What I really want to do here in Auckland is the SkyJump. You’re tied securely into a large harness connected to a wire, then dropped off the Sky Tower, where you zip downward for 11 seconds before landing gently. I saw contestants on “The Biggest Loser” do it one season, and I figure if they can do it, so can I.

My husband suggests bungy jumping instead. Invented in New Zealand — along with zorbing and a host of other zany activities — it’s Auckland’s signature adventure. I adamantly refuse. It seems far scarier and riskier. In the SkyJump, you’ve got a tight harness wrapped around your chest, arms and legs. But when you bungy jump, all that’s securing you is a cord tied around your ankles. And you have to jump off a platform head first. There’s no way I’m doing that.

But the SkyJump is closed the day we plan to go, and our only alternative for a heart-pumping adventure is bungy jumping. So here I am at AJ Hackett’s Auckland Bridge Bungy, shakily filling out the required paperwork, jokingly labeled the Toe Tag.

Might As Well Jump. Jump!

Aiden Bartells is our designated Jumpmaster. He tries to assuage my fears as we walk along the Harbor Bridge toward the main span, carabiners securing us onto the narrow, metal walkway. “The only place bungy jumping is dangerous is in the U.S. and the U.K.,” Bartells says. “There are a lot of cowboys out there who think they know what they’re doing, but they don’t. We know what we’re doing because we invented it.”

He has a point. I feel a bit better.

“Plus, bungy jumping is safer than horseback riding, riding a bus and smoking,” he adds. I think he just made that up.

We climb a small stairway into a glass-walled capsule stuck to the bridge’s underbelly, like some giant insect nest. This is the “Bungy Pod.” Two employees are carefully monitoring the traffic in Waitamata Harbour far below. A full 131.2 feet below, to be exact. Vessels are constantly passing under the bridge, they tell us, so when all is clear and they say jump, we have to jump. Hesitating isn’t an option.

Line Up

I decide I must go first and get this over with, or I may pass out. But the employees say no, the gear is set up in such a manner that we have to go in order from heaviest to lightest. I check the back of my hand, where my weight is scrawled in kilograms: 57. I quickly scan the hands of everyone in our group, praying I’ll spot several smaller numbers. But there’s not even one. Which means I’m last. Dead last. I hope it’s not an omen.

One by one, people jump. It actually doesn’t look too bad. They bundle your feet up with the cord, and you shuffle out onto the end of a plank. Then they count backwards from three, and you jump. When you stop bouncing, you yank on a cord that flips you into a vertical seated position for the ride back up to the pod. If you forget to yank it, or can’t find it, they can still raise you up by your feet — it’s just not as comfortable.

No one hesitates on their jump. Everyone pulls the cord properly and comes up in a seated position. Everyone has a dazed, almost drunken smile on their face when they alight. I ask one fellow in our group what it felt like. “You can’t remember how it felt,” he says. “It’s just … something that happened.” I don’t know what he means.

My Turn

Finally, everyone has jumped except me, including the dude in the lime green Borat suit, bungy jumping as part of his bachelor party festivities. As I’m getting strapped up, I blurt out that I’m terrified my shoes will be ripped off from the force of the fall, and then the cording will slide off my feet and I’ll plunge into the water. No one understands this fear.

I try to shuffle out to the edge of the plank, as required, but my feet don’t move. I have to hold onto someone’s shoulder — is it Aiden’s? An employee instructs me to look at two different cameras, which snap eerie mug shots of my face — wide, wild eyes sitting above a creepy half-grin, half-grimace — and suddenly I hear, “3, 2, 1 — JUMP!”

Terrified of smacking into a sailboat or barge if I hesitate even a nanosecond, I immediately launch myself off the board, trying to stretch my arms out like Superman, per instructions. As I hurtle toward the water, my thoughts race as fast as I’m falling. Are my eyes open or closed? What am I feeling? Did I just bounce? Am I going up or down? When should I pull the cord? Where is the cord?!

Suddenly I’m jerked upright in the harness, and all 57 kilograms of me are being slowly winched upward toward the pod.

“Well, what was it like?” my husband asks, as I take a wobbly step into the pod.

“I, I can’t remember,” I stutter in surprise. “It was just … something that happened.”

If You Go

Wear loose-fitting pants, which are more comfortable than shorts or jeans.
Jumps are pricey – well over $100 – but you can jump free if you’re naked.
You must weigh between 77 and 330 pounds to be eligible to jump.

November 2011

©2018 Melanie McManus – All Rights Reserved

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