Today was the best last afternoon/night that it could have probably been. What a way to finish the trip.
So I decided to go bungee jumping. There were a few major cons working against the zoo. The first one was that I hate zoos, that was a pretty big one. Bungee jumping was expensive – 65 dollars – but I know I’ll earn that back probably in my first week of work, so I didn’t want the money to factor into my decision. Basically, I just decided to go but I wasn’t too sure about it, I didn’t know if I’d want to do it. It wasn’t even the safety issue or the scared shitless issue, but more of just the fact that it didn’t sound super thrilling to me.
I said I would go at about 12:30. We were supposed to leave at 1:45, the zoo’ers left at about 12:40, but we walked to the pavilion to wait for the bus and we finally got word that it was over an hour behind schedule. I went to the pool to lay out for awhile. I knew that’d be my last time in the sun for who knows how long, since I’ll be working full time starting Monday and I’ve heard it’s not at all warm in Michigan.
Ahmed and Marc started playing Ahmed’s electric guitar in the corner of the pool area, and I recognized a few RHCP songs and walked over to sit on the cement near them. Both of them were pretty good, a lot of RHCP and some John Mayer and some Beatles. We formed a semicircle and just listened to them trade songs. It was really calming, sitting on the concrete under the hot sun listening to music – one of the little things that I’m really going to miss.
The bus finally came about 3, I think. We were told the site was about a half hour away, but for the first time, something in Costa Rica was actually close to INCAE – we got there in maybe 15. We went into a little office and signed waivers.
The whole thing looked a little shady, like, the office was more like a shack, but as soon as I signed that waiver I knew I was going to do it no matter what. I wasn’t scared or anything, we were all just really excited.
We got back on the bus and drove another 400 meters or so up a hill to the bridge. It’s supposed to be one of the five most beautiful places in the world to bungee jump – the bridge is 80 meters (240 feet) above the ground, which is a pretty significant distance to bungee jump. I saw the bridge from the bus and was still pretty neutral about it. We got off the bus at the beginning of the bridge, noted with amusement that there was a bar right there, and looked over the edge.
That’s when I was terrified.
The image of looking down off that bridge is still burned into my memory.
It was just trees, rocks and water, but it was so, so far down. I’m not scared of heights, but I get a little edgy when I have to go near a railing on a really tall building sometimes. But this bridge freaked me the hell out.
All of us kind of acted like we were punched in the gut. The boys were all walking around, saying some variation of, Oh my God. A few were just leaning over the ledge and staring down, trying to get used to the fact that we were going to jump off that bridge. I did that for awhile, too, and the drop didn’t seem so bad after I had been staring down there for a few minutes straight.
They didn’t really give us much of a safety talk, just told us that we’d have a harness around the waist and harnesses around our ankles, which was where the bungee was supposed to be attached.
We’d jump off the platform, bounce a few times, and then they’d send down another rope that we’d have to attach to our waist harness so they could pull us back up to the platform. We had to jump in the “swan” position, which basically meant our arms were out to our sides, kind of like Superman or something. We couldn’t grab onto the rope, we just had to act like we were flying. Right.
Then we had to divide up into two groups, people who were over and under 150 pounds. The “over” group went first, since the groups had to use different harnesses because of the weight difference and the guides didn’t want to have to switch between harnesses. These girls who had traveled over 3 hours to get to the site went first. The first girl was strapped in and she was helped to the platform. It was a little yellow platform, made of the metal that has mesh-like holes in it, maybe a foot and a half wide. If people still walked the plank, that’s what the plank would look like. The girl stepped up on the platform, the guide counted down from 5, and she didn’t move. She stood there for what felt like 20 minutes but was probably only about 5, just staring there, frozen, and ended up not jumping. Obviously, that freaked all of us out. The second person who went up was a redheaded guy who said he had rappelled before, and he ran and jumped before the guide could even start counting down. Seeing someone fly off that platform with arms outstretched was equally the coolest and most scary thing I’ve ever seen. We just watched him rocket toward the trees and water, then watched him bounce around for awhile and finally finish the jump. That was a lot easier, once we saw someone actually do it without fear.
8 or 9 other people (who we didn’t know) jumped before we started. Aaron was the first one of us to jump.
