Rise Up

Cairns. April 15th and 16th.

First impressions – rain, rain and more rain! The tropical environment was just that; thick, dark green grass surrounded the paths, palm trees towering above, and home to the Great Barrier Reef. Oh yeah, and a whole lot of humidity, which is really, really bad for curly haired people! As I tucked into my accommodation for the night, things weren’t looking good for my next adventure.

As I wake there’s a sense of something different in the air. A little glimmer of light pokes through the room, grabbing my attention. Could it be? I push the curtain to one side. The gloomy grey skies are replaced with the powerful warmth of the sun, mopping up the evidence of last night’s showers. This is going to happen.

I receive a text message asking me to make my way to the office as quickly as I can. I sign in. And wait. One by one, anxious looking people arrive, some shuffling. I grab the smallest sized red and black cropped trousers I could find, fitting loosely over my short shorts, and I take a seat once again.

It’s go time. I’m greeted with a smile and a firm handshake from a gentleman called Nam. A tall, skinny dude from South Korea with a floppy black hat secured by a string sitting under his chin, thick black sunglasses and a pretty sweet curly-end moustache. I liked his energy and knew we’d make a good team (I could think of worst people to be straddled by). One foot gets lifted up, then the other. He places a black harness on me, fitting securely over my shoulders, and then tightening it from every point. Being a much-needed piece of the puzzle we take our time.

We walk onto the grey tarmac, it’s radiating onto us. ‘Beep’ – Nam turns to me and asks ‘what’s your name?’ I reply ‘Aman’, and then he asks ‘what are we doing today?’ You’re probably asking why I’m doing this with a guy that is asking me that question? I would too, but the beep was the GoPro turning on, it was all for the ever-lasting memory, Nam thankfully didn’t have a memory lapse (that would have been very, very bad).

With the amount of top bunks that I’ve pulled myself onto, I had plenty of practice with climbing up for this one. I sit in between Nam’s legs, then with another man in between mine (don’t get too excited, it’s not that type of blog). We all sit sandwiched in two rows – with the last couple sat on the floor with only a seatbelt keeping them in.

The engine starts. We rise up. Soaring above the ultra white clouds. There’s another beep telling us that we’ve reached 4,000ft. Mist-like clouds sweep past us, contrasting with the brilliant blue sky. The landscape looked so different compared to the past day or two. I don’t think the goofy smile left my face. Trying to look in every direction, I pay no attention to what Nam is saying to me. Every question has a delayed response. I didn’t want to talk; I just wanted to live in the moment.

Another beep. We’re here, 14,000ft. The flimsy plastic looking door slides up and around – there’s no door anymore. Another couple of safety checks, I go through the steps in my head.

One by one the plane empties. If you look away you’d miss the whole act. We shuffle using our bums to the empty hole in the plane. I turn to the GoPro and randomly blurt out ‘I’m not going to die today!’ (Yeah, that happened).

Hands clasped onto each shoulder strap, head back, legs dangling out of the plane, and ‘three’, ‘two’, ‘one’, GO! We don’t jump; instead we lean forward and flop out. The air gushes into my ears, making it hard to hear anything but the loud swoosh-ing sound. With the air pressing against my body we free-fall. ‘Tap, tap, tap’ – my arms are flung to my sides, exposing the ‘three lions’ proudly on my chest. The goofy smile still hasn’t left my naturally funny-looking face. Craving something real, I feel free, soaring above the pillow-y clouds. There are no butterflies and no doubts, just a sense of calm. To live in the moment and just be free – we don’t get many opportunities like that. I almost forgot that Nam was attached to me.

As our yellow and blue parachute inflates there’s silence. My ears pop as we calmly glide over the city. Having flown into Cairns at night, I see a different side to the city. A skydiver’s view of lush rainforest hills to one side, pristine-looking fields in the middle and long winding waters to the other. Not forgetting the Great Barrier Reef in the near distance. I made the right choice for the location of my first, but not last skydive (sorry Mum). I felt like I could be up there all day and I would be happy to do so.

Just as I was getting comfortable we steer left, rotating us swiftly, woooo! Then it’s my turn! As Nam tells me to let go of the yellow straps directing us, I hesitate before handing them over. We approach the ground faster and faster, noticing the five other skydivers before me safely on the ground. I’m instructed to lift my legs up, as we hit the ground Nam’s legs are still working. Windswept, I’m ready to start the rest of my day but not before a few high-fives. This one is going to be hard to beat, but I’ll rise up.

“You’re broken down and tired

Of living life on a merry-go-round

And you can’t find the fighter

I see it in your so we gonna walk it out

And move mountains

We gonna walk it out

And move mountains

And I’ll rise up

I’ll rise like the day

I’ll rise up

I’ll rise unafraid

I’ll rise up

And I’ll do it a thousand times again

I’ll rise up

High like the waves

I’ll rise up

In spite of the ache

I’ll rise up

And I’ll do it a thousand times again”

[Andra Day, ‘Rise Up’]

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