A few years ago I got talked into a parachute jump by someone from the dance community (this, of course, makes perfect sense 😀 ).
We have arrived at the small airport, got enough training in those few evening hours to know what to do with our eyes closed and went off to the tents. There were rooms available, too, but setting up a tent was cheaper – and more fun. I got the best deal of all: the person I shared the tent with had a proper all-weather one, and an inflatable mattress as a bonus :). The less fortunate other guy in the group got soaked under night rain because he chose to sleep under the roof extension of the girls’ tent (which also got some water into it through the roof ventilating fabric – this was a summer tent version for good weather only).
Despite everything having already been paid for (including two jumps – second one optional), in the morning at breakfast the leitmotiv of the day was already set in our group: “ain’t NOOOOO way I am jumping!!!”
This and other variations of “I seriously doubt I will do this” lasted us all the way through the airplane ascent. The fact that, besides the instigator and the instructor, we were all first timers, and that the tiny plane looked like it may not make it up there (or anywhere at all) in one piece didn’t add much confidence either. The wait was rather frightening, in other words.
Much less frightening was seeing everyone in group one happily hopping off into the air on step 3 (as instructed, we were to take three steps to the door at “go”: one, two – fold hands on the chest – and “thwheeeeeeee!!!”), one after another. Even less frightening was actually being (for whatever weird reason) pushed out of the plane on step TWO by the instructor when it was my turn. Okay, maybe he was just a jerk and wanted to have some fun, so I figured since I was already in the air by then I might wanna proceed as instructed and check upon the chute. I looked up: the chute was there. “All good”, thought I, and looked back down. Then I thought “wait, it’s not ALL good…”
I looked up again: sure enough, because the instructor gave me a decent torque on my jump, I corkscrewed right into the air instead of jumping straight, thus tangling up the suspension lines. “Aha!”, said the brain, “we were prepared for this!”: determine which way it’s twisted; pull controls apart; kick (ASS! Haha 😀 Not! 😀 ) leg to twist the opposite way till fully open; pump air; enjoy flight.
After all that, I was one of the two idiots (instructor not counted) who landed where we were told to – roughly 700m from the terminal (the smart people navigated ‘incorrectly’ to land right in front of it). The instructor was still being a jerk, so he decided to instruct me on the landing. I was still a first-time dummy and listened to him. Since it takes a few seconds to land and some of that time was lost in translation, when I landed my chute flew a bit over me and pulled me slightly ahead just enough to cause a very soft but shameful re-positioning from up-on-the-feet to down-on-the-knees. A little van picked up our chutes, but we had to walk all the way back to the terminal. Lesson was learned: screw the guy!
The second half of the afternoon had a much more excited “Nah, I did this wrong, so I totally gotta jump again to do it right this time!” hue to it. We had to curb our enthusiasm for a little while, waiting for the little patch of slightly rainy clouds to pass, and then for the sport jumps to take place, and then we were at it for try two. Thankfully, no one pushed me this time.
Being lightweight has some perks: I and the other girl (who was even smaller than me and weighted 46kg… Did I mention her brother, besides being soaked in the rain and of the same parents, was over 2m tall and they looked nothing like one another? 🙂 ) got about 12-13 minutes of peaceful suspension in mid-air, unlike our heavier company who were all down in roughly 7 (ha!). It may be a bit more of a problem, however, when you’re navigating in side-wind. It simply didn’t blow the first jump round, and I underestimated it by roughly 50 final meters that I have come short of a soft spot I had chosen for myself to land on – of course, right in front of the terminal. Since I missed it though I was in the field to the side of the terminal with no one to give me useless advise from the ground on how to land. 200 meters by altitude meter: pull controls half way down. From 100 meters by altitude meter: slowly pull controls all the way down to landing. I should’ve been in textbooks: I landed softly on my feet and the chute fell as it was due right behind me. No one was anywhere near me to share the triumph… Unfortunately, I also forgot the jump certificate in their car on the way back and lost the contact with the instigator, so I guess I have to do it again some day!
In the meantime, I decided to jump off the bridge instead. If you recall the specific status up-date on this from a few months ago, you could easily tell people who know me apart from those who don’t :D. I wrote, among other things, that my decision was final and that I sure hoped it’d work… One of my friends kind of almost spoiled the whole fun by writing “bungee?” right as the first comment. Fortunately, it was NOT bungee (mwwwaaahahaha) that I had signed up for…
So, finally, the mystery is revealed: it was a Kien Jump. Ideally, you’d stand on one bridge and be tied to another bridge, jump feet down (unlike bungee, the chord is at the body center) and swing back and forth a few times. In the absence of two cool bridges, you jump from one side of the bridge while the sling is tied underneath it to the other side. Not as much of a swing as between two bridges, but sure as hell enough for starters!
The poor friend of mine I suggested this to was in for the classic bungee, and thus we set off to Chomutov to the highest legal bungee bridge in the Czech Republic.
Upon arrival I was first and foremost feeling pretty cold. Because it was near freezing outside, although sunny and beautiful (see for yourself!).
I was rather indifferent to it all at that point. We filled in some forms (the joke was that it was a disclaimer allowing them to use our organs, if anything…), and got permanent-marker en-signed with a number on the hands. The joke on those ones was that it would be easier to identify the bodies. You can see the mood was right :).
