I slept through the noise of the bar last night, and in fact, didn’t wake up at all until the next morning. I don’t think I moved a muscle the entire night, as I had been so tired. I rolled out of bed and went to the activities office to kick off my birthday- I was going skydiving. I assumed since I was booking late, they wouldn’t be able to fit me in until the afternoon. This way, I had time to actually think about what I was getting myself into. “They’ll pick you up at 10,” the very pregnant woman from behind the desk told me. Oh dear. That gives me an hour and a half. I went back to my room, got dressed, and ate leftover S’mores components for breakfast (Yes, it’s my birthday so I can eat Cadbury chocolate and marshmallows for breakfast without shame). I was picked up from my lodge and taken to the skydiving office to sign my life away. Then, they drove me, along with three Irish folks, to a dropoff point in the desert where we were briefed on the how-to of skydiving. I can’t say enough good things about this company. The guys that run this place are quite funny. For example, I recall the instructor saying that if you screw up your landing, the worst that’s going to happen is the instructor will fall on top of you and you will ‘doggie-style’ it for a few seconds until you come to a stop. Some comic relief is probably a good thing in this situation. However, when they informed us that at 10,000 feet, we would be dangling from the side of the plane with our feet tucked under it before our tandem jumper let go from behind, I don’t think any amount of sugarcoating could have lessened the blow. I assumed you just jump. But to hang outside of the plane? Wahh? Well, at least I’m not the one that actually has to let go- that’s the responsibility of my tandem jumper.
The tiny little prop plane pulled up. It only holds two sets of jumpers at a time, and since there were four of us, I was placed in the second group. The first two went up for a 25-minute ascent and scenic flight before jumping. As I watched the plane climb higher and higher, it was like, ‘What am I doing?’ A pilot in training that was on the ground with us informed me that they were only halfway up. I got suited up while we waited for the first two to jump. The first two landed safely, and now it was our turn. I was bizarrely calm as I walked to the plane. My tandem jumper, who has done more jumps than any other person in Africa, did a little demo to show me how we would jump from the plane. We climbed in to the doorless aircraft and took off.
The flight was really scenic, taking us over the desert as well as the Namibian coastline. I was told that I would be jumping first, but somehow the plans were changed. Again, even at 10,000 feet I was feeling calm- that is until I saw the first two roll out of the plane. Then I had my ‘Oh shit’ moment. Expressing this with a shrieked “Oh my gosh!” my instructor brushed it off and made me inch my way to the door opening. I was grabbing on to a handle and he told me to let go and hang my legs out. I put my hands to my shoulders, my head back against his shoulder, and squeezed my eyes shut as I dangled outside of the plane. The last thing he said was, “Are you smiling?” and as I forced a smile on my face he let go. The first few seconds were crrrazy, but then this mini stabilizer chute opened, and I rolled forward to face the ground and put my arms out. It was thrilling. You are too far above the ground to experience that freefall feeling that you might expect. I just kept thinking, ‘I can’t believe I’m doing this,’ and also ‘If only my parents could see me now.’ At 5000 feet, or about 30 seconds in, the parachute opened. At this point, I felt a second of freefalling followed by an upward jolt. As my tandem jumper loosened the straps to make us more comfortable, he handed me the controls of the parachute. After making a few turns, he took over the parachute and showed me what it was like to ‘fly like a bird’. It was the coolest thing! We soared and made a small dive or two. I’m not sure I can relay the feeling in an intelligent manner beyond that. It’s something everyone should experience for themselves. Swakopmund has the best of both worlds when it comes to skydiving: the coast and the desert. The views are incredible.
As we came in for landing, I pulled my knees up and watched as the men on the ground prepared to grab the parachute to stabilize us. I landed on my feet (surprisingly) and of course in my once again intelligent dialect, I said, “That was awesome!” I was sad to shed my Ronald McDonald looking suit as I’m pretty sure it’s the sexiest thing I’ve ever worn, but all good things must come to an end.
We headed back to the office, and sat around drinking beers and chatting with my instructor (well, of course I had a Coke due to my repulsion of beer but you get the drift).
Perhaps one of the most scenic places in the world to skydive, Swakopmund should make it to your bucket list. No, I wasn’t given a discount or paid to advertise for them, I just had such an amazing time with the guys at Ground Rush Adventures that I highly recommend them (especially for you first-timers like me).
I took a nap in the afternoon and had big plans to treat myself to dinner, like as in at a restaurant, and not from the street or the grocery store, and then to watch the World Cup. Unfortunately, I seem to have caught a bug so I have taken to lying in bed under the covers to get rid of the chills. But really, it doesn’t faze me. I only made it to Swakopmund in time for my birthday by pure luck, and skydiving was better than I could have possibly imagined. Tomorrow, I will treat myself to that fancy dinner back in Windhoek; after all, birthday celebrations really are meant to last a week.