So the choice is a nice, relaxing day at the Great Barrier Reef, finding Nemo, immersing myself in a great underwater spectacle, or hurling myself off a tower with an elastic band strapped to my leg. Decisions, decisions for my last day in Cairns. Except it isn’t a decision. I’ve been aware for some time that the normal, reserved, responsible, cautious part of Andy has been beaten away into a corner by the daring, sod-the-possible-consequences, throw-caution-to-the-wind Travel Andy. The latter has taken over and has handed over the credit card to make the booking for tomorrow.
I wake in the morning after a lie-in, ready for an 11am pick up. I’m not that nervous – after all, I’ve done a sky dive; I can do anything, me. Before I know it, I’m in a car being driven down the road to the bungy station. We arrive and I walk up the slope to see the setting in the forest. It’s really pleasant – waterfall, chilling out area, LCD screens, but the tower looms large over the complex at 50 metres high above a pond. I sign up for one jump, with the intention of a second if all goes well and I like it. Another set of disclaimer forms, and I get given my ticket. Better go to the toilet first. Not that I’m nervous, of course. I wander over to the big sign and start to climb the tower’s many steps…
I’m not liking this. My confidence is oozing out of my legs with every step upwards. The wooden stairs are the kind with gaps in between each step, and the whole tower wobbles as you ascend. I don’t like heights, I remember. Never have. After a long climb, I reach the top. Much to my dismay, there’s only one jumper in front of me, so my turn is imminent. Ohhhhh crap.
My heart is racing. I feel very nervous. I look over the edge by the side and try to imagine myself falling over it. Can I jump off? I actually have to do something here, not like sky diving. I can see the coast far in the distance, as clouds gather overhead. I get told to put my harness on, but struggle with all the straps. Eventually, I sort it, and all I have to do is wait to be called. Thriller is blasting over the stereo. Like I could be more scared…
“OK Andy, just stand up and shuffle towards the edge.” the female crew member says to me, as if I’m in a supermarket queue on Christmas Eve. I do it, reluctantly.
“Now, just need your toes a little nearer the edge…”
Give me a break.! This is nuts!! I look down. I can’t do this. Every muscle in my body is telling me I’m insane – my feet are tied, I’m a million miles up and I have to dive off and who knows what happens next. I can’t do this.
“You just need to let go of the rail.”
I shakily give up my crutch that is the bar beside me.
“Errr, the other hand, too.”
Dammit. I forgot about that one. Nope, it won’t let go! I’m properly bricking it now! This is silly, I can’t dive off, I just can’t I…
“Right Andy, I‘m gonna say 5-4-3-2-1 and then you go ok? Now wave to the camera…”
I wave cheerfully. Who am I kidding?
I launch myself into midair.
The rest is all a bit of a blur until I reach the water, where I’m unexpectedly dunked into it head first, right up to my waist. Bouncing up, I’m totally shocked. What the hell happened? What on Earth do I feel now? This is…just…wow. I continue bouncing, unable to really comprehend what is happening. A few moments and several bounces later, the guy below grabs me and pulls me into his small dinghy, ready to untie me. I get told to wave to the camera, this time far above me, and I do so, automatically. He rows the short distance to the side and helps me out. I climb to my feet and feel my mop of wet hair. Wow. I’ve done it. I’ve actually done a bungy jump!!!
I stumble around for a few minutes, expecting a big crowd or applause or something, but of course a lot of people here have either done it or have seen it all before. No-one’s that interested in this soaking wet English guy in his Liverpool t-shirt doing a basic bungy jump. I go to the toilet again and dry off a little. Do I want to go again? Yeah, why the hell not…
It’s lunch time for the crew, so there’s a bit of time to wait. There’s a bar here, so I take the recommendation of going for a beer. I even grab some Doritos as I am a bit peckish. I down the beer quite quickly, and soon am told that it’s time to resume. This time, as I climb the steps I’m more confident. I’ve done it now; no longer a bungy virgin. One slight problem, however, is that I’m a bit susceptible to drink on an empty stomach. I’m about to do a bungy a bit half cut!
I reach the top with a defiant attitude. You didn’t beat me before, and this time I’m stepping it up a level. The second of three categories contains various styles, and I’ve chosen the run-as-fast-as-you-can-off-the-edge one. I have a reason for doing this, although it is a bit sad to admit: Die Hard. You know the bit where John McClane (Bruce Willis) ties himself with a hose or something and jumps off the edge just as the building’s roof explodes? Well, that’s how I’m imagining this jump. Living the movies once again! For this jump, however, it’s a little different. I have to climb a ladder on to a higher platform, and then up a ramp. There’s nothing in front of me, nothing to the sides.. Only air. This is quite serious. How can I do this? Well, despite being afraid of heights all my life, there is just a part of me that’s an adrenalin junkie. I can switch off the part of my brain that holds all the fears and reservations and just do something stupid but thrilling. I’m not entirely sure of its limitations, but I’m pushing it this holiday, for sure!
