A Present to Remember

I hope you enjoyed reading about my first few days in California in my previous post. On the Sunday (our third full day in the States) we picked up the hire car and left San Francisco for a motel in Napa. We didn’t go straight there though as we had an exciting stop on the way.

For Christmas our (adult) kids bought us a present to remember. While videoing the moment for our daughter to watch later, our son handed over a rolled up piece of paper; like a scroll. When we opened it out it said this: You are going Skydiving over the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco! My jaw almost hit the floor. I don’t know if our kids were trying to thrill us or kill us 😅. Amazingly, since I’m pretty scared of heights (or at least looking down from a height) my reaction was actually one of excitement. I might have mentioned this when I wrote about facing this fear in Croatia last summer but I don’t even like looking over the rail on the first floor at the shopping mall so jumping/diving/falling out of a plane at 10 000 feet is just a little bit terrifying! 😱

We arrived earlier than expected at the skydiving centre and were quickly handed a four page form to fill out. It was pretty repetitive but required a lot of signatures. In effect it said ‘I understand that I might die doing this and my estate cannot sue the company for any reason’ over and over. Almost seems like they’re trying to talk themselves out of business? Obviously though, many people like us, are daft enough to go through with it despite all the warnings.

I was a little nervous walking out to the tiny plane (we were literally squashed in like sardines) but not as much as I thought I’d be. Maybe it’s one outcome of having struggled with depression for a while but death doesn’t feel like the worst outcome these days (not that I actually thought I’d die). I don’t mean that to sound morbid, I’m not suicidal and I don’t want to die but it just doesn’t feel like it would be that terrible any more if that makes any sense? Anyway, I did also pray heading up in the plane. I literally told God that my life was in his hands – which it was. Well that and attached to a guy, with the same name as my son, by a harness.

The views from the plane were stunning. The Golden Gate Bridge was visible in the distance (we weren’t actually skydiving over it) and we could see San Francisco and the coast and lots of lush green countryside. Hubby and his instructor were nearest the door while I was squished in with my instructor behind the pilot. This meant that they left the plane first. I didn’t exactly have time to think though before we were getting into position too.

They had given us brief instructions while on the ground about how to position yourself for the dive etc and one of those instructions was to keep your head back while exiting the plane. This worked out pretty well for me as I had decided that I just wouldn’t look down until I was actually falling. My reasoning was that the instructor I was harnessed to was about 6’5″ so I knew that if he decided to leave the plane I was going too, like it or not 😂. Right enough that’s pretty much how it happened. We got into position at the door with our legs dangled out of the plane (my heart was definitely in my throat just a bit at this point) and without much further ado we exited the plane and were falling at break neck speed towards the ground.

The initial free fall was an equally thrilling and nerve wracking experience. I did feel a bit panicked when I couldn’t catch my breath but I knew it wouldn’t last. There was a sudden jolt as the parachute was deployed and then calm. I could breathe again. As soon as the chute was open it was a really cool experience looking down at the earth and floating towards it and before I knew it it was all over and we were back on the ground. I have to admit that I was slightly relieved, but what an experience! Incidentally my hair looked hilarious when we landed; it was sticking up all over the place 😂.

There’s something significant happening with me to do with taking risks I think. It feels like I’ve started taking more risks like this one in life and I think it has some spiritual significance too. I started going to a study group at church just about a week ago and there was a lot of talk about taking risks in terms of growing your faith and also of not allowing fear any place in your life. When I heard that it resonated with me and I have a feeling I’ll be having to take some risks in my spiritual life too.

Once we were all safely back to the skydiving centre we purchased our videos and photos (have to have evidence since there’s a pretty good chance I won’t be doing that again 😂) and hopped back into the car to continue our journey as if jumping out of planes is something you do every day.

We drove on up to Napa where we ate at a lovely restaurant/cafe that reminded me of someone’s living room. After a decent night’s sleep we were up again for a slightly more relaxing kind of day – wine touring Napa Valley. We met a lovely couple from Vancouver on the tour and visited four different wineries. I have to say that I enjoyed pretty much all of the wines we tried – and there were quite a few. Thinking back I’m actually kind of surprised that I didn’t have a hangover after that. Maybe because it was spread out over the whole day? Anyway it was a gorgeous sunny day too and we had a fab time.

The first winery we visited (kinda forgot to take photos after this one 😝)

I guess I’ll leave it there for now and fill you in on the rest of the holiday (which was a lot quieter) in my next post. Talk soon.

Still Alive!

