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Mission Beach is yet another place in Oz that is so poorly connected to the rest of the world you'd think you were on Mars. There is no public transport serving the town, no mobile phone service for some networks, no Wi-Fi (AT A HOSTEL, I MEAN FOR GOD'S SAKE THAT IS RIDICULOUS) and one supermarket that is closed on Sundays. It's infuriating. Now that I've been to Asia, I realise I'm perfectly okay without a phone and the web for a bit. But that's because I was in less developed places, where there is more to do. In Mission Beach, however, there is nothing to do. The only reason I went is because it's from there you can skydive over the Great Barrier Reef. I later learned Mission Beach used to be livelier, but a recent hurricane destroyed a huge area and it's taking a while to get back up to speed.
Nevertheless, you can't beat another picture of clear blue sky and deserted sand. So here's one of Mission Beach for you:
It looks a bit like the island from Lost, minus the bad writing, polar bears, rubbish ending and the feeling you've wasted six years watching a show that the writers knew was going nowhere not that I'm digressing or anything but really come on that show could have been so good and they just ruined it RUINED IT all to keep people guessing and there was no conclusion to anything I mean what was that polar bear all about and why did the shark have a Dharma Initiative logo and why when Mr Eko crashed was the land in the shape of a question mark and while we're on the subject did they ever explain why Mr Eko was mute for 42 days no I didn't think so and why did The Others take that kid, you know the one whose dad was Mercutio in Romeo and Juliet and then went batshit and killed those two what were their names Ana Lucia and hmm the one that went out with Hurley for a bit ANYWAY BACK TO THE MATTER AT HAND.
The next morning, I go for a run. Four kilometres in the wrong direction. There is no shop from which to buy water so I am a big sweaty heap of a mess when I get back. The hostel, despite its owners clearly living in the dark ages, is lovely, with a pool (!) and gorgeous lawns on which to relax. I finish reading my book and potter about, then meet up with some friends I met a few towns ago. The nice thing about going up the east coast of Oz is that everyone follows the same route (well, mostly everyone), so not only do you often bump into people you've hung around with before, you play the
"I'm pretty sure we've met before."
"Me too! But I can't place where!"
"I know, it's annoying me. Did you go to [insert Australian location here]?"
"Hmm. Maybe it was there?
Repeat with different person.
Friday - the day after - is skydive day. Skydiving was an unequivocal must-do for me. I even sacrificed going to the Whitsundays so that I could afford it, because the cost for a 14,000 ft dive, with DVD of the whole thing, plus a day of "Extreme Rafting" (more about that terror-filled brush with death later) was getting on for £350. I'll pause while you intake some breath sharply. I wouldn't say I'm a daredevil or anywhere near an adrenaline junkie, but I think years of sitting at a desk have made me want to try riskier stuff, so the day arrives, I sign my name on the dotted line - you know, the one below the sentence saying "you may die and if you do don't even think about suing us" - and meet the people who will be jumping at the same time.
I meet the instructor who will be jumping with me. He's a cutie. Yay! God, I'm so shallow sometimes. He takes me through what can only be described as vague instructions re: what to do when you jump. Basically, you have to push and pull your arms, legs and neck into certain positions before and during the jump. It's pretty straightforward, so on goes the harness and before I know it we're all getting on the plane. Now, when I say "jumping with me", it means this guy (his name escapes me, it was probably something cute and Australian) is literally strapped to me. Or me to him, whichever. It's kind of awkward. The plane is chock full. It's too exciting to be nervous, but I'm jumping out of the plane last, so I get to see eight people go before me. The noise they make when they boing out of the plane is similar to the noise of a wine bottle being uncorked. I'm not sure if they jump, or are pulled by the wind.
It's me next, and before I know it, I'm looking at the Great Barrier Reef from 14,000 feet in the air. I kind of feel like I can't breathe and my heart might explode, but that's okay, because this is exactly the kind of experience I worked my balls off to be able to do. After 60 seconds of freefalling, which feels like ten, the chute opens and we toddle down to the beach in a matter of minutes. It's wonderful. Utterly, utterly wonderful. My eyes are watering and my pulse is thumping and it feels really, really good.