33. Sky-diving (Lobos, Argentina)
On Sunday Juan and I finally went sky-diving. Almost every time I see Juan, he says to me "Hey man, so are we gonna do this sky-diving shit?" and we always put it off for another weekend. But a friend of mine from Australia, Phil, was visiting, so I'd told Juan to set the date for May 22.
The Sunday rolled around and as it turned out, Phil couldn't make it as he'd bought some scalped tickets to the Boca vs River football match ($100 pesos, normally $20), the most anticipated local derby game of the year, so it would be only me and Juan doing a jump, with another friend Pablo watching.
Lobos (translation: Wolves), a town 100km from Buenos Aires at 12pm and signed up. I guess peer pressure worked because Pablo decided to jump as well so I loaned him the $270 pesos (NZ$130). We waited around for a couple of hours, watching the pros coming in to land in their fluorescent jumpsuits and wondering when it would be our turn to suit up. We passed the time making jokes about how the guy who signed us up was walking with a really bad limp, and how much time our 30 seconds of free fall is. We were jumping from 3000m and falling until 1500m (35 seconds of free fall.) Go on, look at your watch now and time how long 30 seconds is - it's ages. Your time starts... now [0 seconds].
Juan said that for every 300m we climb the temperature drops 2 degrees, so at 3000m was about -2. The ascent took about 15 minutes, then the door was popped open, and Pablo and his pilot clambered out onto the step and flipped off. Juan and his pilot followed immediately, and soon enough it was my turn. We clambered out onto the small step, and I'd convinced my pilot to let me jump with my digital camera in my hand so I could shoot a movie. I soon realised why we had to keep our hands on our chest - it meant we couldn't hold onto the plane. In no time we'd leapt out in a flip and I saw the underside of the plane flying off, before we turned over and I was facing the ground. Well, the 30 seconds of free fall went by really fast. It felt like about five or ten seconds, but the movie I took with my digital camera verifies that I would have fallen for the 30. [30 seconds!]
So, how did it feel? I've always wanted to skydive ever since I was a kid. I guess I imagined the sensation would be like flying. Then when I was older I imagined the sensation would be more like the horrible feeling you get when you're falling when your guts drops - if you've ever jumped off a bridge into water or ridden a roller coaster you know what I mean. But, having done it, my recollection is of a falling sensation for the first couple of seconds followed by a floating sensation. Juan said he didn't feel like he was moving towards the ground at all. I did - I could see the ground getting bigger, in between grimacing at my camera. I remember it feeling rather nice, a lot of wind obviously since we were going at 200km/h, I guess in that regard it felt a bit like riding a motorbike. As I said, the fall went quickly, and I was woo-hooing the entire time. There was a great feeling of relief when I felt the chute start to slow the fall and then kick in, but also a feeling of regret that the ride was over so soon.
Well, it wasn't quite over - next was a lovely 5 min descent towards the airfield which in itself was enjoyable, like riding in a hot air balloon I guess.
On landing we were reunited and sat around recounting the experience over a couple of beers, as you do, and again and again at the asado at Juan's house that night. We also laughed that Pablo had now been in a plane but he'd yet to land in one.