“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy” – Martin Luther King
And so I found myself standing at the end of a bungee platform. Words cannot express my terror. I was shaking. To jump or not to jump. The demon every bungee jumper is faced with. But despite my fear, my destiny was already predetermined by the decision I made in my mind. I WAS JUMPING.
During the summer before I headed back to study my Graduate Diploma of Education at university, I decided to go on an adrenaline packed and whirlwind tour of New Zealand. I booked myself onto one of the hop on/hop off buses and was on my merry way. When we arrived in Queenstown, the bus stopped at the Karawau Bridge bungee, the first commercial bungee jump opened in the world by AJ Hackett, dare devil extraordinaire, and standing at 43m distance. Many of the people on the bus flat out refused to go. Only a couple of people out of twenty of us accepted the challenge of doing the jump. I was not one of them. I stood, in sheer terror watching as people one by one, hurled themselves off this bridge, including a 90 year old man who looked so frail that me might snap from the force of it. And then I did the only thing I know how to do. I made a decision that despite the fear I was going to do it. But I was not going to do the bridge jump, if I was going to do it, I was going to do the biggest one. I swiftly booked myself a ticket for the Nevis Highwire before I could back out and headed to my accommodation with the others.
In an attempt to take my mind off it, I went out to the pub for the night with my friends and returned home at about 2am with the knowledge I might get 6 hours sleep before I had to get up in the morning and go meet the bus for the dreaded bungee. But sleep was not to be. I tossed….. I turned…. I had knots in my stomach… I couldn’t breathe. Overnight I had worked myself into such a sheer state of panic that I didn’t know whether I could go through with it.
I got up and my friend walked me down the road to the bus. I hopped on it on my own with no support from friends I was with. This was my challenge and I needed to meet it head on. The entire way along the road the bus driver played ‘inspirational music’ for the bungee that consisted of ‘Jump’ by Van Halen and ‘Jump’ by Kris Kross and every other song that contained the word ‘jump’. It was then and there I decided. It didn’t matter how afraid I was. I was going to do it. On three, I had to relinquish control of my body and just go. There was no such thing as failure. I acknowledged the fear demon, but I wasn’t going to let it rule me.
As we arrived and they put us into our harnesses that went over my legs and chest and then onto the cable car that took us out to the jumping platform. I had settled with an odd form of calm, of purpose. There were 18 of us jumping. And we had to jump in descending weight order. Being a tiny 61kg at that time, I was the second last person to jump. I had to wait and watch every other person before me go. And as more of them jumped, the pressure to jump myself continued to mount. And then finally it was my turn…..
I sat in the chair as they strapped the cuffs around my ankles and buckled me up. They stood me up, gave me my instructions and walked me out to the end of the ledge where I stood staring at a 134m bungee jump, the third highest bungee in the world at that time. Despite telling me not to look down, I did. It was an incredibly long way. “Mind over matter remember…. just breathe….” And so the count began. I looked forward. 3, 2, 1……. and then I just fell forward and let go…….
The initial feeling of falling was a shock to the system. My stomach went straight to my mouth and I was freaked. Eight seconds of freefall. Just enough time to freak out, come to terms with what is happening, start to enjoy the speed, start freaking out about the fact that the bungee chord hasn’t taken yet, consider death, have your life flash before your eyes, and then the bungee chord takes up and there is relief, the realization that you are indeed not dead and that “wahoooooooooo!!!”, this is actually quite fun.
After doing two bounces on the bungee chord, I had to reach up, pull the tag and release my feet so that I was held upright by the harness around my midsection. Once sitting upright, I got to take stock of the valley and the beauty around me while they pulled me back up to the platform. My face was bloodshot. Never before has that much adrenaline coursed through my veins. I had done it! I had faced one of my biggest fears, and I had won!
For the rest of the day I was so ramped on excess adrenaline I did not sleep for another 24 hours. It was the biggest buzz I have ever had in my life. Needless to say, this started the addiction I now have with bungee jumping. I went back to do the Karawau Bridge jump, just so that I could be dunked into the water at the end of it. It was a minor buzz compared to the Nevis Highwire but a buzz nonetheless. It would be years until I would come across my third bungee, the 143m Extremo Bungee in Monteverde, Costa Rica. The nerves were there, but the fear had lessened because I knew I could conquer it.
But despite my lessened fear with these, but still fear nonetheless, there is still one thing left to do. The tallest bungee in the world. While this one is technically 230m tall and in Macau, China, my fear of Chinese safety standards has me somewhat concerned. So I agreed with my friend to go and do the 220m Bloukran’s Bridge jump in South Africa, the second tallest bungee in the world. But to make up for the extra ten meters and to see how much of a bad ass the other can be, this time we have upped the ante. He says he is going to do it naked. And he wants to be wrapped in snakes and scorpions to be extra bad ass…. somehow I think the snakes and scorpions won’t be allowed. But if you raise me a 220m bungee, I will see you that raise, and I will see you there naked!