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The story behind my jump:
Bungee jumping in China was the biggest adrenaline rush I got all summer. As soon as I saw the walkway over the cliff I knew I had to do it. Although with my feet happily on the earth, it’s a lot easier to exude confidence over the “venturesome sport” as the Chinese sign called it.
Four of us decided to make the plunge and the other two agreed to take photos and video. The brave four each paid our 150 RMB (roughly $20), got weighed and signed our names by our weight – there were no waivers or any mention if our travel insurance covered this activity. Then off we went to the metal walkway protruding from the cliff and over water some 48 meters high.
I had boldly volunteered to go first (while still on the ground).
The first two jumpers, Trisha and I, went to the tip of the bungee platform while the third and fourth jumpers, Adrienne and Jenna, stayed farther back. All confidence immediately disappeared as we advanced on the metal walkway. Looking down, it felt much taller than we had originally boasted about and was much shakier than we imagined. The metal beneath our feet wasn’t solid so with every step, we could see the water beneath us. Our nerves started getting the best of us. Our pace got slower.
At the end of the walkway was a Chinese staff guy who spoke no English and had very little patience. He had the harness laid out so I could step in. But the harness wasn’t a body harness, it was Velcro for only our ankles! I’ve bungee jumped before. I had a harness and a big yellow cushion on the rope to squeeze. Not in China. It’s only Velcro.
Words like, “It doesn’t matter if we lose our money,” “we don’t have to go,” and “we haven’t seen anyone else actually jump,” seeped out of our mouths as we started to cower back. The Chinese guy just kept pointing where I should step. I meekly uttered the only Chinese I could think of, “bu yao” (not want), to convey we were having second thoughts…not that looking absolutely scared shitless didn’t convey the same meaning. It came down to one decisive moment and two words.
We were there. “Fuck it.” And I stepped down where the Chinese guy was pointing. He far from gently wrapped my ankles in the industrial Velcro straps. Then to calm me fears, he took out SCOTCH TAPE! This was taped tight around my stomach to hold my shirt in place. What the hell had I gotten myself into?
The minor shot of courage I got from my vulgar statement vanished as quickly as it popped out of my mouth. The guy led me to a little platform that had just enough room for my feet to fit. He then closed a metal gate behind me. A resounding “clang” raced through my mind. There was no turning back.
My knuckles turned white as I gripped the railing behind me for dear life. Meters below me was water and anxious onlookers wondering who was crazy enough to jump. No thoughts existed in that moment, only pure, unadulterated fear.
The Chinese guy literally ungripped each of my hands and placed them above my head to form a diving triangle. Then in one quick motion, he pushed me off the platform and I was sent free-falling into oblivion.
It’s a blur. I know I screamed. I know my feet kicked like I was trying to find something in mid-air to grasp. It felt like I went plunging downwards for an infinite amount of time. And then in one jolt, I was being thrust back up towards the platform. Then there was a split second where I just hung in midair before falling towards the water again. After the first bounce, it hit me that I wasn’t dead. In fact, I found an amazing freedom of cutting through the air.
That didn’t last long. A couple of bounces later, I was dangling upside down and the blood came rushing to my head. In my best effort I tried to lift my head so as not to have a killer headache.
A bamboo stick interrupted my thoughts. Yes a BAMBOO stick was poking at me and two Chinese guys in a motorboat were using it to fetch me. After a couple of tries I finally latched onto it and one of the guys pulled me closer to the motorboat. Before I knew it, the other one had grabbed my waist in an attempt to turn me upright. With my ass still above my head, one forcefully stated, “sit.” Who was I to ask how he wanted this done since my ankles were still attached to the bungee rope and above my head. No sooner, one guy undid the Velcro and I plopped into the motorboat. The engines kicked in and I was zipped over to the dock.
A smile erupted across my face. My body was a little shaky from the rush, but I had done it. I survived bungee jumping in China. And I would do it again in a heartbeat.
More about Longqing Gorge here:
Longqing Gorge is a short daytrip out of Beijing and a great way to change scenes from urban sprawl to natural landscapes. The destination is only 56 miles northwest of Beijing and can be gotten to from a city bus for a fraction of the price of what you’d pay for a tour bus. However some research is needed to determine how to get to the city bus and which one to take. We used the book BEIJING EXCURSION GUIDE as our reference and found locals along the way to be very accommodating. The bus dropped us off close to the Gorge in a small town and left us a little clueless. We ended up taking an unmarked taxi which dropped us off at a road leading to the Gorge. Luckily there were restaurants on the way so we appeased our appetite before setting forth on the day’s activities.
We walked to the Gorge entrance and paid the entry fee (40 RMB). Longqing does an interesting job of combining natural landscape with an odd tourism twist. While the cliffs in the area resemble that of a national park, the dragon escalator to the water resembles more of a run-down theme park attraction. Oh China. It turns out that the heart of Longqing Gorge is atop a dam, hence the escalator ride.
It was a fun afternoon. We took a boat tour and soaked up the majesty of the cliffs surrounding us. We also managed to find a temple with monks who were excited to speak with us and practice their English. I was equally excited to talk to monks but later disappointed to find out that they were paid staff and about as authentic as a watch you can buy at the Silk Market. There’s also a zip chord, bungee jump and tram to ride. There are pathways and pagodas to meander around. The exit tunnel exemplifies a strange quality of interest among the Chinese. The tunnel was decked out with fake plants and animals, even stuffed animals, in different scenes. The scenes ranged from tropical to wintery and had the temperature change to match. It was bizarre, but oddly when I showed the cave pictures to my Chinese friends, they thought it was beautiful. Our sentiment was closer to that of a twilight zone experience of “where the hell are we?” but whatever floats your boat.
Overall I’d recommend Longqing Gorge as a manageable daytrip outside of Beijing. It offers beautiful scenery, and if you’re brave enough, some adrenaline pumping activities too.Beijing Jump