I’m hung over, tired, and standing on a 45-metre platform overlooking a lake in a Suburban South Korean park. It’s fair to say that this is not how I saw a 3am conversation in a Hongdae bar turning out. Before me are a host of shaky looking Korean’s, who each in turn – and with differing voracity – plummet at a frantic pace to a mere couple of feet above the water below.
I seem to be at the back of the queue, though there are plenty of people behind me. My body clock insists that the five minutes that just passed lasted at least an hour. I’m sweating profusely, strapped into a harness and attempting to make small talk, whilst looking down from what suddenly seems like a frighteningly large height. The tower – which looked big from the bottom – makes looking at the ground feel like looking through the wrong end of a pair of binoculars from the top.
When I make it to the platform I try to stare into the distance instead of below me, and wait impatiently as I’m strapped in. I just want it to be over with. After a frighteningly short period of time I’m ready, I run my hands down my back to check the rope is in place, and step onto the edge. The countdown starts. 5…. I take my first glance down. Gulp. 4…. 3…. I consider tottering backwards, but notice my housemate out of the corner of my eye, and decide I wouldn’t be able to live it down 2…. Am I really going to do this? 1…. I force myself to lean gently forward BUNGEE! I fall into a seemingly endless abyss.
The pictures reassure me that what happened next was I threw my arms out wide, pushed myself off the platform and flew down towards the earth at break neck speed. If it wasn’t for the pictures, however, I wouldn’t be so sure. I remember the water hurtling up towards me, I remember that mysterious floating feeling that takes over for a few seconds at the top of the first bounce, and I remember being lowered gently into a the waiting boat, where I somehow managed to forget to sit down until I was specifically told to. The whole experience lasted barely two minutes; I doubt the actual jump made it past the ten-second mark, bounces included.
The psychology of bungee jumping is the hardest thing. Throwing yourself into the blue with only a glorified elastic band for protection messes with the head, and it’s easy to understand why so many people ‘refuse’ the countdowns so many times before finally jumping. I’m glad I just closed my eyes and jumped, I don’t think I could have done it any other way.
People are not built for flying, or for falling. Except, that is, for the guy who immediately followed us off that ledge, who pulled a quadruple somersault, followed by a tucked dive on the bounce. He made everyone who tumbled screaming before him look like a fool.
I’ve always believed you should try everything once. I have a feeling I’ll still be shaking from this one for a large part of the week, but I’ve done my once now. And it does feel good to be able to say so afterwards!
I watched a video on youtube when I got home of the world highest bungee jump – a massive 233 metres from a city centre tower in Macau…. If I ever dare to this again, maybe it’ll have to be the big one!