Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The awesome skydive weekend in Prague

The wind was breezing past my hair. I could feel every moment of my existence, every breath I was inhaling. The landscape was beautiful, crystal clear, and mesmerizing. And it was getting bigger and bigger, closer and closer by the moment. I was falling rapidly, falling under gravity.
It had been a month that I had been in Copenhagen and had started getting used to the Danish food and culture (mainly through the numerous parties that I was attending). Even though I was undergoing an internship at a Danish startup, it gave me enough time to travel around Europe (Eurail pass zindabad!) every week. I had already been to Sweden, Netherlands, Oktoberfest at Munich, Koln, Berlin on my travels. A bit of work, a lot of travel and a whole bunch of fun; Life as an exchange student at Copenhagen Business School was certainly an experience that I was enjoying. Eastern Europe was the next region I wanted to explore and Prague was the first city on the route.
So 15th of October 2011, after a night out party at Copenhagen's A-bar; our group of 9 boarded the DBahn to Berlin, where after a change of railways, we would be taking the direct train to Prague. Lack of sleep, lots of booze and whole lot of dancing meant most of us slept the 8 hours journey to Berlin. But once we changed trains, everyone was up and awake to experience the scenic route to Prague. It surely didn't disappoint us. Beautiful combination of hills, rivers greeted us on the route between Dresden and Prague. Upon arrival at Prague, we chose to walk to our hostel. A quick changeover and we were out to explore the night scene in the city.
Prague as a city is not too big, so you can walk to any location if you got the time and intent. We chose to do just that. A short walk took us to the Old town square where the Astronomical Clock Tower (voted the most boring tourist attraction :P) greeted us. Nice, but we were more interested in the clubs in the city. Recommendations from fellow exchange students had suggested that the crowd in the clubs in Prague is amazing and we weren't disappointed. 3 hours of amazing dance performances set the mood for the weekend and we came back home satisfied.
16th October 2011 was the D-day; THE experience that we had brought us to Prague - our first SKYDIVE. All 9 of us got ready and reached Old Town Square by 10am where a cab was waiting to take us to the skydive arena. During the one hour drive, the expectation was building up as was the nervousness. Anyone looking anxious was instantly cheered up but everyone had that fear in the back of their minds; the fear of something going wrong.
The scene of the skydive arena made up for the anxiety on the way. A lush green air strip, bright clear sky, hardly any clouds, certainly no fog. All in all a (rare) perfect day for skydiving. The instructors divided us into groups of 4 each and my group was lucky number 1. They took us to the changing rooms where the suits greeted us. A lot of instructions, introduction to our jump partners and we were ready to go. In the plane, I was slotted as the third to dive, giving me the luxury and horror of seeing 2 of my mates disappear before my own. As the flight took off, I experienced the same visuals when I used to take my flights before. The hangar becaming smaller and smaller, the people on ground reducing to tiny ants. But the realization that I would be jumping off soon was creeping up. My jump partner kept showing me the height via an altimeter. Slowly the ticker moved to 4200m when the lead showed a thumbs up sign and opened the back door. Our moment had arrived.
Jayant was the first to dive. His partner took him to the edge where they waited for 3-4 seconds and then he was go. The guy simply vanished in front of my eyes. Then it hit me! I was about to do the same in a few seconds. Mohit was second up. Cool guy, he actually opened his arms while jumping as if jumping into the swimming pool. I pulled the rope up and took my position. For a few moments my feet were in the air but my body wasn't. The chilly air kept hitting my face which had only the eye mask on. That moment I shuddered. I wanted to come back, get some courage in. But no chance. My partner pushed and I was in the air, falling.
For the first 5 seconds, I didn't know what hit me. Everything was revolving. My partner brought me in a chest down position and then I realized I was actually falling under gravity. The air kept gushing through my hair. It filled my mouth as I tried to scream forcing me to shut up. I could feel every breath that I was taking. The landscape was so clear, I could make out the lakes that we had encountered on the way around the air strip. I suddenly realized there was no need to fear anymore. If it had to happen, it would happen. It wasn't in my hands anymore. 50 seconds of free fall and the parachute opened. There was a slight jerk and my body became straight up. I realized that I was safe now.
My partner gave me the parachute to guide and I took us on a short ride around the area. Hanging in the air was fun and it certainly makes you feel like a bird. Three minutes of sailing around and slowly I slide down to the ground. Success! Relief! Victory! I pumped my fist in the air as our group grounded alongside me. We hugged each other. Someone got us our camera and we went about shooting our after dive experience. Each one had a different tale but one thread was common - the feeling of falling under gravity.
The rest of the weekend was spent in walking tour around Prague, absinthe shots at different clubs and a night walk around the mesmerizing Prague palace. When we boarded the 17th morning DBahn to Berlin en route to Copenhagen, we were tired. But the feeling of success ringed in our head. We had had probably the most awesome adventure sport in Europe, the highlight of our Euro trip on student exchange.

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Abhishek Saha
Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh, India
A NRB (Non Resident Bengali) or rather a 'Probashi Bangali'; born in Kolkata, brought up in Jamshedpur and now trying to make his mark at IIM Lucknow.
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