Let me rewind a little and introduce myself. My name is Josh Aggars. I’m a traveller, surfer, rock climber, writer, dog walker and bbq extraordinaire. I love my friends, family, the love of my good lady and beer. I am a simple man of simple means in many ways and yet, for some reason, I seem to always dream up ways to challenge my biggest fear; Heights!
It’s a given that my mind and body go all wobbly when I’m exposed to certain distances from the ground. Such heights can be innocuous at times. I can be but 5 metres up and my legs start going all Bruce Grobbelar on me. Other times I can be at the top of a skyscraper tilting over the side and, whilst not 100% comfortable, I’m nothing compared to the stage fright of the aforementioned.
In short I suffer from vertigo. A silly condition which basically means I don’t trust my brain not to jump if given half a chance. If there is a decent barrier in the way I am fine. In fact I’ll do a Russian Cossack dance and act all blasé. Without the barrier I’m on my knees clinging to the nearest person wailing in my Hollywood best ham acting ‘please don’t let me fall, please don’t let me fall, I don’t wanna die, I DON’T WANT TO DIE!’
So how was it that I found myself 15,000 feet up with my legs dangling out of a plane I hear you ask? Well you see it all started when me and my compadres went to New Zealand, land of the ‘let’s do anything for an adrenalin kick.’
The fact is you can’t go to New Zealand and not do something stupid. It’s a given. There’s white water rafting, river sledging, parapenting, ridiculously high bungy jumping, sky diving, you name it, it’s all there. All it takes is you, a couple of whisky’s and a bit of bravado and before you know it you’re suddenly hurtling past jagged rocks at silly speeds whilst strapped into some harness or other. Excellent!
I was all outward smiles, chest thumping and grinning whilst inside I was climbing into a very big dark hole and turning off the lights.
For some reason I convinced, willed, begged and pleaded with my friends that sky diving needed to be our number one priority. Partly because I fancied giving my stupid brain the ultimate bird and also because I wanted to steer the conversation away from a bungy jump at the earliest opportunity (because then I really would be found out).
So the night before the big jump I was pacing my room all wracked with doubt. I couldn’t back out; this was my big chance to show my brain who was boss. All I needed was some Dutch courage. As such I decided to drink whisky. One glass, two glass, three glass four, five glass, six glass, seven glass and more.
By the time I was finished I was convinced I could arm wrestle the population of the planet in one sitting whilst playing Keith Moon drum solos with my free hand.
Come the morning of the dive I was struggling to get out of bed, all 1 foot of it. This was bad, this was very bad. I started contemplating how to deal with spewing as I went towards Earth. Would I choke? Would the guy I was jumping with choke also? Would I wet myself, him and all the planet below? In short was I about to make a huge ass of myself? I would soon find out.
There’s nothing more reassuring than checking in to do an extreme sport somewhere and hearing the endless banter from the counter staff about how you probably won’t survive. Knowing that they wouldn’t be able to operate if they lost too many instructors let alone get a license was all secondary to the recurring thought of ‘maybe they’re right, maybe I am going to die. Oh God I’m going to die, I knew it, I bloody knew vertigo would get me in the end.’
Getting into the suit was the next fun part. Not so much the getting in but the getting out to repeatedly go to toilet every few minutes as the whisky, and mounting water consumption I was using to douse the hangover, started to take their toll. Not only that but there seemed to be an endless wait for a plane to take us up. Whole countries could be invaded in the time it was seeming to take for our turn to come around.
Obviously none of this internal fear and monologue was playing out for the incessant video cameras shoved in my face from all angles. People were documenting our every move so we could part with more cash to watch ‘our moment’. I was all outward smiles, chest thumping and grinning whilst inside I was climbing into a very big dark hole and turning off the lights.
Josh Aggars is a well published travel writer who combines his twin passions of surfing and travelling to explore the wider World. He travels everywhere in his battered old havaianas flip flops which remain his favourite mens flip flops style after years on the road. Connect with him at facebook.com/josh.aggars at any time for travel tips and advice.
Josh made his jump over Lake Taupo on New Zealand’s North Island.
“Ah joy the plane is here” I heard my sarcastic voice exclaim. Moments later we were walking side by side with our instructor and stepping into the plane. Cue the sound of engines revving, a door closing and 6 heart beats pounding ever louder.“ Shit this is it, we’re going” I said not that anyone could hear for we were in said rattling rust bucket and climbing fast, each thousand metres being ticked off on some annoying wrist watch thing the bloke strapped to my back kept showing me.
“Ah the camera is back in my face to the record my clenched jaw” I thought moments later as the camera was passed back and forth to record our sheer ‘enjoyment’ of this special moment. Banter was had by those in front but I was right at the back of the line and couldn’t hear a thing. Instead I had the pleasure of watching the door open and each friend one by one being forcefully shoved out by their instructor no matter how hard the plead.
“Your time bro” shouted the bloke on my back “slide up the bench and sit yourself out the door.” “You fucking sit yourself out the door” I felt like saying, instead all I managed was a rather sheepish “OK.”
So we’re back at the start with my legs dangling out a plane at 15,000 feet. I’m staring at the Earth far below and my mind is racing, all ability to comprehend what is happening literally flying out the open door with anything loose on my personage. I get a tap on the shoulder, turn to see one last camera thrust in my face, we rock and we are gone!
The next 10 seconds are the most exhilarating in my life. We fall out all spinning end over end, my mind 10 seconds behind, failing to keep up with the speed we are moving.
When we level out it takes another 10 seconds for my brain to catch up and for me to realise what is happening. That moment the synapses come together and you realise you are heading to Earth like a dart is beyond description (but I’ll try anyway). One part of you is still in la la land with the adrenalin and the other cocktail of natural drugs swirling round when the other hits reality fast.
“JESUS!!!!!!!” When the worlds collide it is everything. It’s difficult to breath but you don’t care. It’s difficult to take it all in but you try anyway. In fact it’s difficult to do anything other than feel like a complete goon as the guy still shooting footage flies past you upside down and nonchalantly waves so you can wave back at the camera.
This is all too much, this is all too great, this is all too… over! The cord is pulled and we shoot up a thousand feet, or so it feels. “No, NO, NO, NO!” I cry “I wanna go again, again, again” in my best internal spoilt brat voice.
We slowly descend to Earth all gradual turns this and “you’re in control of the parachute” that but already I don’t care. My mind is trying to replay that incendiary moment when we fell out of the plane for I now know what it is to truly feel alive. I don’t even care as we come closer to the ground for I am off in la la land all fear of heights over with. I pledge to do it again and again and again until the day I die.
That, coming from a vertigo sufferer, should be proof enough of why you need to make your first booking.