musings on travel, international living, development aid, politics, turkey (the country more than the meat) and anything else that comes to mind...

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

From New Zealand: When in Rome... or Queenstown

There are only two cars in the parking lot. Three including ours. The cold drizzle reminds us that July is winter here. An old bridge juts out from the side of a round building on the side of a cliff. A rope dangles off the bridge.

I slow my breath to a pace that betrays my heart beat. I smile at two giddy young ladies rushing past, talking of something... no idea what. I'm singularly focused.

It's safe. You only have to conquer your fear.

A quick stop in men's room. One last glance up from washing my hands. You've paid for it, teases the voice from inside the mirror. No turning back now.

I'm eerily calm, as if the battle raging between my romantic and my classical sides - between my heart and my mind - is nothing but background noise. Static on the radio.

New Zealand has been wonderful to us. Incredible, drastic vistas that change at every bend in the road. Old and new friends. (Mostly) great weather. A niceness in people that can only be matched by Canadians. Whales diving deep into the ocean, leaving their iconic tails for us to photograph. Trail running Wellington's parks at night.

But Queenstown is about adventure. It's about extreme. It's about doing things once. For some, it's about doing those once-in-a-lifetime things over and over again. It's about the rush.

So here we are. Looking out at a bridge.

Cat Stevens is playing over the loudspeaker. Or is it Guns & Roses? I step on the scale. 93 is written on my hand. Note to self: exercise more.

The man we're following now is heavily bundled up. I've taken my coat off. Wait, it's not time yet is it? We're early? Lauren smiles and squeezes my hand. She is nervous yet giddy. I'm just nervous.

It's safe. You only have to conquer your fear.

The drizzle is now rain. Forrest Gump, sideways rain. It's cold although I'm not.

The old iron bridge is wide, probably made for horses and carts carrying gold from the mines. I don't look over the edge.

Small talk ensues. Texas. Austin. Music. Boston. Africa.

The towel is unceremoniously wrapped around my shins. The straps are tightened. Is that all? Aren't there more straps?

Lauren wants to know who I think should go first.

Me. I'll go first.

The ledge is a few feet away. A cord, the cord to which I'm entrusting my life, swings in the wind. We were told earlier in the day by a lovely 19 year-old man that one can jump in practically any weather off the Kawarau Bridge, the place where bungy-jumping was invented 2.5 decades ago. It's a fixed structure. Apparently.

Bound together, my feet can only wiggle their way to the edge. Or hop, but that sounds like a bad idea in this situation.

"Ok, time to go man," reminds the pleasant Kiwi who was, in hindsight, keeping my mind busy with his chatter. "3. 2. 1!"

Nope. Not yet.

"You do have to let go of the bridge you know."

What these gentlemen don't realize is that this is possibly the dumbest/awesomest thing I've ever done. What they don't get is that for me to conquer my fear, this has to be done on my terms. I've never wanted to jump off a bridge before. Yet here I am.

"C'mon man, let's try this again. 3..." This time he doesn't make it to one.

Instinctively my arms go out. My mind goes clear. My eyes stay open. I don't feel the rain. I don't feel anything.

That's because I'm flying.