I heard the bungee jump instructor shout these words and I jumped off a perfectly stable platform to the ground 600 metres below.
I was in Monterrey, Mexico, where I travelled with three fellow film students. We were attending the city’s international film festival for six nights. Earlier in the week, Veronica asked if anyone wanted to go bungee jumping and I said I would.
She asked a few people but no one seemed to know where to go. I didn’t hear about bungee jumping again until the last day. Our schedule had freed up so Veronica asked around and a hotel car service driver gave her the information: a ride to and from the site is 700 pesos (about $60 Cdn) and the jump itself is about 370 pesos (about $30 Cdn). We got into his car and made our way to the mountain.
Most people may be surprised, but I’ve always had a bit of a thrill-seeking side.
When I was 10-14, my cousin and I would climb buildings or structures and jump off (especially in the winter) or we would cause trouble around Moosonee. And it wasn’t because of peer pressure or boredom. Rather, I genuinely enjoyed the thrill of climbing and being atop high places or eluding the victims of our mischief or the police.
I also enjoyed the rides at Canada’s Wonderland or the midway. This thrill-seeking aspect subsided in high school. Perhaps it was because I had moved to Timmins and no longer had a partner-in-crime.
I had always wanted to bungee jump and skydive. The sensation of freefall must feel amazing, I thought. The buildings in Moosonee cannot compare to the bungee tower or plane. I decided that I will do both at least once in my life.
My new partner-in-crime and I arrived at the resort about 30 minutes south of the downtown area in the mountain Aug. 28.
Earlier, Veronica asked who should go first and I didn’t answer directly. I just said we’ll paper-rock-scissors for it. Once there, however, Veronica said she’d go first since it was her idea.
While I always wanted to bungee jump, I grew nervous at the prospect. I imagined the step-by-step process of jumping and the possible view of looking down as I fell. I realized it would be terrifying.
So I was relieved when Veronica went first, because I thought, if she can do it, I can. Or, if she didn’t jump, I wouldn’t have to.
Veronica jumped and I was surprised at how she calmly let herself fall and did not make a sound throughout the whole ordeal. I guess it can’t be that bad, I thought. Later she said she was focusing on enjoying the experience.
It was my turn and as I put on the gear, I was excited but that anxiety lingered. My feet were essentially shackled and I had to hold the chain that connected the waist and leg straps. I felt like a prisoner walking the green mile as I made my way down the platform.
I reached the end and the instructor explained the equipment and the process of getting back up. It was at this point that the realization of what I was doing hit me: I was about to jump off the side of a cliff. I kept my focus on him throughout, trying to maintain my composure.
At last he instructed me to walk to the ledge and that’s when I looked down for the first time.
The lush green treetops were a long way down, 600 metres at least. The texture and colour reminded me of broccoli.
There were also some open spaces where I could see the ground and rocks.
The instructor asked if I wanted to jump forward or backwards. Who would want to jump backwards for their first jump? I wanted to see the ground coming so forward to it was.
I tightly grasped the handles as I placed my feet into the final position for the jump.
The instructor began the countdown: “3...2... “
At this point, my legs grew incredibly shaky and my grip on the handles tightened. I didn’t want to jump instead. The specific idea or thought of dying didn’t come to mind, but I realized later this was my body’s instinct. Don’t jump or you`re going to die, it was telling me. Then, consciously, I remembered that Veronica jumped ahead of me and that I didn’t want to chicken out. I might also regret it. The instructor didn’t pause.
I put my arms out and let myself fall forward. I remember as I leaned forward I thought, ‘There’s no going back now,’ and I could feel that odd sensation in my gut you feel when a plane bobs up and down.
I hate to use the cliché, but everything happened so fast. I dropped at a high speed and the ground came at me so fast. Again, I don’t recall the specific thought of dying. I just thought, ‘Holy crap, I’m going to smack into the ground.’ Also, I remember feeling like my gut was being pushed in, but I later realized my abdominals were contracting, perhaps in a futile brace for impact.
I felt the bungee cord tighten as I decelerated to a brief stop and I bounced back up. The instinctive fear I had dissipated and the adrenaline flowed. I started to laugh and enjoy the experience as I bounced, the blood rushing to my head as I twisted and turned upside down.
From the cliff, Veronica asked how I felt and I shouted “AWESOME” between laughs.
Finally, I stopped bouncing and the instructor lowered a cable I was to attach to my waist strap to bring me up.
I couldn’t stop smiling as I removed the straps. My hands were shaky as I retrieved my wallet and keys.
Bungee jumping was an incredible and terrifying experience – but the payoff is an adrenaline rush and a spectacular memory and story. I would gladly do again.
Maybe I’ll go backwards next time.
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