Bungy Jumping in New Zealand

Kawarau Bridge Bungy

Hey, everyone! Lately, I haven't had the chance to work on any bucket list items or finish any new workout plans as I have been busy traveling. So today, I thought I'd share my experience completing a bucket list item from a few years ago: bungy jumping.

Lake Wakatipu, New Zealand

When my dad first began planning a trip to New Zealand, I expected beautiful landscapes straight out of Lord of the Rings, and I even requested that we try canyoning to add an adventure sport to our itinerary, but it never occurred to me to look for more extreme activities. It was my dad who came up to me one day and said, "How would you feel about bungy jumping?" At 14 I did not have a fear of heights, and I had spent much of my childhood jumping off diving boards and climbing trees, so, naively believing that a little extra height wouldn't scare me, I said yes. 

Browsing the internet at AJ Hackett Bungy

Though I had some reservations (I didn't want to go straight for the highest jump but wanted to start small), I wasn't nervous until we visited Kawarau Bridge, the site of the smaller jump my dad and I were signed up for. Looking over the edge of that bridge, the reality of what I was doing suddenly hit me. Though the bridge was only 43 m (141 ft) above the water, I would be jumping off of it in under 24 hours. Why was I doing this? I suddenly couldn't remember. Still, after watching people jump for a while, I managed to convince myself that I could do it without any problems.

Questioning my sanity on Kawarau Bridge

The next day, we drove to the bridge early in the morning, hoping to watch again before going ourselves. First, we were weighed so we could get the right bungy thickness, then we signed waivers stating that we understood the risk of death involved. Then we headed out to the bridge, where we were asked whether or not we wanted to be dunked in the river below. Though my dad bravely said yes, I opted out, preferring my first time to be a standard jump, without anything else to make me even more nervous than I already was.

My dad (in the blue shirt) watches from above

Finally, we were ready to jump, and before I knew it, the person working my bungy asked me to step onto the platform so he could strap me in. I instantly began overanalyzing everything (as I tend to do), worrying about the possibility that he might forget a cable, or that the regular old towel he wrapped around my ankles was inadequate for this activity and would likely cause my death. Still, nothing compared to the fear I felt stepping out onto the edge of the platform, looking down at the river below. I inadvertently began repeating, "I can't do this" over and over, and I frantically clutched the wall to one side, terrified that I might slip off the platform before I was ready.

Waving good-bye

Thankfully, the guy helping me was very encouraging and responded to my anxious mumblings by saying that yes, I could do it. After directing me to wave at the cameraman in the main building at my dad watching from above, he pointed to a bridge in the distance and told me to focus on that instead of looking at the river. The next thing I knew, he counted 3, 2, 1, and I dived off the bridge without even thinking.

The rest of the jump was over so quickly I was barely even aware that I was bouncing around on the end of a bungy cord. By the time the panic of jumping off the bridge went away, and I could focus on my surroundings, I was already being lowered to the waiting raft on the river. I had just enough presence of mind to grab the pole extended to me so those on the raft could pull me in, but that was about it. One employee on the raft tried to make conversation, asking me about why I was in New Zealand, but I could barely focus enough to answer him. My legs were shaking as I walked up the hill to the observation deck, but I was thrilled to have succeeded without hesitating at all.

I survived!

After that experience, I was ready to be done, but after my dad had done his own jump (getting completely soaked by his dunk in the river), it was off to another, even higher one: the Nevis Bungy. We caught a bus just outside the administration building and rode all the way to the next location, a small canyon out in the middle of nowhere. This time, the platform we were jumping from was suspended in the middle of the gorge, so we had to take a small gondola to get there. The whole platform swayed with the wind, and it made the whole experience even more nerve-wracking. 

The bus to the Nevis Bungy

This time my dad went first, jumping the 134 m (440 ft) with ease, and I got to watch and plan for my own attempt. What really concerned me, however, was that one of the guys who jumped before us lost his shoe in the process (though he later recovered it since it landed just next to the river). What if something like that happened to me, and it made the whole apparatus fail? (Again with the overthinking; goodness Sarah, get a hold of yourself.) Nevertheless, when it was my turn I confidently sat down in what looked like a dentist chair while I was strapped in. The guy helping me this time was not as interested in making me feel comfortable, however, as he loudly proclaimed that I was going to use the thinnest bungy cord--the most dangerous one.

The colored part of the cord indicates thickness

I had hoped that completing the small bungy first would make doing another one easier. In fact, it was quite the opposite. This time, I knew how terrifying it was to dive off into the air, and the anticipation of that experience made my fear even worse. I stepped onto the extremely narrow platform completely terrified as the heavy bungy cord threatened to pull me over the edge. As I tried to reach the sides of the gondola that were just too far away to help me stabilize, I began muttering again, this time repeating, "I'm going to die." After waving at the camera yet again, I focused all my attention on listening to the countdown, and when the time came, I jumped once more without hesitation.

Unlike the first bungy jump, where the experience was over before I was really aware that it had happened, this bungy jump gave me lots of freefall time to reflect on what was going on. I remember thinking, "Wow, this is actually kind of relaxing." And it was. It may have only been six or seven seconds of freefall, but that was enough time to notice that falling takes absolutely no energy. You don't have to do anything but let gravity take control and keep breathing. At least until you reach the bottom of the fall and the bungy cord jerks you back up again. 

Just like a rag doll

This time, the second time I bounced upward, I had to reach up toward my ankles and pull a strap that would release my feet, allowing me to be hauled up again while sitting instead of hanging upside down. Luckily, I felt fully in control of my mental functions this time, so I performed the task without any issues, and I was hauled back up, elated that I had succeeded yet again. (Actually, going back up was scarier than falling, as every clank in the machinery made me think something would break, sending me plunging to my death.)

The view looking down from Kawarau Bridge

When I finally made it back to the bus, I felt like I never wanted to leave solid ground again. Even climbing onto a small boulder while taking a walk that evening made me dizzy and anxious, and when my dad enthusiastically stated that next, we would have to try skydiving, I couldn't help but feel that I was done with extreme sports for a while. Nevertheless, by the time I made it home to the US, I knew that I would gladly go bungy jumping again.

I'm not happy about being above the ground.

Bungy jumping. Was it terrifying? 100%. Was it harder than I expected? Heck yes. Would I do it again? Absolutely. The feeling of accomplishment I had after finishing, combined with that moment of pure relaxation I experienced while freefalling, made the terror totally worth it. Though not everybody can or should do this (too much of a fear of heights could cause you to jump wrong and hurt yourself), I would highly recommend bungy jumping to any adrenaline junkies who enjoy a little altitude. AJ Hackett Bungy, the company that owns the Kawarau Bridge Bungy and the Nevis Bungy, has great employees and an excellent record, so I would definitely recommend them as well.

Waving goodbye

Thank you so much for reading! I do not claim to be an expert but merely wish to share my experiences so others can see that regular people can achieve dreams.


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