BOOGIE IN BELIZE II
TANDEM SKYDIVE EXPERIENCE
Well, it has been a whole week, and I still can’t wipe the grin off my face that I received during my first tandem skydive jump with the Tsunami Skydivers Boogie In Belize II adventure!
What can I say – it was like no experience I have ever encountered before. Almost indescribable. When I talk with fellow tandem jumpers, no two accounts are the same.
Of course, I booked a week in advance to accommodate my daughter’s schedule, and had an excruciating wait until the day was upon us. Many of the days that passed by comprised of lousy weather, cold, low cloud cover, gusty winds and even rain. What a bummer for the 120+ skydivers that had descended on Belize for a trip of a lifetime. We locals just hate it when the weather is crummy for our visitors. A terrible skydiving tragedy occurred during my wait – and I held my breath while the group decided whether or not to continue with the Boogie.
In memory of their fallen comrade, the group decided to continue with the game plan. God played a little favourable hand in the weather and a beautiful and poignant memorial jump was performed the morning after the sad incident.
In the meantime, yours truly, fearful and yet willing to be defiant of the laws of gravity, picked up the “waiver form” for full analysis. “Do you really want to jump…. Yada yada yada, have you provided for your family in case of the unthinkable, yada, yada, yada, have you imbibed alcohol in the past 12 hours…. WAIT, what’s that??? No liquid courage?? Hmmm….
So, foolish me, went out the night before the big jump, and true to the waiver form I was to sign in the morning, stopped drinking at 10pm in preparation for an 11 am tandem appointment.
A word of the wise to those folks that, like me, are cursed with the plight and indignity of travel sickness – take Dramamine, both the night before and the morning of your tandem jump!! More about this little tidbit of information later in the narrative….
Did I remember to mention that along the way I have picked up a few fellow first time jumpers. My eldest daughter, Rosie and my close friend (considered my sister) Jamila. During the week you could often hear us on the phone together – “You only live once!”, “When your time is up, God will whisk you away,” “They’re professionals – they do this for a living.”
After a night of a wonderful dinner, toasts to good health (and good luck), promises to get together after the jump etc. I was pleased to be able to go home and fall asleep without too many thoughts of the danger we would be facing come the ‘morrow.
Rosie and I were up and raring to go, my other youngsters were quite apprehensive but getting into the whole nervous spirit of the morning. Cal, my wonderful husband was quite reticent – bear in mind his eldest daughter and beloved wife had recently taken leave of their normal senses.
Out we went, just me and Rosie, on the bumpy road in our little golf cart buggy. We picked up Jamila along the way. Her husband Jim, after many a military jump in his recent past, simply stated he would meet us at the drop zone…
Tensions were high, but we managed to shore up our bravado as we headed off to our current destiny.
Long story short, we arrived at the Sunbreeze Hotel, watched in awe as experienced skydivers arrived by boat from the drop zone and began the process of repacking chutes for the next available opportunity. We watched 10 chutes being packed, then another 10. We watched practice “dirt dives” - Skydivers performing their daredevil free fall formations on the ground. What wonderful dances. We were informed that even if we were at the drop zone, we would not be able to see them enacting these movements since they would be so high above the ground.
Every skydiver we met was friendly, encouraging, and just plain down-to-earth. What an oxymoron. The entire staff was accommodating, understanding and patient – hey they’ve all had a “first time” experience.
Were we the only nervous people in the complex? Our trio managed about 4 “panic pees” a piece. You know, you are too nervous to drink water and yet you gotta go every 5 minutes!
Most of the Sunbreeze staff had tandem jumped the year before – they kept us enthralled with their own jump stories as we awaited our turn.
Finally our names were called and it was time to meet our instructors/tandem partners and their jovial counterparts – the wonderful photographers/film-makers.
Wow, the instruction was short and sweet. We didn’t have time to be shy or scared. The professionals took over. This is what we are going to do, this is what I expect you to do, you will have fun, you will smile for the camera, you will not try and pull the rip cord without prior permission. I’ve never actually been in the military but I began to have an inkling of what life and death instruction was all about. In a scant 15 minute course my instructor and I had been through the motions twice and then I was trussed up like a chicken in my tandem safety harness. And away we went… waddling like ducks, to our appointment with the hands of fate.
