What do you do when you turn 80? Lorne’s Ray Elliott held a whopping-great party with family and friends, bonfires around the farm and conversations until the wee hours.
Then, a few days later, he jumped out of a plane.
His bowls mates at the Kew Country Club couldn’t believe it.
“They kept asking, why on earth would I want to do that,” Ray said about sky diving.
“I just wanted to achieve something at this stage in my life. I wasn’t scared, well, it took me a month to get my head right.
“I just kept telling myself that I wasn’t scared. If you want to do something and tell yourself you want to, then you will.”
The experience of the plane climbing through the sky over Port Macquarie, being strapped to his instructor and stepping out of the plane one leg at a time then free falling, is still very fresh in Ray’s mind.
“The noise of the wind rushing past,” Ray covered his ears.
“My 80-year-old chops were flapping like crazy,” he said grasping his cheeks.
“You’re in the slipstream of the plane for a bit then gravity takes hold of you and you drop at about 200kms an hour. The ground below gets bigger and bigger. You’re like that for about 30 seconds, then there’s a crack like a gunshot near the back of your head. That’s the parachute going out.
“When that grabs you it’s quite a bit slower then and we (Ray and his instructor) had a nice chat as we came down. The conditions were spot on. It was wonderful.”
Conditions were so perfect that Ray’s instructor was able to make a landing, just 50m from where some of Ray’s children and grandchildren were standing, watching the spectacle. Unfortunately not all of the five sons, 13 grandchildren and eight great grandchildren could be there.
Ray’s sons purchased the sky dive for his 80th birthday and presented it at the party. Ray had talked about sky diving “for a while” before his family chipped in for the experience.
Neighbours Celia and Geoff said they saw Ray after the big jump.
“He was so excited and thrilled, he looked like he could take on the world,” Celia said.
“He is a grand fellow. He climbed Ayres Rock (Uluru) a few months ago.”
In June Ray joined a small tour group on a trip to central Australia. He was the only one to take on the notorious and dangerous trek to the top.
“I went out there to do it. It was very rewarding,” Ray said.
The 1.6km climb up Uluru is a challenge for anyone with a good level of fitness. The rock is 348m high (that’s taller than Sydney’s Centrepoint Tower) and the track is narrow with a chain fence to hang on to. One slip and “you’re gone” he said.
“I did King’s Canyon too and I’ve been up in a hot air balloon before; that’s a great way to start the day – champagne breakfast up in a balloon,” Ray said.
“I’ve done a flight over the South Pole. You’ve got to do these things while you can.”
Ray was born on his farm at Lorne and lived there most of his life, apart from a time in Old Bar when he worked in Taree. He bought the dairy farm from his father.
There have been a few travelling adventures over the years, and there’s plenty more to come.
“I’m looking at a tour to The Kimberleys, maybe. I’ve met some lovely people on small group tours.”
Ray is a keen social bowler and there is a trip to Lord Howe Island to play in the near future.
Neighbours, friends and family have all watched the video and photo show reel from the skydive, Ray said. As much as he enjoyed the thrill, it won’t be repeated.
“I probably won’t do it again. I’ve done it now. I’ll do something else. I’ve always wanted to try different things. When you’re my age, you’ve just got to keep going.”