Generalists might say there are two kinds of people, those who would consider throwing themselves off a bridge, and good-sensed people who prefer their feet firmly on the ground. I unwittingly fell into that first group years ago.
I suppose it started in an open field outside of Dundee, Oregon, when my dad gave me a tandem parachute jump for my 18th birthday. After reluctantly getting on the plane, I survived butterflies the size of condors to discover the joy of the freefall.
In college, I heeded a gravitational pull down to New Zealand, the Mecca of bungy jumping, where I spent two seasons plunging off bridges in places such as Mangaweka, Kawarau, Skippers and Pipeline.
I even remember water skiing across the lake in Queenstown, looking up and seeing my buddy Justin bouncing up and down on a bungy from a helicopter. I vaguely recall being strapped into a vertical bungy in a pub but that’s another story.
Well, a lot of water has flowed beneath the proverbial bridge since those days, yet I recently found myself staring down from a massive suspension bridge at The Last Resort (www.tlrnepal.com), just outside of Katmandu, at the bequest of Pat O’Keefe, owner of Hokkaido Outdoor Adventures, and a partner in the jungle resort.
This 160-meter high bridge spans a narrow, tropical gorge with the Bhote Kosi River raging past boulders the size of buses. The familiar butterflies were back, then they fluttered away – three, two, one, BUNGY!
Fortunately, you don’t have to go as far as New Zealand or Nepal to experience a proper bridge bungy. Minakami, Gunma, Japan’s answer to Queenstown, is now home to Japan’s only bridge bungy, a 42-meter (137 feet) leap over the Tone River.
Bungy Japan’s Kiwi owner Charles Odlin has 13 years of bungy jump experience and is a qualified New Zealand Safety Standards-approved Bungy Jumpmaster.
Charles earned his chords working on six bungy sites in N.Z. and three in Japan. He and his bilingual team have been running bungy events in Minakami for five years, but 2008 is the first full season at the bridge.
With Bungy Japan joining the mix of companies in the area offering white water rafting, canyoning, canoeing, paragliding and mountain biking, Minakami has cemented its status as the adventure capital of Honshu. And it’s just 70 minutes from Tokyo.
CALCULATED RISK TAKERS
Still, the obvious question dangling in front of many readers is, why would I want to throw myself off a bridge? Perhaps for the same reason people watch horror movies. We like to scare ourselves, especially when there is no real danger. The difference between perceived risk and real risk is that with one you can actually hurt yourself, and with the other you are just tricking your body into thinking you can.
Yet, the most profound answer lies in that wonderful moment – not when you have faced your fear – but when you realize you have survived and overcome it in dramatic fashion. It is then the huge smile appears on people’s faces lasting all the way back up the long walk to the bridge – often lingering the rest of the day.
Of course, your jump makes for great conversation with friends, and you’ll find yourself reliving those moments for years to come. And if you just can’t muster up the courage to step out onto the ledge yourself, well, it’s almost as much fun watching your friends take the leap.
Hours: Weekends: 9 a.m. – 5 p.m., Weekdays: 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. Through Oct. 13. See Website for more details.
Price: 7,500 (first jump), 4,000 (second jump the same day). See Web site for adventure packages. Bookings recommended.
Tel: (0278) 72-8133