Archive for September, 2011

The Absolutely, Positively Fastest Way to Get from Australia to Finland

I love the smell of jet fuel in the morning

Two easy steps: Jetstar from Darwin to Singapore, Finnair from Singapore to Helsinki. Of course, this might not be the fastest route for you, unless you already happen to be in the Top End. I was, which meant I was in the passport control queue at Helsinki Airport in less than 19 hours after wheels off at Darwin.

I was flying on a OneWorld ticket, and as Qantas is code sharing on the Jetstar flight, I was actually served a hot meal! I also got a beauty bag full of useless goodies, such as single-use socks that will have covered your feet in ugly black fluff by the time you take them off; to be fair, the ear plugs might come in handy one day. This was notable mainly because neither Finnair nor, I think, Qantas actually hand out stuff like ear plugs and eye shades (and certainly not inflatable travel cushions) any longer.

Australia’s Most Eligible Batchelor


No, the title is not mispelled (sic). I am of course talking about Batchelor, NT, a tiny town on the edge of Litchfield National Park in the Top End, where Australia’s No 1 skydiving boogie (for my money anyway) takes place at the end of July every two years.

The turnout this year was smaller than in 2009. This seems to be a trend: I don’t think I’m just imagining that there are fewer and fewer jumpers around on weekends and at events. (Please comment if you think otherwise; I’d love to be proven wrong.) To be fair, 2009 was the 30th anniversary of Rel Week, so people probably were making an extra effort to be there.

Only in the Top End...

The smaller turnout was mainly noticeable in big ways, or the lack thereof. I think the biggest jump all week was a 20-way, whereas 2 years ago 30-ways were happening all the time. Some of the smaller ways (16 or so) were done as formation jumps from two Caravans for practice purposes, which was still good fun – opportunities for formation loads being normally few and far between.

The jumps, however, are not and never were what makes Batchelor special. Imagine a place far from everywhere and everything, where the weather is always perfect, where the sky is always sunny, where you can catch up with old friends and meet new ones, all of them with a happy smile on their face. Where you can take a day off and swim with crocodiles (apparently someone saw a small freshie at Berry Springs). Oh, and where your mobile phone probably doesn’t work. That’s what Rel Week is. I realise this makes me sound like a soppy, sentimental idiot – guilty as charged.

Swooper in Batchelor

A swooper heading towards the back lawn at Batchelor

I had two personal goals for the week. First, swooping the back lawn, as I didn’t have the jump numbers to be allowed to do so back in 2009. I am happy to report that the mission was successful, and I didn’t even hit any of the palm trees lining the landing area unlike some other skydivers who shall remain nameless. Second, jumping from a chopper, also a resounding success. Thanks to Helen, Bart, Terry, Jay and Phil for a great jump. It was also my second time ever in a chopper – the first being earlier that day, when a few of us were treated to a FREE (!) chopper ride which must have lasted for about a minute at an altitude of no more than 150 ft, but hey, a free chopper ride is a free chopper ride. Yes, I did ring the bell.

Big thanks to Darwin Parachute Club for yet another great boogie – hope to see you all again in 2013! EFS!

Koppel, yours truly and Hubert chillin' out at Berry Springs