This was the day we would take a drive out to visit Lake Pukaki and Lake Tekapo about three hours away. We hit the road early to make the most of fall's limited daylight, ready for a more relaxed pace. When we came across A.J. Hackett Bungy, the world's first Bungy site, I was yet unaware of just how far from relaxed I'd be getting.
We grabbed the cameras and descended the spiral walkramp to the viewing deck positioned at one end of the Kawarau Bridge, which stretched over the river of the same name. Not two days before when asked if I'd ever Bungy jump, my answer was a swift no; I'd seen the jolt people received when they reached the end of the cord and it looked painful. But as we watched a man spread his arms and leap into a serene looking swan-dive, then smoothly stretch down and swing back up after reaching the cord's ultimate stretch point, I experienced a nearly immediate desire to do it, myself. There was not jolt, no whiplash, nothing that looked the least bit uncomfortable, aside from the whole jumping off a bridge thing. I was bubbling over with excitement and a little bit of fear (the best combination for anyone who enjoys a shot of adrenaline), but Chris kept a straight face. Remember, not so fond of heights. I went back and forth. It's too expensive, I shouldn't do it. But this is the birthplace of Bungy, how can I not do it? What a fantastic place to Bungy jump for the first - and maybe only - time!
Can you guess which way I went?
The guys who strapped me into the safety harness and then ankle straps were immune to the excitement of a first-timer, but it didn't matter. As I watched one guy wrap my ankles tightly I asked why no one had been screaming. They hadn't noticed. I said there was absolutely no way I was going to be able to keep myself from doing so, and they said that I got to be the first of the day. It was quick once my ankles and safety harness were hooked to the Bungy cord. I was instructed to walk out to the edge of the platform, which I did in tiny mini-steps. Then it was time for a couple pictures before the leap. I could hear my heart pounding in my ears as the guy told me to let go of the handle - I didn't realize I was holding on. He told me to reach my arms out and look up, a smart way to keep from not hesitating before hurtling yourself off a bridge, and before I had time to think he counted down, 3, 2, 1, JUMP!
All I saw was that gorgeous, turquoise colored water in front of me, and all I heard was my own hideous scream as I flew toward it. Seriously, I could never be in a horror movie because my scream was disgusting. It had the guttural quality of someone who is truly being sawed in half. The vertical fall sent my brain into I'm-going-to-die adrenaline-pumping overload, but once I swung back up, it was all peace. My favorite ride ay any amusement park is the one where they shoot you straight up into the air, and then you free-fall back down. After the free-fall, you usually shoot back up again, then down again, and so on. The feeling of calm after that rush from the fall when you're just floating in the air like a feather is what the rest of my Bungy experience felt like. Just me, swinging slowly up and down, back and forth over the Kawarau River, laughing from the relief of surviving...
Ask me now if I'd do it again, and my answer is now a swift, yes! But given the opportunity to do a second jump for a third of the price right after my big jump, and I said, Thanks, I'm good. Once was enough, and besides, I didn't want to take away from the unique awesomeness of my first jump. I got the T-shirt, the pictures, and a high-five from a couple of Japanese women who praised my courage, and I was set.
When we left to get back to our scheduled day trip, I couldn't come down. My heart rate remained happily up, I was so excited and proud of the very impromptu nature of what I'd just done. I'm a planner, to the extent of practicing certain conversations in my head before they happen so I'm better prepared. Anything on a whim kind of stresses me out, but this didn't. This was amazing and liberating in a way I hadn't expected. Aside from the fear of plummeting to your death, there is something innately unnatural about willing yourself to step (or jump) off of a platform of a bridge. Something to do with our primal need to survive, or something :) But doing it was kind of an eye-opener for me. If I can just do something I'm ultimately afraid fo doing, instead of obsessing over it and over-thinking it as I always do, it might just work out okay. I might survive it, and I might just have a great time. Apply that to what you will. As for me, I'm a little less afraid of taking a leap now, and I thank Mr. A.J. Hackett for helping me out with that.