ALTHOUGH I’M TERRIFIED of heights, I’ve got a big mouth.
That mouth sometimes gets me into awkward spots.
When I went to New Zealand to visit my brother in 2013, I promised friends and family that I would do a bungee jump, something big bro reminded me of daily while I was there.
My braggadocios behaviour soon left me when during a tour of the North island by car, we pulled nearer Lake Taupo, home of the ‘Highest Water Touch Bungee.’
All my smack talk and earlier bluster, supported by the fact that I had (somehow) completed a Skydive a year earlier and that the Bungee would be much easier were gone. At least with the skydive, the setting at 5000 feet was so remote and disconnected from reality. Here though, you could see the surface of the water where you could belly flop, ripping your ribcage apart and sending hungry aquatic life to the site of your bloodied and mangled corpse.
My butterflies had butterflies and I was so overcome by fear that I threatened to pull out. But I had already paid online and from the comfort of your sitting room at home, it had seemed like a lovely idea – a wistful, almost romantic setting some time in the future. But that time was now for me and I couldn’t be more petrified.
Encouraged by my two year old niece who climbed over the railing to watch and scream as the other jumpers fell through the air, I got in line and soon awaited my fate.
Videos and links that had been sent to me in the weeks leading up to the Bungee surfaced in my own mind now like a bloated corpse from the Lake below. Lines that hadn’t been tied correctly – snapping loose. Lines that looped around relieved bungee jumpers necks from the spring up again. Blood curdling screams from others watching a body slam into pavement below….
After a thirty minute wait of mindless fidgeting, teeth clenching, meditative breathing, cold sweating, stomach gurgling, fist pumping, motivational speaking activity, I soon found myself too soon at the front of a line where I could have waited a little longer to play out my demise on my internal silver screen.
“First time mate?”
“Yeah, is it obvious?” I said, wiping my sweaty palms on my shorts and sitting where they instructed me.
I fell into the seat and legs that had wobbled on the bridge across the lake (a scary task in itself where I dared not look over to fuel more nerves) were now being strapped up at the ankles by the two attendants who offered assurances, kind words and cross checked the lines.
The platform we were on was about the size of a cable car with two doors. One entrance, where the line of jumpers were assembled across the bridge and one exit – straight down.
They had me stand up and shuffle across to the edge of the platform. Either the cords around my ankles were very heavy or my legs were making one last show of resistance, but I managed the baby steps and felt nauseous as I stepped up to the little ledge.
It wasn’t close enough for their liking and with my head still raised and refusing to look down, felt the cool breeze and the heavy rope push me closer still until my tiptoes teetered over the edge. I was mindful of shouts from the wings but couldn’t dare look over and see my little niece who screamed at the top of her lungs.
You could have built a small bungalow with the bricks I was shitting at this point.
“Look up to the camera mate.”
My head tilted up and right slowly and looked into the camera before I took the plunge. The last image of my face, panic stricken and blanched white for my relatives to ponder, wondering what my last thoughts were before plummeting to my death.
“3. 2. 1. Go.“
I felt the gentle push on my back and practically fainted from the platform, having said my goodbyes in my heart, and the scream was frozen in my chest as my head raced down with arms spread, piercing through the air that rushed up at me until the cord tightened and I felt myself being pulled upwards again.
After a few seconds when the blood had returned to my head, I had the sense to pull on the pole that the kayakers used to pull me down, and they untied the knot around my ankles and I practically cried and hugged onto them like life buoys until we finally reached the shore.
People ask me which was scarier – Bungee or the Skydive? For me Bungee wins hands down because you’re jumping alone, it feeds my fear of heights more because I can recognise objects below, and your bungee line is your lifeline. Suited and booted in a couple of minutes. At least with the skydive, your anxious mind is satisfied with the training drills, instructor on your back, extra parachute, etc.
During a couple of crazy years between the ages of 30-32 of facing my fears I’ve been able to chart what I consider to be the scariest adventures/moments of my life so far. They are:
What’s the scariest thing you’ve ever done? What’s on your bucket list?
image credit taupobungee.co.nz