tow truck to pick us up and take us back to the nearest town… Cobar (the Hicksville town we drove through scorning) where we would have to wait for the next three days for the car to be repaired. How ironic that the town we were laughing at turned out to be our refuge.

So we skipped the Simpson Desert and took another route to Alice Springs where we arrived two weeks later with the biggest smiles and the best memories!

Send us a travel tale (preferably about Oz) and if it’s published you’ll win a $300 travel voucher redeemable on Oz Experience Passes and ATA NT camping trips (www.adventuretours.com.au). Email your tales (700 words max), with a picture of yourself, to travel@tntdownunder.com