We were in Southern Chile. I received a quick message from friends who were meeting us in New Zealand. They were planning to do the famous Kawarau Bridge Bungy Jump, so they naturally thought we may want to join them.
We knew that bungy jumping was a must-do adventure activity in New Zealand. The Kawarau Bridge Bungy Jump is actually the first commercial bungy jump in the world. Queenstown, New Zealand is ground zero where this extreme sport started. If we were going to do a bungy jump anywhere, this was definitely the place to do it!
But Heather and I had already discussed whether or not we were going to bungy jump and we both wholeheartedly decided that this was something we were unquestionably NOT going to do. The whole idea of bungy jumping seemed absolutely terrifying and there was little desire from either of us to do it.
The Message That Started It All
Then I got the message.
Our friends suggested that their timeslot might sell out soon and that we’d need to book now if we wanted to do it with them. Pressure was on to book it and a number of factors began to sway my once firm stance of not bungy jumping.
This was a once in a lifetime experience. We would finally have friends joining us for a few days of our journey and it would be awesome to do this with them. They were doing the jump on Saint Patrick’s Day, so thoughts of triumphant drinks after the jump began to sound like a great way to spend the day in New Zealand. And it was on the famous Kawarau Bridge, the original! With all of these different points swirling around in my head, fear of missing out began to set in more so than fear of jumping off a bridge.
About to embark on our trek through Patagonia, I knew I wouldn’t have any Internet connection for nearly a week to book this excursion. It was now time to pull the trigger or risk not joining them on what could potentially be an epic experience.
So using spotty wifi, I quickly began to scour through legal text of the booking site Viator, that we often use to book excursions with, to see if they had a cancelation policy. There it was. Apparently there are no cancelation fees with their bookings if made at least 7 days prior to the tour date. That was good enough for me! My mindset was to book it now, have another month or two to decide if I actually wanted to go through with it, then cancel when I come to my senses.
This would give me time to thoroughly research the AJ Hackett Kawarau Bridge safety record, see if there have been any deaths, and uncover a number of other bungy jumping stats, which would ultimately help me to decide whether or not to cancel.
Heather still wisely said “hell no!” but I went ahead booked myself a 2:00 slot to bungy jump off New Zealand’s famed Kawarau Bridge. I was already terrified at this moment. By the time I hit the submit button on the payment page, my palms were dripping in sweat onto the keyboard.
Did I just succumb to the ultimate proverbial peer pressure?
I think I just did.
Jump Day at the Kawarau Bridge
Fast forward several weeks, the seven-day cancelation period came and went while we were delirious on our 5-day flight. At some point once we had landed in New Zealand, I realized it was no longer cancelable. I would be bungy jumping. Very reluctantly jumping. Shit!
The day had come. It was Saint Patrick’s Day in Queenstown and I was terrified. Our friends Eric and Kristen would be joining me for the insanity while Heather would join us at the jump site to watch our madness. Eric was excited for what was to come, while Kristen was more so in my camp. It was a camp of pure terror.
From Queenstown you take a bus ride about 30 minutes to the Kawarau Bridge. While rock music blared through the speakers trying to get us pumped as we drove through the always-scenic New Zealand countryside, none of us spoke a word, perhaps a bit frozen with fear.
Then we got to the bridge. It was all smiles and excitement from the staff as we got weighed-in, suited-up and signed our lives away with some last minute paperwork.
We watched a few other jumpers go first. Some hesitated for minutes before finally taking the plunge, while others chickened-out completely.
The Kawarau Bridge Bungy Jump
Walking out onto the bridge felt like walking down death row. Many spectators watched on in amusement of this spectacle they would never do themselves.
I gladly let Kristen and Eric go first as I was happy to get the opportunity to not only scrutinize safety procedures, but it also left me with a few extra moments to contemplate my life. They would do a tandem jump. The crew at the ledge eased them into their harnesses.
“3-2-1, bungy!” They dove into the air with ease and showed picture-perfect form. They looked like old pros. Even the once-visibly-frightened Kristen suddenly showed no signs of fear, leaping gracefully down into the canyon with her partner-in-crime like two synchronized swimmers. As they say in New Zealand, “Good on them!”
Great. Now it was my turn.
I reluctantly got into my harness questioning whether or not I’d actually have the will power to go through with this. I asked the staff if they could just push me off, but they explained that I must do this on my own. This wasn’t off to a good start.
But speaking of the crew, they were great. They got me talking about where I’m from, my former job, and other topics that had absolutely nothing to do with the forthcoming challenge: leaping off a 141-foot high bridge. Although shaking a bit walking onto the bridge, they really helped bring me at ease.
