Sukhothai wasn’t originally on my list for places to visit…
It was freezing cold. The bridge swayed in the icy wind. I heard the screams as the people ahead of me plunged into the abyss below. All I could think was “What have I gotten myself into?”
I found out about this by accident. I was sitting in a cafe trying to warm up when I overheard a couple of other backpackers discussing things they’d done in Nepal. My interest was piqued when I heard one sentence; “world’s highest canyon swing”. If you know me then you’re already aware that I’m quite a fan of activities that get your adrenaline pumping. I love crazy rides and roller coasters, and I’ve been sky diving three times so far. Naturally canyon swing was on my bucket list. I did a google search and found out which company runs the activity. It is held at The Last Resort, about 3 hours from Kathmandu. After looking through the activities listed on their site I decided that the Bungee and Swing package was the best value. To do either on their own is 85 Euros but it only costs 110 Euros to do both. Considering that in Australia it costs about that much just to do one I thought it would be silly not to take the opportunity to do both.
The drive to the resort is a long one so you have to be at the office very early in the morning. For that I am thankful because I might not have dressed as warmly if I hadn’t had to leave the hostel at 5:30 in the morning. It was very cold when we arrived in the mountains. The bus drops you on the far side of the canyon from the resort so you’re forced to walk over the bridge you’ll be jumping off. To say it is daunting is an understatement. I would almost say that it’s cruel because you can’t help but think about what is coming when you walk back onto that bridge.
First we had to be weighed and allocated groups. They use different ropes depending on the weight of the jumpers. For the Bungee Jumps there would be four groups over the day starting with the lightest and finishing with the heaviest. I was in the last group for the day which meant I’d be doing the swing first. I was hoping that it would work out that way. That is until the safety briefing where I found out that the swing included a free fall. When I think of the term swing I think fixed length rope and, well, swinging. I didn’t realise that you have to fall until the rope catches you and then you swing. I listened to the brief with building nerves. 160 metres high, 7 second free fall, 150km per hour. Suddenly the bungee jump didn’t seem so scary any more. With an impending sense of doom I joined the first group on the bridge.
It was freezing cold on the bridge which only added to everyone’s nerves. We lined up in two rows depending on whether we’d be jumping or swinging. I placed myself towards the back of my line. Unfortunately that’s not how it works. One of the staff asked to see the weight written on the back of our hands. Suddenly I found myself being harnessed up with two of the other swingers. I was going to be one of the first few off the bridge. I watched with growing fear as those ahead of me jumped. Their screams echoing back up to us from below. It takes quite a while to get through the group because it takes about 10 minutes to reset each jump. For that reason they alternate between jumpers and swingers. Unfortunately it didn’t take long enough. Before I knew it I was being beckoned forward and having the rope attached to my harness. I was instructed to duck below the safety bar between the bridge and the jumping platform and then the only thing keeping me in place was the bungee master holding the back of my harness. I shuffled forward toward the edge, the heavy rope pulling me as well.
“more,” said the bungee master. I shuffled another inch. Do I really want to do this?
“more,” I took another small step. Can I go back?
“more,” and another inch. I don’t think I want to do this anymore!
“ok. 3…” no
“2…” I can’t do it!
“1… Jump!” I’m not going!
And then I was screaming.
My scream was one of pure unadulterated terror. I ran out of air before I had even completed the free fall it was such a long drop. I felt the rope catch me. I was screaming again and then I realised that the scary bit was over. I had survived [video].My fear was replaced by relief and elation as I swung back and forth. Smiling like a maniac as I waited for my momentum to slow.
Getting out of the canyon is hard work. One of the staff pulls up a rope across the canyon that you have to try and grab onto as you swing past. Once you have a hold of the rope you have to pull yourself towards the ladder. It takes a while to get through all the slack in the line before you start making progress. It takes quite a toll because the heavy rope attached to your harness pulls you back towards the canyon. Once I had my feet on solid ground and the harness had been removed I took a moment to think through what had just happened. It was over so fast it almost didn’t seem real but thinking back to that moment of falling put my stomach back into knots. I hung out at the bottom of the ravine to watch a few more people jump. It’s so much more enjoyable to watch from the other side once your own jump is over. I also found this sense of camaraderie with the others once we’d all completed a jump.
If I thought that the jumps were going to be the hard part I was very wrong. The only way to get back to the resort is a very steep winding trail with makeshift stone steps. Some of which would shift under foot. It took about an hour for me to make it back. The exertion left me feeling somewhat ill even though I stopped frequently. The worst part? I had to do it again after the bungee jump. It almost made me not want to do it. When I finally made it back I decided to eat. It seemed smart to give my lunch some time to settle before bouncing up and down by my feet. While I was eating it began to rain which really put a damper on my mood. As if the cold wasn’t bad enough. Now I was going to be jumping in the rain. By the time my group was called a couple of hours later I was thoroughly disenchanted with the idea. I just wanted it over with.
I decided to remove my cashmere cardigan so that I would have something dry to put back on when I made it back. In retrospect I wish I’d taken a change of pants as well. I walked back onto the bridge shivering. It was truly freezing. The metal slats were slick which meant it was slow going as well. I was going to be the second bungee this time around. The guy before me was absolutely terrified and his jump was hilarious. Don’t think I’ve ever heard so much profanity from a non-australian before. I was beckoned forward and sat on a stool behind the platform. I was strapped to the side of the bridge so that I wouldn’t slip. That was the worst part. The rain was slowly soaking through my hoodie and all I could comprehend was the cold. The harness was fastened around my ankles and the back-up to my waist.
The cord holding me to the bridge was released and I was instructed to stand and make my way onto the platform. This time I made sure not to look down. When the bungee master told me I was at the edge I closed my eyes and stretched out my arms and he tipped me forward. I opened my eyes once I felt myself tip forward. I screamed again. But this scream was shorter. I wasn’t so scared this time. The swing was infinitely more terrifying. The free fall was over before I knew it and the cord bounced me back up to tumble over before I dropped again [video]. I lost momentum a lot quicker this time. I was hanging by my feet, upside down about 50 metres above the ground. It felt like forever before they started lowering me. I had the awful feeling that my feet were slipping out of the harness, a natural response to the situation I’m sure.
I felt myself begin to lower. So much more slowly than I was happy about. I was like a record on repeat.
“get me down get me down get me down get me down get me down get me down get me down now”
I could see the staff member below with the bamboo pole getting ready to pull me in. I just wanted that pole in my grip and to be on firm ground again. By this point I had been hanging upside down for a full minute and my vision was starting to blur. Finally I was low enough that I could reach the pole and be pulled down. The second staff member grabbed my arms and directed me to a platform. I was flipped over and instructed to grab the end of the table behind my head. Finally I was on firm ground again. I lay on the table letting the blood return to the rest of my body. I was released from the rope and eventually allowed to sit up and remove the harness. I decided I needed some more time to recover and sat beside the small fire the two staff members had created to combat the cold. I watched another jumper before deciding to make the long climb to the top for the ride back to Kathmandu.
I don’t imagine I’ll ever bungee jump a second time but I’m glad that I’ve ticked these off my bucket list now. Have you ever done a canyon swing or bungee jump? Would you do it again?