Blog Menu

The Edge of the Ledge

December 14, 2019

Filed under: entertainment,event,life,travel — Terry Wohlers @ 11:36

In February 1989, Diane and I were driving in the countryside near Queenstown, New Zealand when we saw some interesting activity on a bridge. It extended over a deep gorge down to a raging river. We pulled into a small dirt parking lot overlooking the scenic area and walked onto the bridge. A person was being geared up with straps and ropes for something we knew nothing about at the time. Those in charge said the person was about to jump off the bridge with an elastic rope connected to his legs. In astonishment, we saw him take the plunge.

Weeks after returning to the U.S., we read about bungy jumping on the South Island of New Zealand. This news was the introduction of commercial bungy jumping as we know it today. It originated at this place, named Kawarau Bridge, located 43 meters (141 feet) above the water. In recent years, I developed the urge to return. A big part of me wanted to make the jump, although another part was unsure about the idea.

Last Saturday, December 7, Diane and I drove to Kawarau Bridge, which now has a large parking lot, nicely constructed overlook to watch jumpers, and a substantial visitor’s center. Early that morning, the forecast showed possible sun at 2:00 pm, so I booked the time slot for the jump. It had been raining daily for more than a week—unusual for early summer in New Zealand—resulting in a rise of the river by nearly 10 meters (33 feet), according to the guy rigging me up. It turned out to be windy, raining, and cold, but the weather was the least of my worries. I made small talk with the staff and then realized I was not paying close attention to how things were being connected. I asked myself whether he fastened everything correctly, but I had no way of checking because the connections were covered by fabric and Velcro. This made me feel uneasy, but I could not turn back at that point.

Stepping up to the edge of the platform and taking a peek over it was terrifying. I tried not to look down when the attendant counted “5, 4, 3, 2, ….” and that’s when I made the last small step to the edge and pushed off. I bounced upward a good distance after the bungy fully extended, and I bobbed around for what was probably 30 seconds. The connections were sound. By then, my nerves were mostly calm, knowing the equipment was secure, and I would probably survive. About an hour later, the clouds had cleared and the sun was bright. Diane and I walked across the bridge to shoot pictures, soak up the rays, and relax after experiencing some adventure we discovered 30 years earlier.

Professional videography captured it all.