A couple of things you can never forget about a bungy jump: the expression of your co-conspirators’ faces, and the fateful countdown that mount to your eventual plunge.
Conspirators because you and your fellow jumpers are cheating on death, defying gravity and your natural instincts.
As for the countdown, there is nothing more mesmerising than the trickles of adrenaline dripped into your ears, the urge represented by mere numbers, the suspense that spans for as long as Johnny Cash’s 25 Minutes to Go when, in fact, the deal is sealed within seconds.
Bungy jumping doesn’t just represent one of the highlights of my excursions – it simply epitomises my appetite for travel. Likewise with skydiving, hitchhiking, sandboarding, anything involving overdoses of adrenaline – thrill-seeking essentially provides me with the motivation to un-hang my rucksack and trot.
Which isn’t that dissimilar to other travellers out there.
The evidence lies with the positive feedback the ‘fear’ tourism industry has been enjoying for the past decade: with ever-increasing numbers of adrenaline-junkies looming from the horizon the market is expanding at an unprecedented rate, giving rise to popular adventure destinations like New Zealand and Namibia as well as new inventive ways to entertain oneself while on the very brink of death.
And, whilst I may bemoan about how squeamish the modern-day tourist has become, given the right circumstances and safety procedures the holiday-makers and vagabonds can display some admirable boldness.
But then, the whole point of danger-lusting is that it’s not entirely safe – one may even take risks for granted.
Urban legend has it that, while the jet boat he was on was speeding through a crevice, a Japanese tourist disregarded instructions to remain seated and – rather predictably – stood up to take a shot at photographic perfection. Horror ensued when the remaining passengers were splattered with crimson and found a decapitated body in their midst.
Horror ensued when the remaining passengers were splattered with crimson and found a decapitated body in their midst
Another equally as far-fetched, yet frighteningly practical, story depicts a female bungy-jumper slipping out of her harness mid-freefall and tumbled, concluding her near-death experience with a few excruciating breakages.
And I’ve recently been told that doctors have a way of identifying bungy jumpers by looking at an X-ray of their spine – the recoil could leave behind a signature dislocation that is diminutive, yet distinguishable.
Yet, we still jump for things for that extra kick of excitement.
The ‘danger biz’ works and receives popular acclaim because it allows people to stretch their limits – limits often imposed upon them in normal-day lives of which travelling is a liberation – in the somewhat-full-but-not-quite knowledge that their wellbeing is safeguarded by regulations and constraints. And much to the delight of post-activity ‘phobes’, they find themselves having conquered their worst fears.
Despite the sequential warnings the Jaws series has beseeched its audience, despite the number of swimmers and surfers recovered from beaches mauled and dismembered, shark cage diving remains a hit because of the metal bars which separated spectator and beast – by all means still an alarmingly close encounter with the infamous big-whites.
Though how far will our affinity for ‘fear factor’ stretch? Once our gutsy selves exhausted the Edinburghian ghost tours and charging downhill encased in inflatable orbs, what will we come up with?
A J Hackett, man who commercialised bungy jumping and daredevil-ism, is now rumoured to be expanding his business interest to include BASE jumping, a highly-technical and hazardous thrill-seek, which regularly sees even the most-experienced veterans end up on the list of fatalities. To virtual novices, this is practically suicide.
And with characters like Dean Potter continuing to put their lives at risk to achieve nail-biting yet awesome feats, little wonder that the general public would seek to mimic them.
I cannot predict how the industry will develop as, unlike the horror-movie industry, sparks of imagination and innovation are in no short supplies. Nor are would-be entrepreneurs. Are we descending from the status of holidaying adrenaline-junkies to that of voluntary lemmings? I certainly hope not.
What is certain is that our society wouldn’t beg to have all the action rebuked and condemned like a Class-A drug. The element of thrill-seeking is too firmly incorporated into our nature as humans – it’ll continue to urge us to discover new ways to test our capacity for danger.
In the meantime I’ll stick to what is already available – mind you, the ‘already-availabilities’ still translates as an endless list of opportunities, enough to shower me with adrenaline for a lifetime.