Vulnerabilities were revealed in a way that my gut twisted and turned with trepidation. I was standing atop a colossal yellow cantilever platform that reflected a blinding incandescent yellow light from its metal surface.
I kicked myself for having made the egregious decision to plummet down India’s highest bungee station at 83 meters at Jumpin Heights, Rishikesh. Triggered partly by adrenaline and partly by the ‘if others can do it, so can I’ impulse, I set off 251km from Delhi to this adventure hotspot.
After a six-hour train journey and a one-hour car ride, I reached my hotel, The Great Ganga, located at the heart of the city bustling with tourists. After a quick wash and change, I was back in the cab jaunting towards Jumpin Heights, India’s largest adventure destination. From the popular landmark in Rishikesh, the Laxman Jhula, it’s a 45-minute bumpy drive on a serpentine road to district Puri Garhwal, Mohan Chatti.
Most bungee jumping spots in India have inadequate equipment, lack certification, or at heights that don’t challenge enough. But the fact I was headed to one owned by a former captain of the Indian army, Rahul Nigam, recovered my confidence given the credibility of the forces.
On reaching the office of Jumpin Heights, and a swift registration later, I was assigned a number corresponding to my weight category.
The adventure, or rather terror, begins
I followed the friendly crew member assigned to me. Walking the curb of the road, we reached the suspended bridge from where people were popping down like army paratroopers jump off military planes.
I was harnessed securely at the chest and ankle but I still didn’t trust I was. But knowing that things are not entirely in your control and there’s always a slim chance of something untoward happening, I rationalised. But as I stood on the suspended ramp and looked down, death stared back. When the final call to jump came in a shrill voice, a voice that meant what it said. THREE, TWO, ONE…BUNGEEEEEEEEEE!
Eyes firmly shut, teeth clenched, nerves pinched and stomach knotted, I plunged into thin air seeing what seemed like stars in broad daylight. Everything from thereon to the point when I finally opened my eyes 50 seconds later and found myself dangling off a rubber cord, was a blur. I was being propelled up and down precariously.
But strangely, I felt calm. I began to realise how letting go was most liberating. My world had been turned upside down and I was getting used to it. I also realised that things which literally push you off the edge, give you profound perspective.
Once the jump was done, the rope swang jerking me left to right over a tributary of river Ganges surrounded by black rocks and white pebbles. It gradually became still till I opened my eyes and saw life again. I was proud of myself.
As one adventure ends, another begins
I was slowly lowered on to the dropping zone but now I wanted more. A new rush of adrenaline had kicked in. I hiked up the mountain, over the bed of dried leaves covering roots of ancient trees and keeping my distance from the gibbering monkeys. It took about 25 minutes to reach the base.
When I got back to the mountainside office, I was ready to experience Asia’s longest flying fox adventure. Flying at a height of 120meters for 1km at a speed of 140kmph didn’t seem daunting as the bungee. I once again hiked up, got into a life-size bodysuit in a jiffy and waited my turn. Then came the command again, THREE, TWO, ONE, RELEASEEEEE!... and off I went flying down, savouring the moist air on my face and whiff of wet mud from the grounds.
I zipped down to seven meters above the ground before scaling up again. It oscillated a few times till it stopped in the middle where it was just me and the quietude of verdant mountains and streams of cold water trickling over stones. Slowly, I was retrieved back to the camp.
Jumpin Heights is all set to launch at the Mayem Lake Goa in August, at a height of 50 meters. Operations Head Devendra Gusain forwarns me: “The second time is always scarier as you now know exactly how terrifying the experience,” he says, with a wink. I tell him I am more than ready for the thrill, shrill and everything in between.