My friend looked from me (sheet-white, shaking) to the sheer drop beneath our feet, and back again. “If you’re scared of heights, why are you doing this?” she asks, bewildered. I don’t answer, partly because there doesn’t seem to be a logical response, and partly because I’m currently mute with terror.
I’d known that the Nevis Bungy jump, the third highest in the world at 134m, would be scary. But I hadn’t realised quite how scary it would be until the bus spat me out at the top of a desolate canyon and I was pointed in the direction of a tiny, swaying hut suspended high, high above an apparently never-ending drop.
Everything was frightening. The journey over to the hut, in a crate without walls. The waiting, standing on a transparent floor. The preparation, sitting while cords of elastic were wound around your feet. By the time I was being shuffled to the jump point – a ridiculously slender ledge on which I was expected to perch, I was in a state of unrelenting terror.
In other circumstances, I would have admired the view. The browns and blacks of the canyon walls were broken up by tufts of yellow flowers. Somewhere far below, a slash of silver denoted a stream winding its way through the rocky ground. As it was, I kept my gaze fixed firmly upwards. If I looked down, I’d realise the madness of my decision and never jump.
No, no I was not, and yet, I realised with a sort of prophetic dread, the only way out of this horrible feeling of fright was to jump, to get it over with.
One way or another.
“3… 2… 1…”
I jumped. I jumped before my brain could realise what my legs had done. I jumped, and suddenly there was nothing; no ground, no sky, no harness, nothing but my arms outstretched as I plunged towards the canyon floor. Seven seconds they said it would take to fall. Seven seconds is a long time to wait to see if the ropes holding you to this world are tied correctly.
Finally, the elastic tightened. I was no longer shooting down but shooting up, the ground receding away from me, my arms cartwheeling wildly, my head spinning. And then I was heading down again but by now I’d realised I wasn’t going to die and my grateful body had started pumping out adrenaline and endorphins and dopamine. I felt so alive. I felt invincible. I felt wonderful, wonderful relief as the bouncing slowed and I was pulled back to the platform and safety.
It’s over. I thought. I never have to do that again.
The instructor, bending down to remove my strappings, grinned up at me: “Ready to go again?”
At first I thought he was joking. Then, with dawning horror, I remembered. I was due over at the next station, for the Nevis Swing, the highest canyon swing in the world.
I’d bought the combo package.