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.
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.
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!