29th September 2012
Then I flickered my eyes forward and studied intently at the mountain peak in front of me. Then I felt 3 hand taps on my shoulder.
‘I’m not gonna do this,’ I thought. Suddenly I breathed out sharply and shouted out…
‘Wait! I wasn’t ready, do it again!‘
My eyes flickered down again and saw the Nevis River roaring down the Gorge. I probably gulped again. Arms stood rigidly to the side, feet feeling like lead and my head frozen with fear. And I couldn’t even hear a thing.
Yes I’m deaf, and you probably guessed…I’m doing a Bungee Jump with AJ Hackett.
Not any old Bungee Jump but the highest in New Zealand. The Nevis Bungee Jump at 134m. Oh, did I tell you I’ve never done a bungee jump before and I somehow thought it would the craziest idea to start off with the highest and most scariest first. That’s me, I’m crazy! I did think that when I was millimetres from the edge looking down and I just failed to jump at the first hand tap.
I got to tell you. I’m extremely nervous. I knew this was a huge deal for me. This would be my last frontier to the extreme thrill. I’ve already done skydives and other scary stuff but this bungee jump…it’s the ultimate for me. If I can do this, then I can do anything.
But I was right to be nervous as I thought, when I fidgeted my fingers against my leg involuntary. Why? I had a cochlear implant embedded in the side of my head. Those of you who don’t know what a cochlear implant is, please read my cochlear implant journey. Confiding in those who had a cochlear implant mere days before the bungee jump, they recoiled in horror when they heard I would be launching off the edge and fall 134m. Precisely 8.5 seconds of falling. They reasoned that this is regarded a ‘very high risk‘ activity and that accelerated speeds would cause the embedded internal device to ‘move’. This got me worried. I really really wanted to do this bungee jump and I resented having limits but then again there was a little voice in the back of my mind, I view as a small green leprechaun, dancing around and taunting me the risk I would be putting myself through.
However, it’s not to say I decided to blindly and willingly go ahead with it without researching how to overcome the risks. Before I bought the jump at the Kawarau Bridge Headquarters before the kiwi bus rolled into Queenstown, I asked to speak to an expert who listened very patiently and interestingly to my predicament. No worries he said, I didn’t need to be a tea bag (kiwi slang for those scared of bungee jumping). It’s all in the jump posture. He duly demonstrated to me.
Basically, I would need to do a massive swan dive that I definitely need to be going down head first. He also said that the Nevis Jump would be my best bet as its longer to achieve the position and also the drag when I hit the end would be much slower and calmer rather than a jerk. So really, I wouldn’t get that accelerated speed that would cause my internal device to move this disabling my hearing gained through it. Unless I hit the bounce point and I was jumping down feet first. Because that was gonna hurt.
If I did somehow lose my cool and ended up falling feet first reaching the bounce point, then I would be flipped over so quickly to end up head first. And it would be whiplash and that my friend, is accelerated speed! It was truly gonna hurt if I did that way. So I better try and not do that. Well,try telling that to me when a few days later, I was frozen to the ledge and having massive doubts about my diving ability. I mean, I can’t even dive properly in the swimming pool where I would rather take a running jump giggling like a school girl. No, this is different.
And I was truly bricking it. Even my shit was scared.
And had been since I woke up that morning. My bungee jump wasn’t scheduled until 2pm so I had the whoooooooole day to NOT think about it. Easier said than done.
After a bit of blogging, I accompanied Henning to do some shopping and it seemed to work until I ran into another of the kiwi experience crew who was doing the bungee jump at the same time with me. Tom was scared and kept talking to me about it. Now I was scared again.
Before I knew it, 2pm arrived and I assembled at the Bungee Station in Queenstown ready to be taken to the jump. I was weighed (hey, i’m back to my original weight when I started travelling) and given the safety brief. I was mightily impressed with the service as the assistant made sure that having a cochlear implant would definitely be ok to do some bungee jumping.
Thus I was picked up and taken on a torturous 35min journey to the Gorge with the bus blaring rap music to get us pumped up. All 9 of us were very quiet…extremely quiet. Any attempt to make eye contact was met with primal fear!
Upon arrival, we were quickly harnessed up before we could say 3..2…1..Bungy and taken out on a 6 person shuttle over zip line to the Bungee pod. It was so unreal and I was pretty lost for words when I saw for the first time the drop down to the bottom of the gorge. It was faaaaaaaar.
The shuttle swayed and I gave a mini yelp when the shuttle roughly hit the pod. Am I about to do this? I thought, but interrupted when a person launched out screaming while he plummeted to the ground only to be rocked back up from the cord. Feck. I was really gonna do this.
More safety checks later, suddenly I found myself in ‘the chair’ where the cord is connected to you. Truly, this was happening. I took out my cochlear implant external device and my hearing aid to be out on the side, and the instructor told me to smile at the camera…do you think I was ready?
He gestured me to shuffle to the edge and I willingly did surprisingly with no shaking. Just calmly did it. Is this what it feels like if you know you’re going to die…which I wasn’t hopefully. I mean, the girl whose bungy cord snapped in Africa survived as she plunged into crocodile infested waters. There was no crocodiles here.
The instructor told me beforehand that rather shouting behind me ‘3…2…1…BUNGY!’ he would give me three taps with his hand on my shoulder. Ok. Sorted. I gave a weak smile at Tom who stared at me disbelievingly. Was I going to freak out?
That’s when I gulped.
I just looked down and looked back up to study the mountain peak intensely while psyching myself to do it. The wind on my face was very tender and in my full eyesight, there weren’t anything to hold on to, just open space all around except the ledge I was standing on.
You can do it…you can do it…just remember to dive…and get your feet off this….you can do…TAP TAP TAP!
Wait! I wasn’t ready yet! I breathed sharpest out and told him to do it again. I started breathing more rapidly and doubts started to fill my mind seeing as I failed to jump on the first mark…oh no…
TAP TAP TAP!
Did I do it? Watch the video!
Of course I did it. I just remember thinking ‘Ed! Don’t be a pussy!’ and just went for it making sure my dive pose was perfect.
After the initial shock that I just jumped, I was still falling. I was pretty gobsmacked and my mouth dropped open as the ground seemed to coming at me…very slowly and I was falling. Well, I rather say it felt like I was taking a dive in water. My open mouth suddenly erupted with a very loud whoop much to my surprise and I screamed (rather manly) at the thrill of it! Check out the pics.
I absolutely loved the experience even when the cord to pull to turn you upright at the end of the bungee while they winch you up failed on me. This meant I was still dangling head first to the ground while they winched me up the full 134m. Massive head rush, bloodshot eyes and face like a beetroot!
‘Are you okay?!’ everyone cried out.
I looked up and smiled. ‘Awesome!’ I said. ‘Can I Do it again?!‘
I would like to thank AJ Hackett for giving me a fantastic experience and their customer service for ensuring everything would be safe for deaf people with cochlear implants. Cheers guys!
Wow! I loved reading this. I admire you for your bravery, on so many levels! I did the Kawarau Bridge jump in December and that was a huge challenge for me. I don’t think I could EVER do the Nevis! Congrats, dude!