Standing on the edge of a platform, looking down to the water below, I couldn’t help but wonder what on earth I had been thinking to get myself here. I hate heights. Just put you arms above your head and jump, the man said, you’re making it worse by waiting- but I just needed a minute, or ten.
The water below was turquoise and would have been inviting from a lesser height. After about ten minutes, I realised I was at the point of no return. I’d paid my money and there was no chance of a refund. At the end of the day, I was on a budget; I was going to get my money’s worth. So I jumped. Well, I stepped off. Instead of a graceful dive, my photos came out slightly less dignified and contorted as I fell through the air. I can’t bring myself to watch the video but I did it- partially with my eyes closed. I just remember a whoosh and the flash of a cliff whizzing passed before I was dangling upside down.
New Zealand is a beautiful place, but if you don’t like jumping off stuff or out of things, you are limiting your choice of available activities. Such as things are the norm for backpacker pastimes.
Bungee jumping wasn’t my first taste of extreme sports: I had already been sky-diving. Somehow that was different. From that height, vertigo doesn’t kick in in the same way. The world looks less real and seems to lurch forward a lot less. Also, those little planes make me feel sick, so I needed to get out into the fresh air.
The first time I giggled the whole of the way down. That was until I put my hands onto my harness straps and a voice behind me shouted “don’t touch that”! My second skydive was after bungee jumping and now I was a lot more nervous. We’d reached the Franz Josef Glacier and didn’t have enough time to do the popular hike over it. This seemed like as good a way to see it as any but I think I was still scarred from the bungee.
My final activity was canyon swinging. Sitting in my harness, I was clearly nervous. One supervisor held his hand out for a high-five but, as I hit it, the other pressed the button and I was flying through the air with the greatest of ease. This wasn’t as bad as the bungee. I could firmly feel my harness. I felt secure. There also wasn’t as much plummeting. I soon came to rest at the bottom of the arc, dangling above the canyon floor. It was kinda nice. Serene. Then I started to be dragged up and I found myself dangling a lot higher up. This was less serene. I was swinging side to side and couldn’t be brought into the safe platform until I was still. Terrifying. After an eternity, I returned to solid ground- I’d done it! But I still hate heights.
Originally written for The Gonzo Project