This next photo shoot should not be on the table. I vetoed bungy jumping in New Zealand several years ago. When Adam (our dive guide from Passions) excitedly suggested it on the boat, Jeff was not there and I joked that he dare not bring it to his attention. We did not know that there was a first class bungy operation just 30 minutes from Cairns. AJ Hackett built a 50 meter Bungy tower 25 years ago and added the 45 meter Minjin Swing (the world’s fastest Jungle swing) a few years later. They have a well-earned reputation for safety and heart pumping thrills. The moment Jeff returns to the table Adam not only mentions the bungy but offers us a free pass. I try to politely decline but he insists that he has a stack of them so why not? I agree to consider it but I am so preoccupied with the dive, I can’t think about it.
When Adam appears at our hotel the next day with the voucher, I now have a problem – bungy is back on the table. I have agreed to go and look at the tower. As a backup, there is the swing which I know I can do. I realize I have been skydiving, but it was tandem so technically he jumped. I know the swing is a similar freefall but it is the act of stepping off the platform that I fear I cannot do. My heart literally races for the 24 hours leading up to our 11 am pick up. At 11:15 we are on the phone with AJ Hackett. There was a time/date mix up. They will send the Bungy Bus for us at 1 pm. We find a quick bowl of pho which tastes great but I wonder if it’s the best choice given the upcoming activity. We catch the bus and the staff member passes back a form to “Sign your little lives away please.” I don’t read the fine print but I know what it says – you die, not their problem. Pulling up to the tower built into the side of a mountain. I feel sick. I do not want to this. I never wanted to do this and I’m mad it’s back on the table. I want Jeff to let me off the hook and tell me not to, but instead he is positive and supportive that whatever I decide is fine. I know he genuinely means it but I am irritated that he is asking me to do something that he would not.
As we wait for Boris the manager, there are intermittent screams of terror and delight. I try to visualize myself stepping off the platform and do some focused breathing. I feel sick. Our check-in staff member says it probably won’t work with the dress given the waist harness. I breathe a sigh of relief. Boris arrives and could not be more upbeat, kind and energetic. He says no worries about the dress, it’s no problem. I go to the restroom and lose my lunch. I have agreed to go have a look. I would have let then drop me from the Titanic pose if our driver had not informed me that they torture you if you put the control on them versus you. They start to drop you and pull you back to fake you out. I know I don’t want that but I don’t think I can step off on my own volition.
As we climb the tower shakes from time to time added to my shaking limbs. About halfway up I look down at the water which has become a tiny dot. What if you miss? We go ¾ of the way up and I see the jump masters peering down at me. The view of Cairns is spectacular if I could enjoy it. There is a rich carpet of green trees sharply descending to the bright azure ocean below. I know if I get up there they won’t let me walk back down. Jeff remains silent not giving me the out I want and need right now. I set of stairs below the top of the tower, I look down again. I’m done. I can’t do this. I don’t have to do this. I don’t need to prove myself. I tell Jeff, who gives me a kiss and thanks me for trying. He’s sincere, but I am unhappy. I failed and it’s a bitter pill to swallow.
Now we move into the swing which looks like fun so I shake off the bungy and gear up. I am smaller than most flyers so I have to stand on my tip toes to get hooked up to the swing. Now laying horizontal in the harness hanging in midair, I feel nervous. I will be flying head first through the forest at 120 miles an hour. After they haul me up, I will hang while they transfer me to the proper line and will feel some jostling. I must wait till the light turns from red to green before I pull the cord to drop me from 45 meters down to 1. I don’t ask but what happens if you pull to soon? I shudder a little. As they haul me up I feel sick again. It’s so much higher than it looked. I am dangling as the carabineer shifts over and I bounce uncomfortably above the trees. The light goes green and I give a tug. The free fall is so intense I can’t scream because with the pressure on my chest I can’t breathe! As I pass through the bottom I suck in air and scream with delight. Starting the upward swing, it goes so far, so fast, with so much force that I am sure I am going to fly right out of the harness. Now I scream with terror. I finally begin the pendulum swing back and now I start having fun. I float back and forth for a minute until they gently pull me back to the platform. I wiggle out of the dress exhilarated to be done. Jeff looks at the photos and decides we’re not done.
As I go up for a second swing, I am confident and excited. I yank the cord and down I go with the same stomach dropping jolt but I enjoy the ride. Jeff decides that we still need one more so although I am light headed and ready to be done I go up for round three. I give the cord a pull and stay motionless above the trees. I pull harder bracing myself for the drop but nothing. Now I am terrified. What’s gone wrong? They tell me to pull harder and I wail on the rope to no avail. There’s no ladder. How will I get down? What if I drop now, not hooked in properly? I start to shake and sweat. Then I start to move. They slowly haul me down safely the same way I went up. I was never in any danger but now I am done! Jeff can feel my fear and agrees that we have what we need. As Jeff takes a quick look at the photos and my heart stops pounding, I watch people shuffle out to the edge of the tiny platform. Some are bold and confident others panicked and terrified. As I watch people falling from the sky, I know I made the right call. It’s one thing to push your boundaries to feel alive but it’s another to put yourself through torture to prove that you can. The only downer is a woman who tells me I have to buy the “I’m a chicken and I didn’t jump” t-shirt. I punch back, “No, actually, I don’t.” In the end, I flew and I say to everyone else pondering the bungy question, “It’s your call to make.” If you are ever in the Cairns area and want an exhilarating experience AJ Hackett is well worth the visit.