What does it feel like to do a bungee jump?
I have a slightly different post for you today, one I have been meaning to write for months now. In February this year (2012), I flew to New Zealand to meet up with my friend Paul for a week in Queenstown on the South Island.
One thing we decided to do was a bungee jump. It’s something I had always wanted to do, and it seemed like the perfect place to do it -after all, commercial bungee jumping started in Queenstown.
I started doing some research on the internet about what it was like, but didn’t find anything detailed about the process, or the feelings, so I decided to write something and try to fill that gap.
So this post will try to answer the question of what doing a bungee jump for the first time feels like.
A lot of my experience was shaped by the extremely professional operation that A.J. Hackett runs in Queenstown as their whole operations is designed to manipulate you into successfully completing your jump.
1. Signing up and pre-paying
We signed up for our jump and paid in advance at a city centre location. This is important, because the photos do nothing to prepare you for how high up the actual jump feels when you’re standing on something looking down into space. Once you’ve paid your non-refundable fee, you have a significant stake in actually doing your jump.
2. Arriving at the centre
Our first reaction was ‘that is so high up, there is no way I am going to be able to jump off that bridge’. The check-in process is very quick though: go to the desk, sign in, get weighed, go to the toilet for one last time, then walk out onto the bridge. Luckily we didn’t have to wait at all.
3. Preparing for the jump
My number was first, so I was asked to sit down and they immediately started harnessing me up. First I put on a harness, then the bridge guys (jump masters?) wrapped a towel around and between my ankles, then they attached the rope. They also asked how wet I wanted to get (one of the benefits of jumping above a river is that you have some flexibility with regards to hitting the surface).
4. Out on the ledge
Then very quickly I was walked out onto the ledge. It’s just like walking the plank in old pirate films, a short platform over the void. The guy with me was very matter of fact, and I can only describe my feelings as controlled terror. I was terrified, but functional. It took me a really long time to let go of the bridge (as you can see in the video below).
5. The mind game
Now this is where they get very clever with the mind-control techniques. First of all, the bungee centre is a tourist attraction: coaches arrive regularly and large numbers of tour groups watch the bungee jumps. As I was doing mine there were probably about thirty people watching from the side. What the staff do is make you look over and see just what kind of an audience you have (where he tells me to wave at the other camera, that is where the people are standing). Now on top of the financial commitment you also have a serious pride commitment -there is no way you are going to back out in public. The final thing is that it is all very quick: you look at one camera, wave at another, then have a five, four, three, two, one countdown and jump.
6. Stepping off
This was slightly surreal. I wasn’t sure that I would be able to do it until I actually did it. At first, it felt like time stopped (like those cartoons where the characters hang in the air before looking down and dropping). Then it was just falling through the air. The thing that surprised me is that there is no jerk at all, the whole motion is very smooth as the bands take up the slack and stretch. Once you are bouncing around it is exhilarating.
7. Back to earth
I was collected by two guys in an inflatable boat, as you can see in the video. After my jump, I ran up the steps at the side of the river to see my mate Paul jump after me. We then spent another 30 minutes or so there drinking coffee and enthusing about how amazing the whole experience had been.
Doing a bungee jump was a great experience and I am very glad I did it. It is a completely artificial experience, but at the same time one of the few in modern life where you have the chance to do something that feels incredibly dangerous -to face mortal fear and push through it- while at the same time remaining almost completely safe.
The stunning location was a huge bonus, and doing it with a close friend just cemented the experience.
If you have the chance, I would recommend doing a bungee jump at least once. I may do it again, but I don’t think it would have the same primal effect on me: having done it once, I now know it is safe.
My greatest adventure
As a family, we often travel to many parts of the world; we have been engaged in many types of adventures together as we enjoy quality time. We marked down all of our adventures, but one of the most memorable adventures is when we traveled to Brazil last year. I was excited because I had longed to go for a bungee jump to conquer my fears of heights. After 7 hours in the air, we finally arrived in Brazil to start our one-week holiday. When I looked at the site, I was comforted by the fact that it was a beautiful place. Below the bridge was a blue river running in the middle of the mountains. This place was going to help me overcome my fears. The bungee jumping instructor said that all I need to do is climb to the top and then jump. For him the process was simple since a rope was tied on one of my legs to prevent me from falling into the river, this was a bold move I was about to make.
I climbed on top of the mountain; the view was breathtaking I did not realize how beautiful the world was until I was 44 feet above the ground ready to fall down the river. Bungee jumping was something I had never tried before, even though there were instructors who gave the best pep talks, cracking jokes just to make me be at ease, I was still afraid of jumping. They were the best because they managed to convince thousands of people to go down the river with only a rope tied to their legs as the only safety guarantee. I do not know how long they had been doing this job, but one of them looked straight into my eyes with a smug look on his face and said to me, I have been doing this for a long time .He encouraged me that after jumping you, I will feel much better. At this point, I looked down at my feet as the instructor asked me to move closer to the edge of the jumping area, I was a nervous wreck, they told me not to look down, but it was not easy to avoid it.
When I saw, the ground below I felt like backing out. I just remembered that I had made a long trip for the experience, so I had to do it. I asked myself what could be the worst thing that could happen. Something in my mind kept telling me not to do it, but somehow the voices next to me kept saying I could do it. When they started counting down from 6 to 1 that was my queue to jump. I had only watched such thing in movies. I believed that it was impossible to jump down the river like in the movies. I imagined myself screaming like a possessed person fighting imaginary ghosts.
I looked around if I could get something to hold onto but there was nothing. I eventually accepted my fate by allowing myself to fly by the time I was half way through I felt as if I was in another world, this is what I had been dreaming of. Jumping down the river was one of the craziest things I had ever done my whole life. I could not imagine doing it for the second time because what I had gone through was terrifying. I cannot imagine if I would survive another round of bungee jumping. Even though I did not die, what I experienced was enough to make me not think of bungee jumping again.