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Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Topless Valentine's Day

February 14. Happy Valentine’s Day from New Zealand! I was finally able to sleep in late today. Steran, David, Olivia, Jade, and I planned to bungy jump at 2pm, so I was able to wake up at 12pm. The other group members chose to skydive today, which I would have done if bungy jumping “The Nevis” wasn’t an option. The Nevis is a 134 meter (440 feet) free fall from a box suspended under the Nevis River. I wasn’t able to eat before I left for to bungee jump, although I was starving. My nerves were at the breaking point. The only thing I thought to do was to visit the Lord of the Rings store. I wandered around town aimlessly for 2 hours with Steran and Olivia. Before we could figure out where to go, it was time to meet Elise to go bungy jumping.
 We walked 10 minutes to AJ Hacket, the local commercial bungy center. We spotted a TV showing The Nevis bungy in the lobby and, while we waited for Elise to sign us up, watched the experience of unanimous people. My fear left me as I watched the video. Seeing the drop and the location developed a mental picture in my head, which is much better then facing the unknown. At that point I was just excited and anxious. We signed the “we are not responsible for your death” forms and were about to pay when the woman told us of a special that was going on for Valentine’s Day. If we paid for The Nevis and 3 bungy jumps at The Ledge (where you could freestyle bungy), we would only have to pay $450 with pictures and video included. Steran, Ben, and I were sold. We paid for the jumps and set off to The Nevis. We drove 30 minutes by bus to a mountain top, and then took a smaller bus up the mountain to The Nevis location center.
 Local New Zealand’s don’t waste time with anything. They threw us into harnesses and put all the items in our pockets inside a locker. Ben nervously asked “Do we get helmets?” They distractedly responded “No need.” as they shuffled us towards the gondola. Everyone turned slightly greener at those words. The 5 of us piled into the gondola and were shipped off across the cables that suspended the box from which we jumped. The box swayed dangerously as the wind propelled it backwards and forwards. In no time we were pulled into the box, which was about 20 feet by 30 feet. The music blasting inside was obviously supposed to get you pumped for the jump, but all it did was put my nerves on the edge again. The guys who operated the bungy were super friendly, like most New Zealands, but I barely noticed their comforting and jesting comments as they put on our ankle straps. Jade was first, not because she wanted to be, but because she was number 56. I was 57.
We all watched from the railing as she was laced up with the bungy and was informed of the red cord she was supposed to pull when she reached the peak of her second bounce. She was soon inching towards the ledge, her eyes set resolutely towards the horizon. She waved at the camera as it took her picture, but her stony expression didn’t change. Behind her the man yelled “3…2…1…Bungy!” She dove after a second’s hesitation. We didn’t see anything but the dive, and 2 minutes later she rose looking shaken, but with an enormous smile on her face. Her eyes were bloodshot and her voice was a whisper as she tried to communicate with us, but I couldn’t hear what she was saying. Now it was my turn.
The bungy guy led me over to the diving area. He told me the same thing he told Jade and I strayed myself in trying to concentrate on his instructions. I crept towards the ledge, the metal just preceding my toes. I looked down, and I smiled. It was terrifying. Yet, I remembered all that I’ve done so far and that, more than anything else, gave me confidence. I smiled at the camera and said farewell to my friends. I don’t think I even heard the man behind me yell “Bungy!” I just dove when I was ready. Exhilaration replaced every emotion in my body. It’s the hardest thing to describe an experience like this one. It’s also as difficult to remember it. There are no words to describe the rush of feeling that engulfed my being at that moment. The combination of wind, the oncoming ground, your nerves, the feeling of weightlessness and helplessness, and the adrenaline that consumes you is… I couldn’t tell you. To achieve the actual experience is the only way to relay that feeling to another person. I felt a twang that shook my body and I was yanked upwards. I couldn’t help but scream my triumph. I yelled every word that came to mind, my voice 10 times louder as it reverberated off the surrounding ridges. At the second bounce I tried to pull the red cord, but only 1 foot came out. I tried again on the third and my other foot released as the bungy caught my harness. I yelled all the way up to the box, staring straight into the river. It looked inviting as I was being raised, all the fear I had ever felt was erased from my memory. It seems like nothing will ever scare me again.
