Some people have a real knack for extreme adventure sports, live for the thrill of adrenaline pumping through their veins, nerves that heighten the senses. Some might even say that jumping out of a plane or off a cliff are moments that make them feel the most alive. Those are the seconds that invigorate the soul.
That sounds really inspiring and all, but I doubt I will ever be one of those people. I’m very comfortable taking part in extremely sub-par sports like soccer, or walking up a big hill every once in a while. Even that can seem like a lot on some days.
It wasn’t until I met up with an old friend in Queenstown, New Zealand, that I ever considered doing any kind of extreme sport. Queenstown is king when it comes to adventure sports, offering everything from snowboarding and skiing to paragliding, skydiving, and jet boating. With all of these ways to die – sorry, I mean things to try – I figured it was time to put my big girl pants on (the Huggies’ pull-up kind) and step out of my comfort zone. More than anything, I wanted to push myself to try something new and challenging. Well, we can certainly say that happened.
A little bungee jump seemed suitable for me, seeing that it was founded in Queenstown. I’d kick it off with a nice little bridge leap of 47 meters. It would be over before I knew it, and seemed just a bit less scary to me because if the rope snapped, I’d have some water to fall into. Rational? No. More comforting to my intellectually struggling mind? Yes.
Alas, my friend, Ivo, was determined that if we were here, we just had to go big. Let’s do the 134 meter jump from a suspended gondola. After a few minutes of teetering back and forth, I gave in. When in Queenstown, right? Right! Yes! Who knew when I’d ever be given this opportunity again. And no one has ever died from jumping at this place, so really, how bad could it be?
We arrive to AJ Hackett in the morning, a smidge nervous but doing okay for the most part (aside from a slight hangover). Onto the bus we hop, and as we wind up the hill we can see the dropout of a huge valley. Like *huge* in a Donald Trump voice huge. Still doing okay at this point, a hint of fear setting in. The staff were super friendly and energetic, and very kind when I asked them to double check my harness to make sure I wouldn’t accidentally slip out and splatter all over the valley below. The conversation was definitely helpful at distracting me from the insane jump I was about to make.
The actual building we jump out of isn’t actually a building at all. It’s much more similar to a floating box made out of glass, which is simultaneously spectacular and mortifying, depending on how much you like heights. When our gondola pulls up, there’s music bumping and the workers are bopping around. If it wasn’t a spot for bungee jumping it definitely has potential to be a sick club, aside from the whole 134 meter drop thing.
Yeah, it’s that little thing aaaall the way up there.
Being the weenie that I am, I made poor Ivo go first. He tried to have some conversation with me beforehand that my cucumber brain was literally not able to process. He survived the jump and actually looked excited the whole time. It was also reassuring that the rope didn’t snap on him.
In the meantime, they plopped me down in a chair to get me all tethered up. Here is when my blood got pumping and brain cells started to lock down. When it was go time and I finally stood up, I felt what I can only describe as the most intense, overwhelming fear of my entire life. If Ivo had not been there, I literally think I would have backed out. I was shaking like a leaf on a tree during an earthquake. So, a lot. I very well may have blacked out. Somehow, though, hardly any of this fear is visible on my face in the video. Maybe I should take up poker.
When I walked up to the ledge, every single rational nerve in my body was telling my not to jump. “Don’t jump, Sophie. Humans physically can’t fly. That college degree really didn’t do much for you, did it?” Heck, I was told that when they count you down you really have to jump because if you don’t, most people end up not going at all.
So they counted, and I jumped. Those 8.5 seconds felt like a lifetime, and it really wasn’t until I bounced back up that the adrenaline hit and a whooping, excited yell came out of my mouth, followed by hysterical laughter. I honestly couldn’t believe I had just done that, and was also quite proud of myself. It was nerve-wracking and terrifying, but also one of the most rewarding experiences of my life.
I came back up to cheers on the rig with a huge smile on my face. My brain was still in shock, but I knew this was going to be the experience of a lifetime that I’ll never forget. It doesn’t have to be something as extreme as jumping 134 meters off of a ledge, but finding ways to push yourself is so rewarding. I still can’t believe that I did it. Who knows, this might not be the last time…