My instructions were clear. I was to walk until my toes were dangling over the metal fixture and drop the long thick bungee cord that is attached between my two ankle straps into the vast greenery beneath me.
“At that point you are completely free,” Jumpmaster Kenneth of Tropical Bungee said.
Free was an ironic word choice since in that brief moment I felt like a prisoner walking the green mile to my planned execution.
Me being erectly positioned there encased by nothing except the lush forestry was the most terrifying experience of my life. All the confidence I had faked before this moment flew out the window, and my thoughts immediately transitioned to: “I can’t do this.”
My friend, Brittany Cogbill, and I had made a pact the day before to push the other one off in the event that one of us turned chicken. The set up of the jump voided out that idea, and the truth became evident. The reality of making this happen was up to no one but myself. Besides, she had just completed her mission, proving that everything was going to be okay if I could just let go.
Behind me a countdown from five began. At that moment I silenced my inhibitions and made up my mind that I would not be the failed attempt of the day. At the sound of zero, I pulled my nerves together in a deep breath, stretched out my arms and took the plunge just at the bridge of Lil John’s song “Get Low” fittingly played “Let me see you get low, you scared, you scared” in the background.
Jumping was the easy part. I belly flopped the sky and the sensation of flying poured through my body. A rush took over that completely cleared my mind, and in my free fall I connected with nature.
One Mississippi. Two Mississippi. The seconds passed, and then the weight of gravity took over. I realized I was still falling and panicked. I questioned whether I had just made a suicide attempt. The words of my group member Dave Jordison came to mind.
“It felt like I was going to die,” he said describing his jump. “No white light, no long hallways. Just instant death.”
Before the jump, Kenneth told us that Tropical Bungee opened 21 years ago and was the first bungee jumping organization in Central America.
“I’m telling you so you know you should have no worries about safety,” he said. “We have had no accidents.”Well safety was all I could think about.
At that moment, the cord reached its extension limit and sprang me upward. The force transitioned quickly from a pull to a push and I fell a second time. The quick change in directions made my belly cartwheel. My screams of fright rang out in the surroundings.
And then it was over. “The shortest, longest four seconds of your life,” Kenneth described. I hung suspended more than two hundred feet below the bridge, with rocks in the flowing Rio Colorado beneath me apparently close.
Dangling there upside down, I felt like the ankle bracelets were slipping further down off my legs. I told myself to breathe, to stop imagining my head smashing on the rocks. With each exhale I said, “I’m not going to fall,” and prayed that I would be able to catch the hook our jumpmasters threw down to pull me back up.
Time that I could not measure elapsed. Finally, the hook was in hand, and I did a half pull up to fasten it to my waist harness. The operators pulled me to an upright position, and I made my way back to safety.
It wasn’t until my feet were on the bridge that I breathed a sigh of relief. Jumpmasters Kenneth and Roberto greeted me with a “How did it feel?” to which I responded “Pura Vida, Mae.”
“Hold out your hand’s,” they instructed me. My hands shook uncontrollable, a sign of a 100 percent adrenaline rush.
I was the last one in our group of three to make the leap. We were done, received certificates of courage, and left to go home.
“Scratch that off our bucket list,” Brittany said to me on our ride back.
Yes, I agreed as we clashed hi fives. Now on to skydiving, I thought.