Monday, November 8, 2010

This is easily the most scared I have ever been in my life

It seems like there are two culturally acceptable ways to really scare the crap out of yourself: Bungee jumping and skydiving. There's other far more frightening things that one can do in life, but they are generally fringe activities that involve watermelon sized cojones and well developed law avoidance techniques. I've long thought that skydiving doesn't seem so bad (the potential impact seems distant and avoidable) but bungee jumping has always seemed like something that would really scare the hell out of me. I guess sometimes we do indeed have some sense of ourselves.

So, yesterday, after determining the weather would cooperate, Andrea and I figured that a nice bungee jump would be the best way to celebrate my birthday (hooray for me!). We hopped in the car and slowly made our way up to Whistler, making stops along the way.

Lesson 1 - There's some nice sights on the way up to Whistler when you're not in a rush.

We stopped at both the falls near Squamish and at the eagle viewing area in Brackendale. The falls are a nice, quick little walk into the woods and offer a spectacular view of lots of falling water. The eagle viewing offered a view of some glorious fall colours, a few confused aquatic mammals (seals?), lots of dogs and a couple of eagles. This was essentially a scouting run for later in the eagle season. Both are worth the detour.
Eventually, we arrived at Whistler Bungee. The turn-off is about 20 seconds down the road from the entrance to the Olympic Nordic Center. It's a few kilometers in to the bungee zone and left me yearning for rear wheel drive and no passengers. Eventually, the bungee jumping bridge looms overhead, you park your car and hike yourself to the top.

Lesson 2 - Bungee jumping places want you to think you are fat.

Seriously. They must add at least 10 pounds on to their scale. There's no way I weigh that much. No way.

The bridge spans the canyon and there are some lovely viewing areas on the far side. We hiked around for a bit and watched from a distance as others jumped. It really did not seem scary to me at this point.
We hiked back on to the bridge and watched some dudes jump. Andrea decided at this point that she would go first, or else she probably wouldn't go at all. In hindsight, this was probably best for all of us.

Lesson 3 - Australians and New Zealanders love this kind of stuff.

Drive around New Zealand and it's amazing how creatize they are in figuring out ways to disrepect nature and turn it in to a carnival ride. The abundance of Australians at Whistler Bungee hints that perhaps New Zealand does not have a monopoly on this behaviour.

Lesson 4 - Things can progress with uncomfortable rapidity.

There you are, standing on this giant bridge. Then they just kind of throw a harness on you and you're ready to go. Andrea got strapped in and I still had no real feelings of what was coming. I took a few prep photos and then she was strapped in and out on the edge. Quick countdown and she was off. Screaming the whole way down, but holding remarkable form. The Aussies seemed to be genuinely impressed that she elected to go head first and that she held her swan dive all the way to the bottom. Guess which one is the professional shot!
Lesson 5 - Terror can set in very quickly.

There was one guy set up to jump before me, and then it was my turn to get strapped in. Things began to abruptly change. In a matter of seconds, I went from not really worrying or thinking about things to having genuine thoughts of not being able to go through with this. I really started to feel a bit scared. The Aussies start to lay it on pretty thick with feigned incompetence and doomsday scenario instructions. I honestly was just not paying attention to what they were saying.

So there you are, strapped in, a bungee tied to your chest hands pushing you out on to the little diving board. It's humourous to watch the Aussies manhandle the petrified tourists out in to the jumping position and it would probably have been impossible for me to go through with it without the expert handling of this crew. Terrified is not a strong enough word. The mind becomes incapable of even coming up with an excuse for going through with it. You're out on this tiny little platform, there's a burly Australian blocking your path of return, there's people ahead of you (girls even!) that were strong enough to go through with it, there's this gaping hole of water staring back up at's beyond terror. It's fear of failure battling fear of death. It's your mind telling you that this is incredibly stupid while at the same time telling you that many people have done this before you and you will be okay. It's unnatural.

Lesson 6 - Go backwards.

On the drive up, my thoughts were on maximizing the experience. "How do I get the most of a 20 second experience?" I worried that I might miss out on the full impact. I worried that it would be over with too quickly. I stupidly decided that head first was the best way to go.

I stood there, peering off this massively tall structure. The countdown started and I was 100% certain that I would not be able to go through with it. It's down to three and your mind is peeing it's pants with terror. The countdown is over and there's absolutely no choice other than to George Bush (plunge in headfirst with no thoughts of the consequences) or Michael Ignatieff (explain away your failure with long-winded, verbiose claims of superiority). I jumped.
This is where "go backwards" becomes advice that you should take. It's easy to hold your shit together for the first few seconds of freefall. Then your feet start drifting higher and higher above your head and you THINK YOU WILL DIE! It does not matter that you know something is tied to you. The earth is coming at you faster and faster. Even if that cord does manage to hold you, your body is not in the right position. Things are going to go badly. If I hadn't peed beforehand I would have wet myself. My arms started flailing. I was not at my best. This is actually the precise moment that I really thought I might die, captured from two different angles.
Eventually, things start to sort themselves out. You're not facing down anymore. You're not really sure what direction you're facing. You're no longer going down, but it still feels completely wrong and scary. They say that the best feeling is at the top of the first bounce, but at this point I have not regained my faculties enough to in any way comprehend that this is an enjoyable moment. Around here I gripped the big puffy end of the bungee like a scared baby. "Don't put your arms anywhere in front of you" I remember them saying up top, but I don't care. I just don't care at all. I grip it and I'm scared and I'm not ashamed to admit it.

Lesson 7 - It eventually gets better.

It finally reaches a point where things aren't so bad. I relax my arms a bit. I become conscious of my shrunken cojones pinched in my harness/jean diaper. I let out a wail of relief and profanities. I feel good about life. I bounce around for a while and become conscious of how stupid I just looked, how pathetic my jump was and how I'm really only half a man. I don't really care though.

Eventually, they hoist you back up and things feel better and you get a bit of a crazed look in your eyes. Ya, I have a moustache.


Marty said...

I like the shot of Andrea standing on the platform before her jump. Cool light.

Dave said...

Ya. Unfortunately, I didn't take that shot.