If trying to post every day has taught me anything, it’s that quality can start to dip if you feel rushed. That’s why, for the first time, I’ve decided to expose you to a guest post by my partner-in-travel (and everything), Tim.
While many of our travel tales overlap, we do have a very different style of observing and writing, so it’s not just more of the same. Travelling with a partner can be rewarding and frustrating in the same day, but it does mean exposure to experiences outside your area of comfort or realm of known interests.
With that in mind, here is a post on something I would never do (well, maybe not never, but a fear of heights is a tough thing to overcome-I’m working on it): jumping off a 43-metre-tall bridge in the south of New Zealand. Keep reading for Tim’s first-hand experience of that exactly.
As soon as I got off the bus from Christchurch to Queenstown(the so-called adventure capital of the world), I was surrounded by ads, booking agencies, and promos for heart-wrenching activities in and around the region. I felt right at home, and I knew it would be hard to get away from the temptation of an adrenaline rush here.
After just one day of some serious thought, I caved. I went to my guesthouse’s front desk and booked an anxiety-inducing bungy jump at the historic Kawarau Bridge.
I waited patiently for several days. I tried to ignore the anxiety, and was more or less successful as I occupied myself in the mountains of the New Zealand alps.
The morning of the jump, I woke in a normal mood. I walked to downtown Queenstown and to the AJ Hackett Bungy headquarters.
Daredevils AJ Hackett and Henry van Asch commercialized the world’s first bungy jump at the Kawarau Bridge in 1988. Now, New Zealand’s South Island is the place to leave inhibitions behind. I signed in to the font desk and then took a seat, watching videos on the big screen of bungy jumps, canyon swings, and ziplining in the Queenstown and Otago region. As I watched, I could feel the anxiety starting to build. Soon, myself and the three others participating in the jump were led outside to our bus that would take us to the Kawarau Bridge.
We left Queenstown promptly and passed through the mountains and vineyards. I had seen the bridge on my way into Queenstown, and now I would see it close up. After thirty minutes, we pulled into the large sleek facility perched on the edge of the gorge. Here, the bridge crosses the gap of the deep canyon.
Inside, we were greeted by staff wearing black shirts and headsets, and were directed in front of a large projector screen. The video began, showing a progression of clips of jumpers with interviews and commentary from Hackett and van Asch about the history of the terrifying practice. My anxiety was mounting. When the ten-minute film concluded, I was given a brief physical assessment and signed a waiver. Now I was outside, where the morning group was on the wooden and steel bridge, lined up for their 43-metre, split-second fall to the river.
On the bridge, I assessed the depth from the point of view of the jumpers. But, it seemed that we weren’t the only ones here. Dozens of onlookers gathered on the railing parallel to the gorge, cameras out and cheering and clapping occasionally. The blonde Australian woman in my group stood for a photo with two Chinese tourists like she was a celebrity.
I would be the last of my group to make the drop. Those ahead of me yelled and screamed the moment they leapt from the tiny wooden perch, causing my anxiety to peak in rushes.
I laid down on the wooden planks of the bridge where my ankles were bound by a padded towel and then secured with the elastic bungy rope. My ankles and waist harness were tightly secure, but now my heart was racing as I shifted to the perch. Looking down at the milky-blue river, I focused on calming my breathing.
“Is everything good with the rope?” I asked, feeling slightly embarrassed. The two guys supervising the jumps looked confused.
“Yeah, I think so,” one of them said teasingly.
Sunburnt and acting casual, they looked like they had been doing this forever. I laughed and realized that my fears and concerns would be leaving me behind on the bridge.
“So I just jump straight out, right?” I asked, instinctively trying to delay the jump. “Yeah, just stick your arms out and push out with your legs.”
My feet were now on the edge of the perch, my toes sticking out with only the rope slightly holding me back. All thoughts were now replaced by adrenaline.
“Ready? Three, two, one, and… bungy!”
There were no thoughts, only the rush of air and fire in my chest. Incredible. For a second, only feeling the force of gravity against the air resisting my free-falling body. I felt my mind and body move faster than ever before.
I came within only a few metres of the rushing water, when the elastic rebounded my limp body upwards and then gravity shot me down again. Dangling upside down, I cursed out loud to myself and panted heavily, my eyes constantly shifting to numerous images in the gorge. Now my heart was racing even more, as I tried to make sense of the last few seconds.
Suddenly, as I was feeling the breeze from the water and reaching for my assistance to detach, I felt euphoria. Even though I was just another madcap who jumped uncompelled from 43 metres, I felt accomplishment, happiness, and a sense of relief—like I had defied human instinct and come out unscathed. I left many inhibitions behind in a matter of seconds, and I felt addicted to the sudden rush.
It seemed Queenstown had lived up to its reputation.
(All photos from AJ Hackett Bungy)