Gimps, Elvis and utter, utter fear
Trip Start Oct 29, 2003
117Trip End Ongoing
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I dragged my aching legs out of bed at 7am (6pm Saturday in London, 1pm in DC and 9am for you boys up in Alaska) to watch Arsenal destroy Portsmouth in the FA Cup, followed by a replay of (world champion) England's disastrous return to Twickenham.
Today I had arranged to meet two friends I went to college with in the States. (Soon to be Dr.) Ben Davis is in NZ for a couple of months working in a hospital, and Abigail Smigel who just flew in for a holiday. After catching up over a couple of jars at the Pig & Whistle pub it was time to decide which underwear-soiling activity we would partake in this afternoon. Following a bit of deliberation we decided to go for a bit of a swing. At 360 feet the Shotover Canyon Swing is the highest swing in the world, where you freefall into a canyon towards a certain death until the ropes pendulum you in an arc 20 feet above the river at 3Gs. No sweat. (It was whilst waiting for the bus to take us to the canyon that there was another astonishing coincidence: three people I had travelled through Vietnam and Cambodia with walked past
Once at the platform there were three other jumpers - including a couple from Thorpe Bay, near my home town - and lots of nervous energy. We were all strapped into our harnesses and awaited our turn. Out of us three Abi went first, and after a bit of coaxing from the crazy guys working there, she stepped off backwards and whooshed down out of sight, her screams inaudible. Next up was me.
False bravado on my face belied the utter terror that had welled up in my stomach (as somebody in the guestbook had written: "Even my shit was scared"). The guys were making polite conversation as they connected me to the swing, trying to put me at ease. The fact that I was about to jump off a platform 360 feet above a canyon attached by a thin piece of wire meant they shouldn't have bothered as I wasn't listening.
I decided to jump off head first. Don't ask me why. I was given the green light but, with heart pounding and sphincter going spastic, my feet wanted to run in the other direction. The only thing I could see was the nauseating drop in front of me and along with the sound of heart-thumping panic in my ears there was absolutely no way I was going to do it
Back on the platform all I could manage to say was Wow! and shake uncontrollably. I was asked if I'd jump again for only NZ$35 (about GBP14). Absolutely.
There are several different ways off jumping off for the second jump, including releases called the Elvis Cutaway and the imaginatively titled Gimp Boy Goes to Hollywood (complete with gimp doll tied on and jammed between your legs). Ben and Abi did the the headfirst Gimp Boy, but I opted for the backwards Elvis Cutaway. Basically I was attached to the harness and winched out over the dropzone. Leaning back and with Ben's small digital camera taped to my hand, I was given a countdown. With arm outstretched and the camera recording in video mode the countdown started. Five, four, thr.... and I was unexpectedly released by the guys. You can see the results for yourselves when I figure out how to post the video clip to a website (unfortunately 50 seconds of me being scared out of my wits and looking rather silly makes for a pretty big file so if anybody has a website I can host it on it would be much appreciated).
It took quite a while to calm down and get pulses and stomachs back to normal, but by the time we'd changed underwear and met Jon, Jo and Rich in town the Speights Pale Ale was flowing like wine.