Then as if right on cue, it suddenly began to rain. Tensions shot right back up. Jumps here happen rain or shine, so now to add insult to injury I’d be bungy jumping during a storm. Maybe this was a sign though. The shower provided some last-minute doubts about whether or not to actually go through with it.
After safety checks took place, I knew what was coming next. It was time to mosey on out to the very edge of the ledge. With the tips of my shoe now as far as they could go, I tried not to look down, but it was inevitable. The height of this otherwise beautiful jagged canyon, now really set in.
The murky blue Kawarau River down below seemed miles away. I usually don’t have much of a fear of heights but vertigo had set-in full force high up on the bridge. I wanted to vomit.
I knew if I was going to go through with this, I’d need to make the dive without hesitation or else I probably would end up being like many others who do the walk of shame off of the Kawarau Bridge. It was time to rip off the band-aid. Lets do this.
With cameras now rolling to capture my impending doom, I was instructed to wave at the spectators. Then I was to wave down to Kristen to Eric, who instead got my finger since I hold them responsible for swaying me into this mess. Thanks guys!
Then it was time to bungy jump. I was so stunned with fear that I hadn’t really put much thought about how to jump nor did I pay much attention to others’ form. I was told it was best to just fall straight down like a tree after being chopped.
With the rain now picking up, I had to go immediately. Despite my extreme anxiety and trepidation that had now overcome me, I was determined to go through with it and leaned over, falling down like a chopped tree, exactly as they had described.
One problem: instinct took over.
I started off on the ledge falling like a tree. But it was completely unnatural. So as I began to leave the platform, instead of taking an elegant swan dive, I attempted to get upright and recapture my balance with my arms all while screaming from absolute terror.
I don’t even recall the moments that immediately followed departing the platform, so I was thankful to have a video to fill the gap.
I could feel my back crack a bit as I was still facing upright during the moment the bungy cord took hold to yank me back up in the air. Ouch!
Upon springing back up into the air, the fear I was overwhelmed with had suddenly been replaced with adrenaline, excitement, and euphoria. Yet as soon as I actually felt comfortable with this bungy experience, it seemed as if it came to an abrupt end.
A small boat motored up the river to unhook me. With my shirt now nearly coming off over my head, I was so disoriented I barely knew which way was up.
Delivered safely back to terra firma, Kristen and Eric were awaiting with victory high-fives and smiles of excitement all over their faces.
We did it. It was all over. Thank goodness. What a rush!
Am I Glad I Did It and Would I do It Again?
Am I glad I did it? Was the Kawarau Bridge jump worth it? Yes and yes. It was terrifying but I enjoy testing my limits and pushing myself to the edge (literally, in this case). The Kawarau Bridge bungy jump did this for me and I’m glad I could overcome my fears to make the leap. It gave not only a sense of accomplishment but an incredible sensation of defying death that can only be explained by making the jump.
Would I do it again? Nope! I have absolutely no desire to torment myself in this capacity ever again. I’m very glad I was able to overcome my fears with this ultimate challenge. It was thrilling to be able to tick this experience off my bucket list. Yet I have no yearning to ever repeat this feat anywhere else in the world. …well, at least until my friends talk me into jumping off the next bridge! 😉
If You Go to the Kawarau Bridge AJ Hackett Bungy:
Cost & Booking: The cost the jump is $195 NZ (~$133 USD). We booked the Kawarau Bridge Bungy Jump on Viator.com since it has that 7-day cancelation policy, they have a low price guarantee policy, and occasionally even runs coupon code deals to save even more.
Free t-shirt: You get a free t-shirt after your jump. Yay!
Spectator pass: If anyone wants to come along to watch you, be sure to get them a spectator pass with transportation (that’s all included with notice!)
Check-in: Be sure to check-in with AJ Hackett Bungy in Queenstown the day before your jump.
Eat: Eat a light meal beforehand. Enough so you don’t feel faint yet not enough where you feel queasy.
AJ Hackett Kawarau Bridge Safety Record: No deaths with over a million jumps off the bridge and an ‘S’ mark for quality and safety.
Photo and video: AJ Hackett takes some great video and photos during the jump for purchase. Spectators are welcomed to stand nearby and also take pictures and you may be able to bring a secured GoPro or handheld camera on the jump with you, at the discretion of the crew. (The video we posted here composed mostly of the AJ Hackett-shot video and except for the short segment with first-person perspective which was with a GoPro I jumped with.)
Liquid Courage: If you need some liquid courage, there is a bar onsite at the bridge. The bar is appropriately named “Liquid Courage.”
Ready to make the jump? Pin this to your travel/adventure Pinterest boards for future reference!: