They say that if you don’t jump within 30 seconds of getting out onto the platform, chances are you’re never going to do it. I’d already chickened out on a bungy once before (just watching was scary enough, thank you very much), and I knew my mates would never let me live it down if I bailed again. So the way I had it planned, I was going to get straight out there, count down from three and go for it. I can do this. Funny how things don’t tend to work out quite the way you plan, eh?
I knew it wasn’t going to be easy – I was hardly surprised when the nerves kicked in as soon as I saw the platform rising 50 metres out of the jungle at AJ Hackett’s Cairns bungy centre – but I figured if I didn’t give myself enough time to really think about what I was about to do, I wouldn’t realise how insane it was. I can do this. Like I said though, things didn’t really go according to my “get-it-over-with-quick” plan, and I decided to give the much tamer-looking Minjin swing a go first.
I grabbed one of my friends and dragged her up for a tandem swing. It was supposed to be a cop-out, a warm-up, an easy option. Clearly we had not seen the swing in action before forming these opinions. Turns out it actually rises just as high as the bungy tower does, and I guarantee it’s just as good at scaring the crap out of you. I can do this.
Back at the bungy tower, I was starting to shake as I went inside and got myself weighed. I was desperately searching for a way out, some kind of excuse I could use for not going through with it. I wanted to buy myself some time, but all that now stood between me and that 50-metre drop was the climb to the top of the tower. I can do this.
My knuckles were already totally white by the time I finally made it to the top, and my knees were shaking so much that all I wanted to do was collapse on the floor and scream and cry until someone carried me back down again.
At this point, I reckon the odds of me actually jumping were about 937-to-one. I didn’t give a damn if I was never going to live it down – at least I’d still be alive and (let’s face it) backing out is a whole lot less embarrassing than kacking your pants. I can’t do this.
At the final countdown I’ll just get strapped in, then I’ll see how I feel. My pulse races. The blood drains from my face. I am breathing heavily. I wonder if they get many people vomiting up here? I don’t think I can do this.
I look out at the stunning views over Cairns of the surrounding mountains and out to the reef. I keep a vice-like grip on a metal ring somewhere off to my left as I try to enjoy the scenery. It’s just a lookout. No jumping involved. If I can just manage to forget about what I’m meant to be doing, then I think I can do it.
There are two jumpmasters up there with me, and they keep telling me how well I’m doing. “If you just want to shuffle out a little further…”, “if you just want to let go and hold on to my arm…”, “you’re doing really great – most people would have backed out by now…”
Sshh. Just let me look at the view for a while and calm down, then I think I can do it. I look down. Big mistake.
More deep breaths. Think about something mundane. I compose a shopping list. Bread. Milk. Chocolate. Isn’t this a lovely view?
I’ve stopped shaking. He offers me his arm again. This time I decide to take it. My fingernails dig deeply into his arms, but at least I’ve left my security blanket behind. You know, I think I’m going to do this.
Kiss The Ground
I look out at the horizon. I stretch my arms out from my sides. I take a deep breath. I’m going to do this. I launch myself off the platform. And I’m falling, screaming, the ground rushing towards me at a million miles an hour. Then I’m slowing down, stopping inches from the water, and heading quickly back up, still screaming.
I suddenly remember to breathe. I close my eyes as I bounce up and down a few times. My hands are all tingly, my pulse is still racing, but I’m breathing normally now and I’ve stopped screaming as I’m lowered onto the raft. I did it.
Someone unties my feet and helps me back onto dry land. I stagger along for a few steps, but my legs are shaking again. I drop to my knees and kiss the ground. It took seven nerve-wracking minutes on the edge, and I’m damn sure that I’ll never put myself through it again, but I did it.
Remember those internet pictures of small kittens emerging from a washing machine looking confused, soaked to the skin and all dishevelled? Funny, right?
Wrong. After whitewater rafting the famous Tully River in Queensland, I know exactly how those little buggers feel. Fall out of your boat while going through a rapid, and it’s a cacophony of noise, angry water and a “which way is up?” feeling.
Now of course, the idea of whitewater rafting is to stay inside the raft as you negotiate the foaming waterways of the Tully. But when the rapids have names like Alarm Clock, Corkscrew and Killer Falls there’s not much chance of staying dry for the entire day. Resign yourself to falling in at some point… it’s gonna happen.
The Tully’s reputation as the best river in Australia to raft is well-deserved. It descends 17 metres for every 100 metres in length and has some of the most aggressive rapids in the country. And no matter how high or low the water is running, you’re pretty much guaranteed a white-knuckle ride.
When the water is down, the ride is more technical, with rafters having to negotiate the twists and turns created by the rocks being exposed in the water. When the water is up, it’s just “hold onto your hats” time – or at least the side of the boat – as there’s not much time to think.
But there are some peaceful, if no less adrenalin-inducing, times on the trip. Just before lunch, you’re given a nut-scrunchingly cold shower under Ponytail Falls, and some of the scenery – including ancient lava flows and giant karri trees – is breathtaking. If you dare to take your eyes off the water, that is.
One heartening aspect of the trip is that every instructor is built like Arnold Schwarzenegger after a workout – their arms and shoulders pop out of their life jackets – and they look as though they could lift the entire boat and rafters out of a rapid if it got too tricky. Don’t worry, you’re in safe hands.
Oh yeah, I made one of those rapid names up.