Free Fallin’ in New Zealand

An easy-going 20-something “kid” (for I am in my thirties) weighs me and writes a number on my hand. His “buddy” (for co-worker seems too formal for a job that is this much fun) straps me into a harness and sends me to a ledge. Along with five other strangers, I step into a “cable car” (for it’s more fit for skyscraper window washers than securely traversing dangerous spaces) and stare precariously over the edge.

We are suspended 134 meters, or approximately 440 feet, over a ravine and our emotions range from terror to shock to nervousness to pure elated joy. I am the joyful one, giddy with excitement at what awaits. I’m at Nevis Bungy, just outside of Queenstown on the South Island of New Zealand. I’m a few months in to a round-the-world journey that will take me to 40+ countries over three years and checking off a cliched bucket list item: free fallin’ in New Zealand.

I had long wanted to go bungy jumping in New Zealand since learning that the Kiwis were the first to take the adrenaline rushing activity commercial. After a painful first bungy experience in Canada, where I got whiplash and almost ran into a tree, I thought maybe my bungy days were over. On arrival in Queenstown, however, I subconsciously followed the first Nevis sign I saw and signed up immediately.

Nevis is the third highest bungy jump in the world and is unique in its design, with a platform that is suspended over the Nevis River by cables secured on both sides of the ravine. The cable car takes you across slowly, to help build the anticipation I’m sure. Once you get to the middle, you step out onto the glass-bottomed platform. Nothing says, “don’t be scared,” like staring at the ground over 40 stories away.

The surroundings are beautiful – the entire country is stunning – and I can’t stop taking pictures. I’m moving around too much on the platform further freaking out the scared couple and annoying the other jumpers who also want their photo opportunities. We eventually take our places along the back of the suspended platform, to listen to another chill 20-something year-old describe how best not to die during this escapade.

And then it’s “go time.” I stand quietly at the edge. I look from the clouds in the sky to the trees in the distance to the cliffsides of the ravine to the rushing river below, trying to take it all in for future memories. A bungy guy points to a camera and I do a little happy dance (ok, maybe I am a wee bit nervous at this point). He counts down, “3, 2, 1 – jump!” He’s prepared to push me if I don’t jump, but he need not worry because I fly! I leap off the platform, trying to swan dive towards the horizon and fall, fall, fall, faster, faster, faster. It is absolute bliss! After about 10 seconds, my bungee hits its maximum extension, and I gratefully don’t get whiplash. Even better, because of the height, I shoot back up into the sky feet first and get to do another free fall.

After bouncing a couple of times, I use my ab strength to reach towards my feet to release them, giving myself a few more bounces in a more comfortable, non-blood rushing to the head, position. In these final few bounces I take in the nature around me from another viewpoint, noticing how its peacefulness is a stark contrast to the adrenaline rushing through my veins. All too soon the adventure is over, and the bungy bros raise me back up to the platform. Gushing, ecstatic, high, gleeful and in love with life, I step back on to the platform and resume my happy dance.