Until Hey Eleanor, I'd never even considered doing anything Xtreme. Skydiving? No thanks. Scuba diving? Maybe tomorrow. Base jumping? Really, I'm good. But then, because I committed to doing one thing every day that scares me, I crossed a few of these items off my list.
Most of these adventures were lots of fun. That said, I am by no means the kind of person who enjoys tricking my body into thinking I'm dying.
Precisely why I was only so-so about visiting Queenstown, New Zealand.
Queenstown is said to the Xtreme sports capital of the world. Some people think that's a selling point. For example, my husband. Others aren't quite as excited. For example, me.
Josh desperately wanted to bungy jump: It's where bungy jumping was invented! How could I not do it?!
Bungy jumping was the only thing I really didn't want to do. I told Josh that it was too much money ($150) for such a short experience (4-second free fall). And I'd already jumped out of a plane from 10,000 feet, which is was scarier, right?
Truth is, I was scared shitless.
From the moment we landed in New Zealand, my top secret mission was to dissuade Josh from bungy jumping. I figured it would be easy. We'd only be in Queenstown for 48 hours and there were literally dozens of cool Xtreme-ish things to do instead.
We should hang glide! Let's go kayaking. How about a jet boat?! Those look really fun. You've already been bungy jumping before, so let's try something new together!
He wasn't having it.
As I realized his mind couldn't be changed, I started to panic. I couldn't shake this idea that if Josh jumped, I would have to jump, too. Not because Josh was pressuring me, but because if I was already going to be at the bungy jumping place and I was truly terrified to do it, I just couldn't live with myself if I skipped.
I am a fear blogger, after all.
On our second day in Queenstown, Josh signed up for the AJ Hackett original bungy jump. You don't have to do it, Molly. You can go with as a spectator for free. Really, don't do it if you don't want to.
I didn't want to.
However, I'd been consumed with the should I or shouldn't I jump debate for weeks-- before we even left for the trip. The more I tried to come up with reasons to not do it, the more I knew this was the kind of paralyzing anxiety I was trying to squash. I should just get it over with. If I didn't, the fear would keep its quiet grasp on me. Eventually I would probably jump somewhere else that was way less cool OR never jump and always regret it.
I looked around the AJ Hackett sales office. There were dozens of people waiting to take the shuttle to the bridge. College-aged daughters with their moms, newly weds like us. Families with kids all set to go. I'd heard the wait to jump can be an hour due to the crazy amount of jumpers... I didn't want to be the one wimpy spectator. The fear-blogger too scared to jump, hanging out on the sidelines.
If all these guys were jumping, I could do it.
I'd seen a video of two people jumping tandem, so I asked the sales guy if Josh and I could jump together. He said sure, as long as the weather cooperated, which looked promising. If the wind picked up, I would have to jump alone. No refunds.
So we paid way too much money, weighed in and boarded the shuttle.
I was so crabby, stating I couldn't wait to be done. I think I even told Josh just don't even talk to me until it's over.
Doesn't bungy jumping sound fun so far?!
Twenty minutes later, we arrived at the Kawarau Bridge Bungy, perched 141 feet above the Kawarau Gorge. It was beautiful, but it wasn't exactly the scenic, natural vista I'd pictured. There was an enormous complex with a sprawling gift shop, a coffee bar, a spot for "liquid courage" and snacks. Plus, 12 kiosks for purchasing your bungy video and photos.
Disneyland for bungy jumping, if you will.
Before plummeting toward the river below, Josh and I first had to sign our lives away. Yes, we won't sue you if we die.
You guys are going tandem? said the Xtreme 23-year-old checking us in.
Yeah, is there a problem? I asked.
No, he said. I mean, it's less awesome cuz you have less freedom in your jump. But if you want to do it, it's cool I guess.
Whatever, Kyle or Chase or Cam or whoever you are!
We ventured to the observation deck, where a 10-year-old kid stood on the platform, grinning from ear to ear. The kid jumped effortlessly. He made it look easy.
Ugh, I'll have what he's having.
My feet poured with sweat, my face frozen in a permanent scowl. We walked toward the line to jump.
It was at this point that I realized there basically was no line. Aside from us, three people from our shuttle planned to jump. The rest, along with two (!) busses of Chinese tourists who arrived only to spectate, stood over yonder. Here I'd imagined everyone was jumping.
In reality, we were the crazy ones drawing the crowd.
A young woman escorted us to sort of caged area on the bridge. We each put on our own harness. Then, some guy with a bunch of tattoos wrapped a bath towel around our ankles. Next, two guys who look like they probably drink a lot of Red Bull did some head math to figure out which bungies to use so we would go far enough... but not too far.
I couldn't watch.
Next, they affixed a bungy to me and one to Josh. We were told to wrap our arms around each other. We were instructed to hang on tight the entire time. No problemo.
Josh and I clung each other (I clung to him, he was basically pulling me) and hopped to the edge of the two-foot-wide platform. Nothing between us and the river but 141 feet of air.
Josh reminded me: Fall forward, don't jump. And once we get going, send your left arm out.
Got it. Got it. The Xtremes told us to smile and wave at three cameras perched in different locales.
Josh said, You ready?
I felt him pulling me off the ledge. WAIT, I'M NOT READY!!!
But it was too late.
We fell forever. I closed my eyes and unleashed a scream so loud, I'm sure it was heard in Australia.
Then, falling again!
Then, falling again!
I didn't stop screaming until we were just dangling from the bridge, trying to grab on to the raft sent to fetch us.
I'd like to tell you this experience was so much more fun that I anticipated, but it was truly terrifying. I've never been so physically scared in my life. I don't even know what happened! Why do people do this?!
In no way did I have fun.
And then I saw this photo:
I sure look like I'm having fun. Maybe it was fun!
Maybe I was just happy to be alive. Who knows. I was overwhelmed with emotion.
I don't think I'll bungy jump again any time soon. It wasn't my brand of adrenalin rush, plus my throat hurt for two days-- that's how loud I screamed.
I was thrilled to have done it. I can't believe I found the courage to sign up and I am so thankful Josh was with me the whole way. You know what was fun? Jumping together. I never would've jumped if he hadn't dragged me off the edge. I love that guy.