East Coast of Australia 7 – Jumping 14,000 Feet from the Heavens

Following on from our epic USA road trip in 2011, my girlfriend and I are currently in Australia on an even bigger adventure travelling this incredible country.

We were up early again for our Daintree Rainforest tour. Our tour guide, Jim, picked us up and drove us north, through Port Douglas to a sugar cane plantation cyclone land that felt like South America. The coastal road took us past Crocodile Island which genuinely looks like a crocodile. But after a quick coffee stop in the sugar plantations, it was time for us to hunt out real crocodiles on the Daintree River. The crocodile cruise took us downstream, across and back to the opposite bank. Before long we saw a male schooner (infant crocodile), as well as a frog mouth bird and extremely rare apple mango hybrid mangroves on the river bank.  It was all very cool and left me itching to go to the Northern Territory where their crocs and bigger, badder and more abundant.


Once we got into the rainforest proper, we took an awesome boardwalk tour led by Jim, who really knew his tropical plants. Jim gave me a green ant so I could lick its bum and it tasted like lime! “Perfect for ya Corona” explained Jim. I never thought I’d be writing about licking the bum of an ant in my blog, that’s for sure… At that point, the heavens opened with a tropical rainstorm.

We ran back to the bus, crossed back over the Daintree River (via the beach at Cape Tribulation, named after Captain James Cook’s strifes) and stopped at the Alexandra Bay lookout before heading to Mossman Gorge. There we gathered around a fire and had a 40 minute talk from an Aboriginal guy, a fascinating insight into the tribe’s traditions and how alcohol, drugs and disease were forced upon the culture without his people asking for any of it. There seems to still be a lot of strong opinions from people of all backgrounds in Australia these days about the way Aboriginal people have been treated and their role in today’s society, but the issue of going forward sadly seems very much unresolved and difficult for anyone to have any answers to.

We walked to Mossman Gorge itself and filmed each other walking over the wobbly suspension bridge for our “I’m A Celebrity” themed introduction to our teaser trailer video we were making. Driving back, we had a driving tour of Port Douglas, a brief one though as the rain was coming back and the high street was closed anyway. It seemed alright – a bit more millionaires than backpackers, though! Port Douglas marked the northernmost coastal point of the path of totality of the upcoming total solar eclipse.

Back at our hostel, one of our roommates told us he was completing a PADI dive instructor course and showed us photos he took of a shipwreck he had dived to. One of the photos showed in the background a terrifying looking shark which he had not even noticed at the time. Scary as this was, it was sick and made me really want to dive more in the future. But for now, there was more thrill seeking fun to be had as the next day it was time for us to go for our first ever skydive.

We woke up to rain and were concerned that it might be cancelled like some of our friend’s dives had been that week. It looked like it was going ahead though when we got to the skydive shop. We filled out the mandatory form to sign up to the skydive club (I don’t know why, either) which included the sentence we really wanted to see: “deaths can and do happen”. Nice line for anyone with pre dive nerves, that one. Hashtag gulp.

We were lucky enough to be in group one which we later found was the only group able to jump that day – a break in the clouds appeared at just the right time for us. We watched a safety video and then got paired up with our pro jumpers, mine was a dude called Ben. After a swift bus ride to the airport, we got strapped up. There were reports of strong winds at this point but we got the go ahead. Ben filmed us on the way up; I was trying to look cool and regretting not having got round to that haircut I’d been meaning to have for days. Ben’s watch displayed our ascension to 14000 feet on his altitude meter (most dives are 10000) as the clouds parted gloriously over the landing zone.

We were second to jump. Red, orange and green lights signalled us to put goggles on, cross arms and get in the arch position respectively. We shuffled forward and turned to face the door and wow, what a rush it was. I tucked my legs under the edge of the plane 14000 feet up in the heavens, began to lean and then ROAR! We tumbled out of the plane, somersaulting before plummeting feet first and free falling through the winds. It was a crazy, crazy feeling and as soon as we were the right way up, Ben tapped me, indicating I could open my arms and pose for the video camera strapped to his wrist. After a minute of madness came a jerk and a wedgie with the opening of the parachute and then we serenely glided over fields, hills and coastline. Ben let me steer the parachute for some of the remaining five minutes, in between the other jumpers, and we landed elegantly enough. It was an awesome experience, the beautiful rainforest views matched only by the rush of adrenaline from the initial fall.

Jodes, who was second from last to jump, landed shortly after and we drove back to town, despite her being desperate to jump again immediately! We bought a memory stick for the photos and videos to put on our video of the trip we were making. The rest of the day was spent swimming in the Cairns lagoon and going out for dinner for my first taste of crocodile and kangaroo steaks. The ‘roo was delicious and the crocodile was essentially fishy chicken but still good.

The next day marked the end of our East Coast adventure and nature’s greatest spectacle of all, a total solar eclipse.


5 thoughts on “East Coast of Australia 7 – Jumping 14,000 Feet from the Heavens

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