But I’ve decided never to jump again. It perplexes me why people claim to find joy in leaping from a towering 160-meter bridge. All photos by Suraj Kunwar.
Am I an adventurer? Such questions are unnecessary because it is evident that I am one. I thoroughly enjoy traveling, exploring, trekking, ascending hills, and descending to the plains. Whether I embark on a solitary hike, walk in the company of others, or engage in camping and similar activities, my love for adventure knows no bounds. If these pursuits alone fail to establish my bold spirit, then so be it—I remain unconcerned. However, I have resolved, once and for all, to never attempt Bungy or Bungee jumping again. Yes, I have indeed experienced it before! The jump I undertook on Monday, May 7, 2007 was harrowing. It is not the fact that I didn’t crash into the Bhote Koshi river’s gorge that made it terrible, but rather the entire experience was so terrifying that the mere thought of jumping still fills me with fear.
Until approximately 15 minutes prior to the jump, my anticipation for the exhilarating free fall was sky-high. Without hesitation, I willingly paid Rs. 1200 (after receiving a 50% discount from the manager) to partake in this adventure. However, as I made my way towards the jump platform, a sense of nervousness started creeping in. Was I truly going through with this? Was I not joking?
I almost pulled off on the last minute. I thought I would die if I did jump. Suraj Kunwar (my reporter friend in Kantipur daily who had gone to Bhotekoshi along with me to cover the jumping by blind folks of Kathmandu) had earlier told me about the story of how a female TV VJ backed off on the last minute. I didn’t want to be male counter part of the lady, did I? No way. I am a man of courage, I told myself. I have to take this jump since I have already come this far. Bungee instructors are about to tie the rope on my legs. I hurriedly pushed the fear aside and prepared myself for the jump of my life.
I was on the verge of backing out at the last minute. The mere thought of jumping filled me with a fear so intense that I believed I would meet my demise. Suraj Kunwar, my reporter friend from Kantipur Daily, accompanied me to Bhotekoshi to cover the daring jumps performed by visually impaired individuals from Kathmandu. Suraj had previously shared the story of a female TV VJ who had backed out at the eleventh hour. I had no desire to be the male counterpart of that lady, did I? Absolutely not. I reassured myself, reminding me that I am a courageous individual, and I had come this far; therefore, I had to take this leap. The bungee instructors were ready to secure the rope to my legs. With a determined push, I cast aside my fear and prepared myself for the most significant jump of my life.
However, my body and I seemed to be two separate entities, which presented a striking irony. On one hand, I had made the decision to jump and was poised to do so. Yet, simultaneously, an overwhelming fear gripped something deep inside me, preventing me from venturing to the edge of the jumping board. The instruction from the Bungee instructor to stand tall and extend my arms felt daunting. “You’re about to soar, for heaven’s sake,” he exclaimed, urging me closer to the edge. But no, I remained unmoving, unable to take a single step.
Summoning all the courage within me, I managed to inch my feet forward, but my body stubbornly bent backward. I felt sheer terror, akin to a rat cornered by a sudden onslaught from a cat. Here I was, ready to jump and demonstrate to the world my adventurous spirit, unafraid of anything, and yet I couldn’t even bring myself to approach the edge of the jumping platform.
Eventually, through sheer determination, I reached the very tip of the jumping board and forced a smile towards the camera positioned on the left. I was certain that the camera had captured the terror etched upon my face. With a barely audible farewell to the camera, I bid my voice adieu, its timbre scarcely reaching my own ears.
Suddenly, I felt an abrupt force against my back—a gentle nudge, perhaps from the Bungee instructor. In that instant, I found myself plummeting downwards with astonishing speed. I willingly surrendered to the descent, unable to comprehend the reality of what was happening. It was undeniably terrifying—truly, utterly terrifying. In that very moment, it seemed as if my heart had leaped out of my chest. Where had my heart gone? I had intended to unleash a chorus of boisterous exclamations (hui, ha ha, hurray), but as I descended, no sound escaped my lips. I was a petrified child.
As I hurtled downward, at a speed only known to the divine, I became acutely aware of the skin on my face converging at the tip of my already elongated nose. The thought of others observing this occurrence from the bridge filled me with apprehension. If they did notice, I pondered, it would be profoundly embarrassing. Additionally, I imagined the onlookers witnessing my tears and screams, induced by the gathering of skin on the tip of my nose. Goodness, how ridiculous would I appear if that happened? Later, I mustered the courage to inquire of Suraj whether he had detected any changes on my countenance, my grotesque countenance. He assured me that he hadn’t noticed anything amiss. “You appeared perfectly fine and composed,” he reassured me, offering immense solace. “You executed the jump flawlessly.”
“Flawlessly?” I incredulously questioned Suraj. I also realized that I had jumped in the wrong position—head up and legs down. In normal jumps (or in a swing), that would be the correct posture, but not in Bungee jumping. The proper technique involves leading with your head downwards since your legs are fastened to the rope, which is attached to the bridge. Jumping in the wrong manner could lead to difficulties when reaching the point where the rope starts pulling you back towards the bridge. The body would experience a sudden jolt at that juncture, causing your head to go down and legs to go up. I had witnessed one of the blind participants encounter the same predicament. However, Suraj insisted that I had indeed jumped the way I was supposed to. Nevertheless, the entire experience felt surreal and peculiar.
