In 2006, on a visit to Athens, Greece, there was a sign on the wall in the backpackers’ hostel where I was staying. It screamed: SEEKING THRILLS? JUMP WITH US! 79m FREE-FALL OVER WATER. I needed no further convincing to try bungee jumping for the first time. But …easier said than done…
The Corinth Canal is a 6.4km long and extremely narrow man-made channel which cuts across the Pelopennesian peninsula in Greece. First conceived and proposed in 7th century BC, its primary purpose was to save ships a 700km (and several days) journey around the peninsula. Over a period of two thousand years one leader after another attempted to build it but either failed to complete it or abandoned the idea. It was finally built in the late 19th century. While most modern ships today are too big to use it, it is still a very useful shortcut for many small ships engaging in Greek or Mediterranean commerce, as well as cruise ships – as many as 11,000 boats each year.
In 2003, some pioneering entrepreneurs built a bungee jumping deck across the 21 metre span enabling thrill-seekers like me to free-fall out over the water – a 79m drop. According to this website, it is one of the top 10 bungee jumping destinations in the world (top 20 if you ask these guys). They charge about 60 euro, and an additional 10 for a dvd copy.
This is an easy afternoon trip from Athens and it only took me an hour or so to get there from the bus terminal in Athens. If you’ve ever tried bungee jumping and were scared to do it, then you know exactly how I feel. As I signed my name on the waiver form absolving the jump operators of all liability, I started to have my doubts. I had come this far, though and resolved to follow through with it. I gave the thumbs up and they strapped me into the harness.
I walked out on to a metal platform which is about 10 feet wide. Through the grate you can see the cold blue water of the sea below. I started to get jitters just from the height. My heart started to beat faster and my breath caught in my throat.
All of a sudden I hear cheers and laughter. I looked over to my left and there was a group of locals gathered there to watch tourists do the jump. The instructor laughed and said, “You can’t back out now!” He handed me off to his colleague who took me through the process of the jump, while he organized the video camera. I paid attention carefully – this was not something I wanted to screw up! In particular, he said, it is important to dive as far out as possible in an arc off the platform to give yourself some swing on the way down. I really didn’t know how I was even going to jump off at all, much less dive out as purposefully as he suggested I should.
As I stepped out on to the platform, the instructor gripped my harness to steady me. I swallowed a lump in my throat. “Seize the day”, I thought! From behind me I heard him count down from five: 5 … 4 … 3 … 2 … I hesitated and stepped back. I looked back and said: “I don’t know if I can do this. Can you push me?”
He said no way – you need to do this yourself! So we tried again and I did it. :) So glad I got this video. What happened to me when I jumped happens to very few people, they told me. Listen carefully, near the end the cameraman exclaims “Malaka!” This means “Idiot” in Greek. :)