There was a baby in the stroller (not alone, obviously – with parents and grandparents), so we also joked about jumping with the baby. In the meantime I got called to the bridge. Myself and that other guy (the baby’s dad) got instructed on what to do once we’re down and done screaming. He jumped first, I had to wait and freeze some more.
Finally, the expert came to tie me to the sling and set me off. That is roughly where the whole idea slowly started to seem MUCH more frightening than that memorable airplane ascent a few years ago could ever dream of. I climbed over the bridge railing and the guy said to jump on his count of three. In the meantime, I was thinking of some potentially creative soundtrack to accompany this with.
Too bad that I heard that magic “three” just before I would’ve hit the eureka moment with something generic like a Tarzan theme, so instead I ended up with a completely mentally unrehearsed and born of absolute, pure terror of that first step into the void loud, piercing AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I gotta tell you people: parachutes got NOTHING on bridges! For some reason, the closeness of the ground (well, if 67 meters can be counted as ‘close’) doesn’t help – it makes everything worse. So while I was fully silent and chillin’ during the actual jump off the plane, I was pretty damn resentful to step off that bridge. It’s a good thing they have someone counting you off there, because I could totally see myself chickening out and climbing right over if I had about 2 seconds more of thinking time.
A few swings behind my belt, I proceeded as instructed and descended onto the ground below (by letting the rope slip through the carabiner in a controlled fashion), where an assistant was waiting.
What they fail to tell the ‘swingers’ is that they need to then, unlike the lucky jumpers who get lifted up onto the bridge, actually climb up back onto the bridge. In a way, I was happy for the exercise – I finally warmed up. On the other hand though, 60 meters up the slope on a terrain that has very little to stably set feet on without the danger of sliding right back down?.. I’m sure if they mentioned that aspect, fewer people would sign up :).
I made it all the way up in one piece though, got my ‘hero’ certificate (I actually think it went rather un-heroically, if anything, but well – the paper says so…) and was right in time to immortalize the leap into the abyss of my poor friend.
It turned out that he had an extra certificate for a bungee jump for someone who didn’t want it in the end…
Since he said it would be a shame to let the certificate go to waste, I got myself talked into doing the actual bungee jump – the following weekend. Skipping ahead, I must say it probably was a dumb decision 😀
Back to the bridge, I was hoping that bungee jump would be psychologically easier – it didn’t require stepping off but either falling down or jumping. I naively considered both options less challenging…
We were very lucky with the weather both times – even though it was cold, it wasn’t raining. I had to wait my turn for quite a while, so I took the opportunity to chill in the sunshine a bit :).
Finally, it was time… I and some other unfortunate human being, whose turn was right after me, were instructed about what to do. Then I was tied by the ankles, climbed over the bridge railing… and fucking panicked!
Now, just to clear this up: I’m not afraid of heights, I totally love them. I was also up until that very moment perfectly convinced this would be ‘better’ (as in, even less frightening) than last week… But here I was freaked out to the point that I asked the technician to give me a couple of moments to breathe this through! He did (lovely fella! 🙂 ), but I think he has been doing this for long enough to know just how much thinking time is enough, so a few moments later he went ahead counted my last seconds of presumed safety off and gave me a very slight push on the count of three…
Poor fellow (in white) watched all this… He was also terrified – he got the jump as a gift from someone. I don’t think I helped him much by my panic attack :D. I probably didn’t sound very encouraging on the way down either… Think about how terrifyingly you would scream if someone’d push you off a bridge… that was exactly the soundtrack to my fall, alas my own voice cover version 😀
Once I stopped free-falling and started bouncing up and down, my brain finally figured out something that it refused to acknowledge all along: I’m safe. I laughed nervously a bit and hung head-down, waiting for the lift-up… In the meantime, another woman jumped down into the swing – she probably screamed louder than even I did, so at least, thought I, I wasn’t being THAT lame 😀 😀 :D.
While I was waiting, the shoe on my right foot felt like it was slowly sliding off… (Actually, my friend told me one girl jumping before us lost her shoes in the process – good thing is there is someone down there to bring them back up 🙂 ). Even knowing that it’s perfectly normal, and that even if by some magic I’d slide out of both cuffs I’d be caught by the safety band right away, I was still more than happy to finally, after a few failed attempts, catch that buoy-looking thing that fished me back up onto the bridge :).
Frankly, I’m quite divided in my final opinion over that second jump… It was cool, of course, but I probably underwent a greater scare than necessary… Maybe having jumped just a week before I was already wired for fear more than I would’ve been had I just gone there not knowing what to expect? :). I’m kind of freaked out a bit even just looking at those pictures 😀 😀 :D. The good part is, however, that I ticked this particular “to do in life” thing off my list… At this point I’m in the “never again!!!” camp, but who knows – maybe as the freshness of the terror wears off in time, I would end up repeating something like this somewhere else (say, the highest bungee jumping bridge in the world?…)… I just hope I don’t end up like this guy:
And what about you? Share your story about the most terrifying thing you’ve ever voluntarily gotten into – and survived unscathed, although probably slightly shaken, and as a hero! 😉