Have you ever taken a leap of faith?
Have you ever bungee jumped?
If you’re going to bungee jump for the first time in your life, and you’re likely to only ever bungee jump once, which bungee would you choose?
The one that’s 47m high and sits on a bridge, above a flowing, wide and deep river, or the one that sits some 134m high in the middle of a gorge with a rocky, rapidly flowing creek at the bottom?
In fact, would you bungee at all?
It had been on my list of things to do for a long time – the only reason it hadn’t happened sooner was opportunity. I can’t tell you why I wanted to do it – I just did. I wanted to take a leap of faith. I wanted adventure. I always want adventure.
Here I was, earlier this year, in New Zealand, the home of adventure and bungee jumping, lined up with a few friends after a week of hiking, to take on the highest bungee jump in New Zealand.
This jump at Nevis is a title contender for the world’s most terrifying bungee jump. The build up alone is interesting – you start in a four-wheel drive bus and head up, up and up the bumpy mountain road until you arrive at the stark and stony Nevis gorge, in the middle of which, 134m up, hangs a cabin, blowing in the wind, which you reach courtesy of an open-air cable car.
There’s that wrestling inside me, fear fighting with bravery, while adventure watches on – wondering what to do. Take the leap of faith – or not.
To get to the crunch – here I am, standing on the edge of the platform that swings off cables 150m or so above the gorge. It’s swaying in the wind as I’m trying to keep my balance standing with my feet tied together. It’s a novel experience.
I’m listening carefully to my instructions.
My instructor takes me through what I need to do:
Look at the camera.
Shuffle to the edge
Put your toes over the edge
Look outwards not down
Count to three and then dive.
Me – Why is it called bungee jumping then?
Not the time he says.
Me – ummmm
3, 2, 1 Dive.
Done. I’m over the edge.
I dived off that platform, straight out like I was told and I’m falling. I can’t hear anything the wind is rushing past my ears so fast.
Or is it me rushing so fast past the wind?
I’m diving for a long time and there’s no tension on the ropes. In fact it’s a full 8 seconds of freefall that feels like much longer.
I am as close to flying as I have ever been. The screams I expect to come from my core don’t come. There’s no need. I’m flying and I’m as free as I’ve ever felt.
I forget to be scared of crashing to my death in the gorge. I forget to be scared of the ropes breaking. I forget to be scared of slipping out of my harness.
In fact, if I describe the free fall feeling, the word I find best to do that, is peace. I was at peace and I didn’t want it to end.
Gradually I feel the tension come in to the ropes until I slow to the lowest point, before being sprung back up in to the air from which I had come. Three times up and down before the winch is lowered and connects with my rope and starts to pull me back up to the cabin suspended over the gorge from where I’d come.
A slow and smooth ascent, upright thanks to my ability to follow the instructions for turning myself up the right way, and enjoying, in a very serene and peaceful way, the cold wind, the gorge, the views, the helplessness.
I was surprised by this adventure. I was expecting an exhilarating, hair raising, scream worthy activity where the adrenalin would be pumping through my body. Instead, I experienced a leap of faith, a sense of peace and freedom like never before.
They call it an adrenaline sport and I understand that – in the lead up there was definitely adrenaline pumping through my body.
But the dive, the fall – I’d call that a meditation.
Sometimes you don’t always get what you expect.
Sometimes you get what you need.
Adventure looked and felt different today.
What does adventure look like to you?
“Let your life be your message” Mahatma Gandhi