First Gallery Post: Sydney Study abroad trip. Sydney its surrounds and trips up to the northern coast. (more photos will be added shortly) These pictures are all taken from a 6 month study abroad at University of Sydney where I visited many parts of urban and suburban Sydney, Australia along with many location on the northern coast in Queensland, along with a trip to the Great Ocean Road and Melbourne in Victoria just south of Sydney.
1st photo: Skydive
It was a clear morning in Cairns that day in Spring 2008, however with clouds in the horizon. I was scheduled to jump at 3 pm and there were rumors going around that the afternoon jumps would be cancelled due to weather moving in from the Queensland great dividing range. For some reason I had woken up earlier than usual that morning, I didn’t get much rest. This might have had something to do with the fact that I had decided to skydive for the first time a the day before and the next could not have come any sooner.
Awake at 6:30 am in my hostel bed a friend Amber comes to knock on our door because she has some news. She decided to cancel her 8 am jump. She woke up and having a bad dream about the dive and came to tell me her spot was open for me to take. She knew I really wanted to skydive and that the afternoon jumps were most likely being cancelled. So without much preparation I rushed to get my clothes on and get registered for my skydive which would depart only about an hour later. I had no time for breakfast, which turned out to be in my favor once I approached the airplane door ready to jump. I only had enough time to wash my face use the restroom change and run 4 blocks down the street to complete the preflight checklist and I was on my way. There was a brief waiting time for the van to arrive, which was a few minutes late.
Me and 4 other of my friends waited in our harnesses and jumping gear watching promotional videos of previous skydives. Jeff sitting next to me says I think this will be the first time I am getting on a plane without the intention of landing in it. Very true, once we were in the air our tandem skydive expert partners all informed us that once we get in the plane the only way off is out the door and out into the troposphere. Yikes…
So we all piled into the van that took us to the airport and then got into a tiny plane that only fit the width of about two people side by side (maybe more like one and a half) and we filed in straight with our tandem partners with a our backs to the pilot. As we climbed above some low clouds our tandem partners start preparing us for proper jumping posture and how we were to go about landing. It soon became obvious to me that my tandem partner had my life in his hands so I listened as closely as possible to everything I would need to do to make sure this went smoothly and made sure he showed me exactly all of the ways I was secured into his harness and parachute because without these connections I would just be dropping from the sky. He told me I had nothing to be nervous about, the worst injury they had in their history as a company was a broken ankle from coming in and landing too fast (I found this a little hard to believe but it was comforting nonetheless). After all the hardest part was over, according to him, which was getting on the plane. He pointed out that once you are on the plane the only way off is out the door and they push you off so there is no more decisions to be made really. Smiles and nervous laughs were exchanged throughout the tiny cabin.
It was true, all I remember is approaching the door, putting my feet on the threshold, told to cross my arms and if I wanted to close my eyes briefly. I was truly only scared for about 5 to 7 seconds while approaching and sitting at the door opening. Soon I was free falling and I could not believe how much fun it was! The moment of fear was so short and the adrenaline of free fall was so great that I had forgotten that I was scared at all. Free falling was amazing. The wind resistance is such that it almost feels more like you are floating than you are falling. Once you reach terminal velocity it just looks like Google Earth is zooming in on your landing site at a semi-slow pace. Once the parachute is pulled it your dive gets even more enjoyable because you are just gliding down even slower at a rate where you can really take in all the scenery.
For my dive, at 14,000 feet, the free fall lasted about a minute or less and the parachute glide took about six or seven minutes. I really got a great view of Cairns Australia, the great barrier reef and the great dividing range and Queensland rainforest further inland. The landing was smooth and in a field near some corn stalks. Just slid in on a smooth grassy patch of land with my feet up and it was all over. I still had plenty of adrenaline coursing through me however and for awhile all 5 of us who went on the dive were ranting about going again. Of course that would be very expensive and probably way too much adrenaline for one day. However, I did come to an understanding on why adrenaline junkies consider skydiving one of the ultimate rushes. I could imagine it before the jump, but after actually jumping I really could feel why people seek this feeling and hold it in such regard.
Enjoy! I hope this inspires others to travel down under!
If you are inspired by these photos and would like to take a trip yourself, here are some links that can help you get there for a fraction of the price and with tour guides that will show you things no one else you could Google would show you!
Cheap flights for students at StudentUniverse!:
Study Australia! The Education Abroad network for college students and the adventurous:
This is the program I went through, they do an excellent job and their travel guides are heaps of FUN!