He was flipping out before the jump, saying he was too scared, and we just all told him not to puss out. He kept saying, I can’t do this, I can’t do this. But he finally jumped with little prodding. He came back up with his eyes a little red and just glowing, talking nonstop about how great it was. That definitely helped. Marc went next. He was also scared beforehand, even before we had gotten to the bridge, but he said it was awesome, too.
It was my turn after him. Honestly, I’m getting a little shaky even writing about it. The guide harnessed me in, I told him to make my ankle harnesses as tight as he could because there was no way I wanted those loose. We jumped with bare feet, and as soon as I took my shoes and socks off (right before Marc jumped), I started getting really nervous. When I was sitting on the ledge of the bridge getting my harnesses on, I don’t even remember thinking coherently, I was that scared. The guide told me to stand up and step onto the yellow platform, and that’s when I froze. I stood up, barefoot, with huge, heavy harnesses attached to my ankles, and I was so terrified that I clutched onto the yellow beams that held the beginning of the platform to the bridge. Everyone was yelling at me, telling me I could do it, I’m guessing because I looked a ton more scared than Aaron or Marc. I took a baby step forward, still holding onto the beam. It was really far down. The guys were still yelling, a little more desperate now. I thought, There is no way I’m going to be like that first girl. I took another step and couldn’t hold onto the beams anymore. I was just standing on the platform with 240 feet of water and trees and rocks below me and safe ground so far away, because even one baby step felt like a mile up there. The guide urged me again to get my toes to the edge of the platform so I could jump and let go of my bungees. I took another step and I was at the edge, looking straight down, and I dropped the cords so they were hanging in front of the platform. I panicked a little since the clip caught on the edge as I dropped them, but he said that was normal, that was fine.
And there I was. That split second before I jumped was the most petrifying moment of my entire life.
I don’t know how to explain it. When you’re that frightened, there’s no way to. It was just this hot, searing rush of pure terror.
Aaron had told me before I jumped that all you had to do was just say, Fuck it, and jump. And that’s what I did. I just turned off my brain. I felt like I was seeing myself from the eyes of someone else, someone who wasn’t afraid and who was just watching someone jump, no big deal.
And I was hurtling toward the river and rocks and trees faster than I’ve ever moved in my life. I remember holding onto the rope briefly when I first jumped and then I spread both my arms out, freefalling into this gorgeous nothingness. I screamed until I couldn’t breathe. I felt the rope pull on my ankles a little and I was going back up, then back down, then up and down and up and down and then I started spinning and everything was just going around in these terrible, awesome circles. I had my first recognizable thought in about five minutes. This feels like the merry-go-round thing at Parkview, I thought, where I was twirling around and around until I got off and I was so dizzy I couldn’t stand up, I was just this woozy fourth grader who was watching the playground as it spiraled around me. And then I thought, this is worse than bed spins. I feel drunk.
I just kept spinning around faster than I’ve ever spun, and I couldn’t even see the river because the trees were whirling around so quickly that they just all melded into one mess of green. I was hanging upside down, trying to convince myself the spinning wasn’t making me nauseous, when I saw the lift cord dangling next to me. I somehow grabbed it – I’m not sure how, it feels impossible to grab anything when you’re suspended in the air upside down – and attached it to my harness. It took awhile to get back up to the platform, since they were cranking the cord up, and I grabbed onto the cord with both hands and pulled myself into a sitting position. For the first time, I could look around and appreciate the gorge. It was breathtaking. I looked up at the bridge, where everyone was leaning over – I could only see their heads – and I waved to let them know I was okay. They were laughing and cheering a little, and that’s when I finally started smiling.
That was the most baller thing I’ve ever done, I kept saying. It was the only way to describe it.
My head hurt a little from the rushes of blood to the head, but everyone was complaining about that. Even now, hours later, it still hurts if I tilt my head down. It’s just a headache-y, full feeling. But other than that, I felt damn good. I went to the bar and got an Imperial. It was one of the best things I’ve tasted this trip. I don’t even like Imperial. We watched everyone else go, drinking our Imperials, and we headed back just as it was getting dark.
And we still had the whole night ahead of us. I’ll write about it later tonight, since I’ll be in the airport all day today, but it was the perfect ending. It was so perfect that it’s 4 a.m. right now, I have to catch my bus to the airport at 5 a.m., and I have yet to go to bed because after going out so late, there was no point in sleeping.