To this day, I wonder why people claim to enjoy leaping from a bridge towering 160 meters above the river.
After the initial free fall and the subsequent jerk, you find yourself being propelled upwards towards the bridge. It feels as if your heart, which already feels displaced within your chest, is being expelled from your body once again. The suspension is unparalleled—an incessant oscillation of ascending and descending. As I descended, pulled by the rope towards the bridge, I recalled the solemn promise I had proudly made to my friends on the bridge: I would emit the loudest sound possible (hui). A mere second or two earlier, I had indeed screamed, not out of a desire to fulfill my promise, but out of sheer fear. It had been an involuntary response, not a deliberate act. Yet, I screamed once more, this time to assert my control over myself, to reassure myself that I was still suspended somewhere between the bridge and the river. Hanging in the middle of nowhere. My head spun rapidly, then gradually slowed until it became almost motionless. I opened my eyes, and the gorge unfolded before me, swaying like a fan in full swing. The Bhotekoshi river below mirrored its motion. Hanging upside down, the perspective was undeniably different, prompting me to close my eyes once again.
[The Kathmandu Post, and Kantipur in Nepali, featured a story about a group of four visually impaired Nepali youths who tackled the challenge of bungee jumping with the finesse of seasoned professionals. Their remarkable feat on Monday not only showcased their courage but also established a national record. They fearlessly jumped from a suspension bridge towering 160 meters above the Bhote Koshi River in Sindhupalchok. Read the story here]
Finally, my body came to a still, almost motionless. It was then that I became acutely aware of the rope tightly secured around my legs. That rope, the sole tether connecting me to the air, held me suspended. Instead of feeling gratitude towards the rope and finding assurance in its reliability, a peculiar thought intruded my mind: What if my legs somehow slipped out of the knot, sending me plummeting downwards? What a ridiculous notion! I scolded myself, reassuringly reminding that the knot was secure. “You’ll be fine, my boy,” I comforted myself, urging to find solace in the situation and attempt to enjoy the spectacle before me.
To hell with enjoyment! Terror consumed me. I began to regret my decision to jump. Although I must have remained suspended there, motionless, for no more than a minute, it felt as though I were trapped in the sky for an agonizing hour.
Amidst my struggle with fear, I sensed a slow descent. The rope gradually led me towards the river. “Good,” I whispered to myself, finding solace in the fact that I wasn’t going to meet my demise. “Just be quiet and close your eyes,” I advised myself. I shut my eyes, attempting to resist the temptation of witnessing the view. But after a few seconds, I succumbed to curiosity and opened my eyes. Below, on the riverbank, I spotted two individuals, one of whom extended a bamboo pole towards me. Without hesitation, I reached out and grabbed hold of it as I drew closer. As I descended further, the man clutched my head and guided me towards the landing area, where I laid down as he and another person proceeded to untie the rope. It was at that precise moment that I felt a sudden pinch on my neck. “Hey, man, how was that?” one of them inquired in English. “Ma ta Nepali hun, dai. Bachiyo, tesaima khushi chhu,” I replied in Nepali. (“I am Nepali, brother. I survived. I am happy.”)
“Hehe, I thought you were an Israeli because of your beard and height,” he chuckled. “Hey, there’s no chance of dying, you know.”
Trembling and uttering “God, God, God” repeatedly, I stumbled away from the platform, distancing myself a few meters as I surveyed the immense height. My mind was reeling with disbelief. What had I just done? I couldn’t fathom the fact that I had actually taken the leap from up there. It was an agonizing experience. I vowed never to do it again. After taking a few minutes to catch my breath and gather myself, I began ascending the hill towards The Last Resort, the establishment overseeing the Bungee jumping activities.
Once there, I shared my harrowing experience with my friends and treated them to tea or coffee, a small celebration of our successful but terrifying free fall. I turned out to be fortunate as the manager refused to accept the discounted amount of Rs. 1200 since no other reporters had expressed interest in taking the plunge.
It was time to board the bus and cross the bridge once more. As I approached the middle of the bridge, the sound of John Lennon’s voice filled my iPod. What a coincidence that he sang, “No hell below us.”
[WSJ Note: This blog is the second installment of a four-part series called “Excitement Blogs.” I hope, although I am not entirely certain, to continue the series if I can find the time amidst my reporting and writing for the newspaper. In the meantime, I plan to digitize my Karnali journal from my notebook. However, please take the opportunity to read some of my reporting and other stories from the region on UWB.]
Stories from Karnali:
1. In A Nepali Village of Daura Suruwal, Young Generation Wants Jeans
2. A Radio Report From Jumla: Information Revolution
3. A Young Jumlee’s Dream of Teaching
4. The Karnali Express: Bumping on for 52 Hours (Jumla to Surkhet)
5. Hari Bahadur Rokaya Up Close and Personal
6. Job in Nepal Police, Duty in a Corner
7. Up to Rara Lake with Dohori Dhun All the Way
8. Remote Nepal Speaks: Young Voice of Karnali
9. A Different Alchemist: Himalayan Yarns of Nepali Shepherds
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