Saturday, August 17, 2013

Leap into Space

I should have been terrified.  I admit I was a bit nervous when I first approached the bridge, but as soon as the soles of my tennis shoes hit the wooden planking, all I felt was anticipation.  I looked at the grey and green cliffs on either side of the bridge, following them down to where they met the river below.  I leaned over the railing, trying to get a clear picture of the landscape around me, especially the distance from the bridge to the water.  I was alone in a foreign country, about to put my body at risk and the anticipation was climbing.

The day was overcast, threatening rain.  It was not the optimal day to be doing this, but I did not care.  It may have been a dismal winter day in New Zealand, but to me, it was an average fall day and I was going to have this adventure.
I was dressed in cargo trousers and a bright green, hooded knit sweater over a short-sleeved top, which, combined with my excitement, prevented me from feeling the chill in the air.  The only thing the weather guaranteed was that I had no desire to get wet.  Others in the group were not as concerned and opted to be dunked into the river.

Around me, conversation was flowing; talk of the weather, the river, the other people around, and the distance from bridge to water.  Everyone was in a different state of anticipation, nervousness, and fear.  Screams rang out as individuals from around the world took their turns.  Laughter was heard from those that had decided to taste the river.  The occasional appreciative oohs and aahs could be heard from the watching crowd.I had arrived at the bridge with a bus full of other people, most with companions.  There was one girl from China who was also braving the bridge on her own.  Unlike me, her nerves were becoming more tremulous the closer her turn came.  She was to go before me, so I made small talk with her while we waited.  When she was being prepped, I offered to take her photo.  She posed, displaying both her hands with the red numbers written on the backs that showed her weight.  After the photo, her nervousness seemed to dissipate and she readily took her turn.  I was next.

I allowed the young New Zealander man to put the straps around my waist, tightening them securely, followed by essentially shackling my legs together with ropes.  He asked me if I wanted to meet the river.  I remained locked into my desire to stay dry, which determined the length of the ropes that he was attaching to my legs.  The young man then looked at me with humor in his eyes and asked how I feeling.  I was doing oh, so fine.  He helped me out onto the ledge and into the waiting hands of his older co-worker.  He pointed me towards the cameras that would be filming me, telling me to wave and smile.  I was told that he would give me a count down for my signal.  If I needed help, all I had to do was ask.  I threw a wide grin at him, my eyes dancing.  I was more than ready.  He gave me the count and I calmly leaped out into thin air.

As I fell, I could hear the man above me call out “Yeah, lovely!”  My arms spread out wide, fingers reaching outward, tasting the air.  I almost wished I had decided on tasting the river, or at least that my fingers had been able to touch its surface.  My body arched as I reached the end of the bungee cord length, relishing the feeling of the air rushing past me as I moved through it.  The feeling of falling, racing towards the river, created a rush of adrenaline and a feeling of exhilarating freedom.

Not a scream escaped my throat, but laughter did.  It pealed out, filling the canyon and bouncing off of the water as I reached the end of the bungee cord’s stretch and started rocketing back into the air.  I had a smile on my face that would not quit.  The two New Zealanders sitting in a boat in the river below me, reached up with a long pole for me to grab.  Once I had grabbed hold, they pulled me into their craft and released my legs from their constraints.  As they were working on me, I looked up at them from my position on the bottom of the boat and asked with glee written across my face, “Can I go again?”