The cold mountain air sent fresh chills down my spine as I stepped down from the vehicle and immediately saw the suspension bridge stretched out above a deep gorge where I could hear the river busily rushing by below. The river slid by like a mythical serpent. Its length spread out as far as the eye could see from either side of the bridge. As my eyes took in the warm rays of the rising morning sun peeking over greenish mountains in the horizon, it soon dawned on me that the river simply appeared like a stream of water flowing down a drain only because I was peering down at it from quite an unfathomable height. What appeared to be the molting skin of the serpent was in fact the imposing jagged rocks scattered along its slithering body that seemed to glisten as white foamy patches of water toyed with them as they trickled on by. The bridge gently and steadily rocked as I made my way across. It was barely wide enough for two people. I was told that the bridge was constructed by a team of experts specifically for the purpose of securing a bungee cord to the ankles of crazed, otherwise sane, enthusiasts before they would either fall or jump off the ledge in one brisk death defying moment of pure adrenalin infused insanity. My brain was instantly flooded. The river seemed to pass through me in all its grandeur as an avalanche of thoughts and emotions came gushing into me in one deep breath of much needed air. I had to suddenly remind myself to keep on breathing as I shuddered, shut out my thoughts and proceeded to make my way across the bridge.
Perhaps it was a combination of jetlag and lack of sleep that helped numb my mind to what I was about to do. It all seemed somewhat surreal. Laki had a sheepish grin on his face as he made his way forward to be strapped and secured. His was the canyon swing. The cameraman spared him no chance of hiding his anxious face as he made his way to the ledge. His knees seem to buckle as he stands on the ledge while the jump master whispers 3, 2, 1…Laki plummets to the valley below as his legs start to flail like the tail of a falling kite only to be whisked away from the clutches of death at the last possible instant. In a few heart stopping seconds it is all over. Laki is swinging back and forth like tiny bait being hung out to capture a giant hawk. Just then, I feel alone. The confidence and comfort of having a friend beside me, little Laki, even if it was just the entire 5 feet of him, waned away in those few seconds that I watched him drop like a stone to safely swing across the valley and gently float above the river. In a few minutes I was next.
My teeth began to chatter. It was because of the cold not my fear, or so I would like to believe. It seemed to get colder as I sat on the small stool and watched the cord being fastened around my ankles. I felt like a death row inmate being prepared for the chair. The jumpmaster gestures me forward. The few steps to the ledge were bloodcurdling as my mind desperately tried in vain to comprehend what my body was about to do. I stare into the sharp drop below with crazily dilated eyes. 3,2,1….
The scream of elation that I planned on letting out proudly, the roar of triumph that would resonate across the valley for the world to hear…never comes out. All I can muster, involuntarily, is a long frightened whimper that only I can hear, loud and clear, as I hastily breathe in my last breath. As I accelerate to the earth the air rushes past my ears, deafening me. My unblinking eyes take in what it sees as my last moments before an abrupt death. My dislodged panic stricken heart starts to fall out from my gaping mouth. My insides twist and churn as I wish for the cord to stop my fall. Instead it unravels and drops me even faster. This fall was not supposed to feel this eternal. My body simply does not allow me to exhale as I rapidly inhale all the air that I am falling into. There is not an iota of room left in my quivering ever inflated lungs, yet, my entire being is wildly gasping. Then, just when I feel like my body is about to go into cardiac arrest and convulse frenetically, just when I cannot take it anymore, the most amazingly comforting thing happens. I feel my ankles being tugged as the cord catches me, firmly straightens and slows me down. It playfully catapults me back upwards and drops me again. In that instant I feel the life rush back into me as I can finally breathe. My frozen, silent heart revs up and beats again. I live! Snatched from the jaws of the serpent of death below it is almost as if my soul stepped back and just watched my body as it soared to its doom, only to re-enter it once I stopped falling. Only then, as I am dangling in celestial bliss, do I let out hysterical screams of joy, the pure ridiculous joy of knowing what it feels to be truly alive.
Laki scampers toward me, babbling with indescribable excitement as we celebrate our feats with hugs, high fives and battle cries like victorious warriors after the ultimate standoff. The river, up close, is mesmerizing. We strain our necks to see the bridge high up above us. Like ants on a clothesline we could make out the rest of the group waiting in line to do what we had just done. The whimper that emanated from deep within my soul echoes in my head as we head back on a long steep climb. It is easily the most alien thing that I have ever discovered about myself, second only to my receding hairline.