Well I did it – and I made it. I was very much out of my comfort zone yesterday when we went canyoning. In case anyone hasn’t heard of canyoning you basically climb down into a canyon and then wade, swim or get pushed along the river by the rapids.

If you read my last post you’ll know this was a huge challenge for me because I really don’t like heights – particularly when you have to look over the edge of something – and since I was about six or seven years old I’ve been pretty scared of putting my head under water. That’s not without good reason; I almost drowned in a swimming pool at that age.

As you can imagine from these pics of our group there was a fair bit of looking over the edge getting down to the river Cetina and there was always a risk of your head ending up under the water while riding the rapids.

Have you ever had that feeling when you’re doing an activity in a group and you just know everyone else is better at it than you? I had that feeling a lot yesterday. I even asked one of the guides if they have the TV quiz show The Weakest Link over there. I kept waiting for someone to say ‘You are the weakest link. Goodbye!’ 😂

There were places where we had to climb up the side of the canyon a bit and dark tunnels to find your way through before heading back down to the water. The biggest challenge for me were the places where you can climb up the rocks a bit and jump into the water. Obviously that involves both my fears at once and since I don’t normally even jump into the swimming pool I wasn’t completely sure I was going to actually do it. There was always a way to get around these things so copping out was an option.

The first jump into the river was a smallish one so I decided pretty quick just to go for it. I’m sure I looked very awkward doing it but it wasn’t too bad and I only swallowed a little bit of water. I avoided the second one which was a lot higher but when it came to the third I watched lots of people doing it and started considering facing my fear.

It took a while but I decided to climb up the rock and do it. My son climbed up behind me and was encouraging me to go for it. I faltered quite a few times at the top. I couldn’t quite bring myself to actually jump. My legs were jelly looking over the edge but at the same time I was trying to tell myself that it was completely safe and everyone else was doing it and was fine. I don’t know if you’ve ever had to push yourself to do something that really scares you? If you have you’ll know what I was going through up there. Well in the end I managed to close my eyes and practically throw myself into the water. Unfortunately there is no photographic evidence because by the time I actually plucked up the courage the guide had put his camera away thinking that it wasn’t going to happen. 😝 Somewhere out there though are about 20 people who can vouch that I went through with it. The pic below shows someone else in the group doing the same jump so you can see what it looked like. I guess mine probably looked a lot less confident though 😂.

I’m not sure how much the whole experience helped me to conquer my fears but I’m glad I did it. Maybe next time it will be a little easier to persuade myself to jump even if I only manage to jump into the swimming pool.

I’m writing this post on the plane home so by the time I post it I’ll be safely back in my own house. No doubt it will be a lot cooler and damper than I’ve been used to for the last week or so but there will be benefits to being home too. At least I won’t get eaten by mozzies tonight, maybe just midgies!

Croatia so far…

I’m writing this this morning just in case I don’t make it home. 😝 Today we’re going canyoning which (from what I understand) basically involves two of my biggest fears – heights and water – including scary things called rapids!! I am determined to start facing more of my fears though so I’m gonna do it. Hopefully this won’t be my last post. 😂

So far Croatia has been gorgeous! I’ve definitely got my heat and sunlight fix for a little while. The temperature has been somewhere between 32 and 37 degrees Celsius every day and probably not much lower than 25 at night. Our apartment is close to the beach and there’s a shared pool so we’ve spent a bit of time at both of those. We’ve mixed up eating out and eating in but everything we’ve tasted has been really good.

In the first few days here we explored the old town of Split. It’s really pretty! We caught a glimpse of it in the dark last night too.

Split, Croatia

We’ve also been to Krka National Park which has the most stunning waterfalls. You can swim there in certain places too which is particularly welcome in this heat.

Krka National Park

On the way back I did something I’ve been putting off for a while – I drove a left hand drive car on the right hand side of the road (I’m used to driving on the left in the UK). It wasn’t as scary as I thought it would be. Mind you my family might not agree 😂. I’m starting to get the hang of it though.

We sheltered from the heat one day for a couple of hours in Vranjaca Cave which was impressive. I couldn’t really capture how awesome it looks with my phone. It was really fun to explore though.

Vranjaca Cave

Yesterday we took a catamaran to Korcula Island (about 2.5 hours away) to spend time with my friend E and her family. It was my daughter’s 24th birthday. I don’t know how it’s possible that I have a 24 year old! We had a nice catch up with our friends and enjoyed a swim in the turquoise blue sea water and a meal together before we headed back to our apartment.

Well that’s all from Croatia for now. I’m hopeful that today’s adventure won’t be my last. I’ll fill you in soon. X