The female crew member (let’s call her Miss Bungy) raises her eyebrow when she hears I’m all set for the running jump. Considering my hesitation and obvious nervousness on my first one, she seems quite dubious. Helping me into a different harness so my legs are free and beckoning me up the ladder, she takes me through what to do. “Just run as fast as you can Andy, with the rope out to your side.”
I’m ready. I’m psyched. A bit nervous, but not thinking about it. Maybe it’s the beer. I only feel it slightly, but perhaps it’s helping. Not that I’d recommend a drunken bungy, but let’s see what happens!
Miss Bungy goes through the countdown. Bring it on…
“Yipee ki-yay!” I say as I sprint towards the edge like a stockbroker in a hurry.
Arms and legs everywhere but this time the feeling is fantastic! This is sooooo cool! I just sprinted off the edge of a platform and now I’m just bouncing around free in the air! No water, just the scrolling sights of the platform, trees, people below, pond, platform again, and finally the dinghy man. Incredible!!! That’s probably me done for now, isn’t it?
I’d planned for two, but I have this voice inside me to go again. I remember meeting an eighteen year old a few days earlier that said he was going for the BMX jump. The English guy in front of me who also did the running jump is going for it. Should I? I go and check his jump out.
Wow, that looked pretty intense! That got everyone looking. Holding on to the BMX and cycling off the ramp looked crazy! I gotta do it. Truth is, I don’t really want to do it, but I want to say to everyone that I’ve done three bungys and one of them was on a BMX bike. Beat that, matey. Doing it to show off? To brag? To look cool? Yes, I have to admit that. But so what? I’m a bloke, after all!! I sign up…
This time there’s a wait up the top. A few more people have come and I have to watch them all take their turn. People question the presence of the BMX, and seem impressed when I casually say that I’m doing it. A little boy spectating watches on with admiration. I feel like a pro! I watch a couple on their 25th anniversary to their first jumps in tandem together. Another couple fail, as the woman bottles as she reaches the top. Despite tons of encouragement and lots of time, another woman turns back from the edge, almost in tears. It does remind you of what it takes to do it. Whilst all this is going on, I look at the view as the rain falls lightly above. A part rainbow covers one of the islands in the distance. Amongst all the rock music being played to set the mood, suddenly Africa by Toto comes on, and I think of Alli. No time for soft thoughts up here!
“I didn‘t think you‘d run so fast as you did on your last jump” Miss Bungy says to me as she gives me the harness. Ha – obviously I surprised her with my Die Hard impression. Eventually, it’s the time of the BMX Kid to take centre stage. Which is where we came in…
The ramp slopes downwards. The bike, obviously, has wheels. My left foot is Sellotaped to the pedal. My right foot is out to my side for balance. The tower is swaying heavily as the other swing ride takes place beneath it. I have to pedal to the edge and into oblivion. Everything is wobbling. I could slip or roll downwards any minute now. It’s not easy, as the helper checks and ties various cables. I have to somehow hang on to the bike all the way down, whilst being flung in all sorts of unknown directions. This is absolutely crazy insane!!! What am I thinking? I’m not a stunt man! I’ve only been doing this for five minutes, but Mr Big Balls had to take it to the third level, didn’t he? Brain – what possessed you to go for this??!! I’m very, very scared.
More last-minute adjustments. Keep going, as I’m not sure I want to do this any more. What if I go off at an angle? Every part of me that’s ridden a bike says to stop. I can barely do a wheelie! I’ve never even owned a BMX! Despite being my third jump, I really am petrified.
Don’t say it…
My heart pumps fast. My throat is dry.,
I open my eyes wide.
A primitive, do-or-die emotion floods through me and suddenly I’m pedalling! I’m not sure if it’s out loud or just in my mind but I’m screaming as I approach the edge. Oh sh………………………………………….
I’m spinning, I’m turning, I’m flying through the air on a goddamit BMX!!!! Scenery rushes past my eyes but I have no idea of what’s up or down. I’m gripping the handlebars tightly and pressing on the peddles extremely hard. I reach the full of the extent of the rope and bounce back down again. “Yeah baby!” I shout, in amongst a few other screams. After a second bounce, I even have the confidence to play with the steering. Look at me!!! I’ve just done possibly the craziest thing in my life!!!!
Back on terra firma, I’m shaking. That was even worse than the first one! My legs shook all the way down, and now my hands are wobbling like the tower. But I’ve done it. Three jumps, including a spectacular bike dive. The kid, walking down, eyes wide looking at me is keen to know how it felt. Respect from the crew behind the counter. I’m the man! And I can’t stop smiling…
Photos are now on Facebook and my website, but for real hilarity you need to check out the DVD. My first jump I look so nervous, my second I sprint determinedly, and the third I look like a crazed madman on two wheels!
Many people have done many more crazy things, but I’ll settle for that…for now!