Saturday, February 28, 2015

[SINDHUPALCHOK] Jumping Off a Bridge

I won’t lie to you; I came to Nepal for the bungy. I understand that most people pay a visit to this South Asian nation as a jump-off point for Mt. Everest. After all, the Himalayas would not really stop stalking you once you land at Kathmandu. Climbing the highest mountain in the world is not part of my many delusions of grandeur, but jumping off high bridges is. And so when the idea of going to Nepal surfaced, I came across this bungy package offered by The Last Resort, and eventually knew what I wanted to do.

The Last Resort is situated in a national road snaking up the mountains. The actual location is said to be just 12 kilometers away from the Chinese border, or at least that’s what Wikipedia claims. Your mini bus will have to stop at various military checkpoints along the way. It was annoying because the frequent stops prolonged the trip. It didn’t help that we did not have any idea what they were searching for. Were they looking for Waldo or the Hidden Mickey? In the end, neither was found.

The prices are quoted in Euros, but in American dollars the Bungy day trip costs just a bit under USD100. That includes the mini bus ride to and from the resort, lunch, as well as the jump itself. If you want to document your adventure, an extra NPR2300 would be required for the video footage, 4 souvenir photos, and the GoPro clips if you decide to wear their free GoPro helmet during your jump. No, you cannot take the GoPro home with you, but at least you’d have everything caught on tape! Or CD, I mean!

Reservation can be done online through various payment methods, although credit card payments happen to be the most common. You can also just drop by their agency in Thamel and book a reservation on the spot. It is recommended, though, that you do so a day or two in advance in order to secure your spot. I am not sure if they have a daily quota but just to be on the safe side, do reserve in advance. After signing the waiver, all you have to do is pay and show up at 5:45 AM on the day.

What happens on the day of the tour then? You jump. But before jumping, there are some standard operating procedures that have to be followed. Before the SOP, you also have to ride on the bus first and endure the trip which lasted a little over three hours. Do not worry, though, for boring it is definitely not. You are going up the mountains, you know. That simply means that the views will be terrific. Rice Terraces, check! Snowy Himalayas, check! LOTR-ish rivers, check! Ravines, err, check!

Make sure that you camera is on hand all throughout the trip. You leave Thamel at quarter past six. Before that, you have to report to the agency at around 5:45 AM where you have to counter check your name on the manifesto. After that, you all form a beeline and go to one of Thamel’s main streets where the tour buses will be waiting. There were three during my trip, which meant a lot of people, a group of four to be exact once we reached our destinations.

You will then be grouped according to height. No, just kidding because it is actually by weight. This makes logical sense because your weight determines the appropriate rope needed for your jump. This is so not the time to hide the truth. If you turn out to be too heavy or too light for the rope used for you, then good luck negotiating your life with the rocks down below. I haven’t heard of anyone dying here yet, but remember that there’s always a first time. That could be you.

The lightweights come first. Gah, sometimes I just regret being underweight. Orientation is important and should not be missed because they give out information on which your life might depend. After that briefing, you are ready to jump. If you are part of Group 1, that is. Rules vary for those doing two or more jumps. Order would also depend on weight, but only for the bungy. Those doing the swing are usually just squeezed in between the bungy jumpers.

For those going on a day tour, lunch is included. You will receive a lunch coupon after the briefing and after they indicate your weight on the backside of your right hand. If you want to jump before lunch, you better be with group one. But then again, order is decided by weight. I haven’t heard of any jumper who did the jump after lunch and puked, though. I bet there have been some, but for our batch there did not seem to be anyone who did.

As for the jump itself, the swing is said to be more thrilling than the bungy because it gives you a longer free fall. I could not really say because I did not do the swing. A GoPro helmet is available for those who decide to wear them. The video clips will be included in the photo/video package you pay for afterwards, which also includes a souvenir shirt. Of course, some people refuse to wear the GoPro because they are reluctant to see their facial expressions during the jump. Understandable!

I did the bungy in Macau four years ago. That was nerve wracking alright. This one, on the other hand was more, like, nah just jump, damn it. The thing about bungy jumping is that you spend the time before the jump agonizing over it, which is logical because jumping off bridges is not a normal everyday activity that normal human beings do. Your body will reject the idea. Your mind will refuse it as well. But once you jump, that’s about it.

You have a two-second knee jerk reaction to the tune of, “Why the heck did I juuuuuuuump??????!!!!” When you reach the free fall, that feeling is gone, and suddenly you feel awesome, just like Superman for about 3 or 4 seconds. After that, blood will rush into your head because you are hanging upside down. This is when you might feel mild headaches. The real killer, though, is the hike back up to the resort, which requires around half an hour to accomplish on uneven, rocky, and very high terrain.

Once your torture is over, you can go to the viewing deck to bask on the misfortune of others. Schadenfreude, baby! The most hilarious ones are those doing the tandem swing, because it requires coordination. If you partner does not jump as high as you do or jumps a second later, that would screw up your landing, leading to awkward positions that are better seen than described with words. The trip back to Thamel is just as scenic, but dark. Congratulations, you just jumped off a bridge!

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