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Published: January 18th 2010
Days 24, 25 and 26 - Swakopmund
Today we left the isolation of Spitzkoppe and travelled to the coastal town of Swakopmund where we’re spending the weekend. This is an old colonial town which retains much of its original German character. Whilst it’s a very pretty town with some great shops and restaurants, there’s something a little strange about it - it feels a little out of place in Africa.
After unloading our stuff into dorms at Swakop Lodge we had an activity briefing for things to do for the weekend. Swakopmund has tried to become the Victoria Falls of the desert with loads of adrenaline activities available. The main ones are quad biking through the dunes, sandboarding (standing on a snowboard and lying on a sheet) and tandem skydiving over the desert. I had been planning on doing a skydive for weeks (well, years really) so signed up for Saturday afternoon. Spent the rest of the day exploring the town, having some beers and playing pool at the Private Bar upstairs at Swakop Lodge. My thirst for beer yesterday was quenched with a 1 litre stein of Hansa at the Lighthouse Bar, went down very well. Had a
great meal of fish and bratkartoffeln too. As I mentioned the food here is great and the following days I tried some game - kudu steak and springbok medallions (in skydiver sauce!) - excellent.
2pm on Saturday and it was time to skydive. Four of us were jumping - Nina, Sylvia, Andrea and myself, while Leigh, Elisha and Julia came along to watch and take photos. We were picked up at the Lodge by Mark, one of the tandem instructors, and driven to the Ground Rush Adventures office to sign forms and make the payment. Here they showed us the options to video and photograph the jump. Although I wasn’t planning on doing this and I generally hate the types of videos they produce, the shots did look very cool and I thought it would be a shame not to have any footage of my first jump. Besides I can cut the raw footage to produce my own video with my choice of soundtrack. So I ended up paying $110 extra (on top of $270 for the jump) for a cameraman to jump with us.
After a quick shot of rum to steady the nerves, we then drove
to the drop zone out in the desert. There I met my tandem instructor, Meers, a big Namibian guy with a crushing handshake - just the kind of person you’d want for this. We had a quick briefing which showed us the position to adopt and how to land though I was sure my mind would go blank as soon as I jumped. Sylvia and Andrea went up first so Nina and I had to wait and let the nerves grow. Whilst waiting we put on out jumpsuits and harnesses and when the others landed (giddy with excitement) it was time to board the plane.
The small plane was packed - apart from Nina and me and our instructors, there were five guys over from the UK doing solo jumps and the cameraman (doing a reasonable impression of Captain Jack Sparrow). We spent 25 minutes on a steep climb, the open door looked precarious but obviously everyone sat securely. I wasn’t really in the mood though to enjoy the scenery of the desert and the ocean. We were due to jump from 10,000 feet but Meers showed me his altimeter just before we jumped which read 12,000 feet -
all the more time for diving. We then attached tightly to our instructors and soon the solo jumpers were exiting the plane and disappearing in a flash. We shuffled over to the door, getting quite nervous now, had to give a thumbs up and smile to the cameraman (god knows how convincing that smile was) and before I knew it I was out.
It’s hard to describe the insanity of the 30 seconds of freefall as we hurtled towards the ground at 230km/hour. As we exited I seem to remember we went into a spin - not sure if I fucked up the positioning or Meers was engineering it but we were soon falling steadily and the cameraman was right there in front of us. It was a little distracting having to constantly wave to the camera rather than just appreciating the experience but I guess this will allow me to relive it for longer. I recall going into another spin before waving goodbye to the cameraman and then the chute opened.
The contrast between the two sections couldn’t be more stark - from falling at terminal velocity with deafening sound to floating in silence, where it doesn’t
even feel that you’re descending at all. Meers’ first words were “Welcome to my office” and you can’t but feel envious at how satisfying a job like that must be. It’s bizarre having a normal conversation (after my rush of expletives had died down) while floating from such a height. He then gave me the controls of the chute so I could steer and spin around whilst admiring the view of the Namib desert and the Atlantic beyond. Meers then took controls and came in for a perfectly smooth landing just where we took off. What an exhilarating experience - more exciting and enjoyable than the bungee jump, if not quite as terrifying. We were all buzzing and bouncing for ages afterwards. We had a celebratory beer with the guys, took some pictures and headed back to the office for the obligatory t-shirt - fits a lot better than the bungee one.
The rest of the weekend was a bit of a come down after the jump. I watched the Ireland-Springboks rugby game, great victory, but my plans for a big day of football in the pub on Sunday were thwarted when the main sports bar (Rafters) was bizarrely
closed on Sundays and the Private Bar was missing the one sports channel showing all the games. Having no luck catching Liverpool on this trip. So just wandered around, played some more pool and fell asleep early exhausted.
Tot: 0.313s; Tpl: 0.021s; cc: 12; qc: 28; dbt: 0.0079s; 1; m:saturn w:www (184.108.40.206); sld: 1;
; mem: 1.3mb