Okay, it was more like a quick stroll through the hotel lobby, across the cobblestoned street via Tropic Air’s terminal, skirting the airport apron and runway to our eventual rendezvous with the jump plane.
Standing next to the plane, props whirling around and whipping up the breeze felt like the “do or die” moment to me – this is it baby, are you going for it? We all looked at one another, large smirks on our faces – and we boarded the plane. There were no seats in the cabin, just two fold down benches on either side of the fuselage. We actually strapped on the seatbelts for take off – I had to wonder why – aren’t we going to jump out of this perfectly sound aircraft in 15 minutes?
The flight was uneventful, the view phenomenal and the atmosphere was extremely calm. One of the camera men told us that when the houses looked half as small again, it would be time to jump. About 10 minutes into the flight the instructors galvanized into gear and began attaching themselves to us. In other circumstances they could have been considered quite fresh! But as it was, we all visibly grateful to have somebody else taking control. When the door opened we couldn’t initially see much going on, but all of a sudden bodies began hurtling out of the door – ever, ever so quickly. Before I knew what was happening we had scooted half way down the bench towards the gaping doorway – and then whoosh – Jamila was gone. Almost immediately the door was closed and …. Jamila was gone!
It was explained to us that we had to circle one more time before it was our turn. I was thinking – Jamila’s gonna kill us when we land – how could we have left her like that. Would she wonder if we had changed our minds?
Within minutes the door reopened, Rosie was in the doorway, “Goodbye Mom” she said, and whoosh, she was gone to. All too quickly I was placed into the opening. With barely a chance to catch my breath I was out of the door, tumbling through the air. How absolutely EXHILARATING. What can I say, this was probably the most amazing, mind-boggling things I have ever done. It was almost surreal. Your brain knows you are traveling at 125 mph attached to a complete stranger – another fellow has a camera pointed right at you, and your heart is in your throat. This is the moment that I realized that I should have eaten a lot more Dramamine. For a person that doesn’t travel well, I don’t know what I was thinking when I boarded the plane with only ½ a pill in my tummy. I guess I didn’t expect the spinning, the swirling, the tumbling… it was wonderful but the nausea kind of put a little damper on things for me. We were moving so fast, the deep blue sea was far below, a tiny little island was to the west, the earth and sky were curved – wow. The free fall experience was over way too quickly. The camera man waved good bye, my instructor – John pulled something and all of a sudden it seemed as if we came to complete stop, for just a second, and then it felt as if we were in a fast elevator climbing up. Moments later everything went quiet – a little flapping of the canopy above –and then John was asking me questions – what did I think of the ride so far, wasn’t it just incredible! After we loosened up the harness and I managed to take my bearings John passed the reins over to me. This wasn’t something I had expected. If you pulled the rig to the left, you turned left and the opposite was true too. Cool. He offered to show me how to spin and do 360’s. This is when I told him that it wouldn’t be too wise, what with the nausea and all! I was also given instructions on how to throw up at 5,000 ft – thankfully I didn’t have to use this new found knowledge. John slowed the ride way down and we gently began descending to earth. My stomach calmed down and I began to really enjoy the show.
Right about then I spotted my Rosie, high above us, waving away. I shouted to her and she swooped right in, I could see the whites of her eyes. She was having way more fun than me.
Much too soon we were arriving at our final destination – the landing zone. I could see little people running around, waving and smiling. I recognized my camera man Mike immediately, then I spotted Rich Grimm – the fellow that had finally piqued my curiosity into this whole mad event – we landed smoothly, no broken bones. I tried to stand up my legs had turned to jelly. After a second I managed to find my feet and I waved to the camera, gave Rich and John big hugs, looked around for my fellow daredevils and finally realized my loved ones were all waiting to greet me.
I guess skydiving is an experience that you either love or hate. I absolutely loved it. We will be signing up for Boogie in Belize III – along with many of our friends and family.
Thanks to everybody that made the experience such a delight – I couldn’t have done it without you.
Photos will follow next week...