As I was raised into the box I yelled “Party!” (The official word of the trip). Everyone grinned as I bounced in my harness, eager to expel the adrenaline rush I was experiencing. I burst through the bar gate, clapping and hugging everyone. My eyes felt inevitably bloodshot from the wind rushing across my face and my friends’ expressions confirmed my beliefs. I couldn’t help trying to explain every moment of my free fall, but, as I am now, I was lost for words.
The rest of the group went and came back with the same silly grins on their faces and blood shot eyes, acting as giddy as I felt. There is such a dramatic change in expressions before someone is about to jump, and when they rise up from the jump. We all traded stories of our free falls as we took the gondola back, almost yelling with insane excitement. We were handed our free t-shirts and the DVD of our photos and videos and shunted out towards the bus. A wave of exhaustion hit us all on the way back, and the 45 minute drive was spent sleeping on each other’s shoulders. The adrenaline was sorely missed, as Ben, Steran, and I sprinted to the Queenstown gondola for our next 3 bungys. We only just arrived before an enormous crowd of tourists at 5:45pm (our bungys were at 6pm). We took the gondola up, trying to regain some energy. This jump was only 44 meters (144 feet), but it was directly under the gorgeous city and landscape of Queenstown.
We arrived, panting, but ready for our next 3 jumps. They tried to convince us that the first jump should be a normal jump, and not a trick jump, but we boldly stated we had just jumped The Nevis, and they allowed us to trick jump all 3 times. They led us to The Ledge, where you jump down into the side of the mountain under Queenstown. I wanted to be first this time. I was ready to get that adrenaline rushing through me again. They harnessed me and asked me which trick I wanted to do first. I told them a front flip. They explained to me the way I should do it, how I should hold the bungy out with one hand and then grab the safety rope when it falls (it falls 60 seconds after I jump). The anxiety was nowhere close to The Nevis, but I was still excited. I did a running jump, and front flipped. It was cool to do, but it wasn’t as frightening because I couldn’t see the ground too clearly. I was pulled up, yelling like a maniac. I had the adrenaline back and I was ready for more. For the next two jumps I did a flying squirrel (you grab your ankles behind your back) and a backwards fall. The flying squirrel was the most exhilarating because you could clearly see the ground hurtling at you. The backwards fall was amazing because the bungy guy held me over the edge and suddenly let go. This was definitely one Valentine’s Day that I will probably never top.
I bought all the pictures and video so I’ll post them as soon as I have the chance. We went back to the hostel, our nerves screaming at us for some relief and rest. We only had the energy to order in Ferbergers. We munched greedily and before I knew it everyone was asleep. The skydiving group tried to explain the experience to me, but I was too tired to listen properly. My computer broke that night and I fixed it 2 days later, which is why my posts are so late. Sorry everyone. I did go to a repair store and get it fixed and it’s working properly now. I hope you enjoyed this long, exhilarating post.


  1. Yep....that's right, time to come home now. Mom

  2. My eyes are bloodshot and adrenaline is pumping. I can honestly say I felt like I was right with you...flying squirrel and all! Thank you for an exhilarating start to my day. I am not sure how much more excitement I can take!
    143 dearly, Mimi

  3. I agree with Mom!

    Ali just shared the video you posted on FB and all I truly can't find any words! LOL I'm speechless! You are one absolutely amazing kid! Not only are you an incredibly gifted writer but you have nerves of steel!

    Thank you for taking us ALL along on your adventures Jimmy. Trust me...that is the closest I will EVER be to jumping off a ledge!

    Much Love, Aunt Carole