Jupiter Huidrome recounts his life’s most freeing and frightening experience. Read and feel your heartbeat go wild.
Travel is many things, of course, but it is also about facing your fears. Among the mighty peaks of Nepal, I had an experience that still makes my spine tingle. The Himalayas have fascinated me ever since I was knee-high. My favourite dream was to see Mount Everest one day. Perhaps that is why I felt a connection with Kathmandu the moment I landed there. An inexplicable mystique hangs in the air, similar to the mood of my hometown, Imphal in Manipur.
The ever-bustling tourist hub, Thamel, was everything it was rumored to be: lively, with a pulsating nightlife and excellent food. I met and chatted up a fun, quirky person named Lele (unusual name, but then, I guess so is mine!), who gave me a good low-down on Nepal as only a local can. I woke up at the crack of dawn, excited at the prospect of getting my first look at the Everest. I have to admit I was a bit tense, too, having heard some hair-raising tales of plane crashes en route to the Everest from—who else—the good Lele! It did not help that the Buddha Airplane that I boarded was among the smallest I had ever seen. But once we took off, all my anxiety was quickly replaced by awe at the sight of the lush green mountainscape of Nepal, which slowly changed to magnificent views of snowcapped peaks.
And then, there it was. Mount Everest. Standing proud and pristine, just next to Mount Lhotse and a heartbeat away from Mount Kanchenjunga. I felt tears warm the corner of my eyes. It is impossible not to be moved by such beauty.
But was this the highlight of my Nepal journey? Little did I know that this cherished experience would soon be overshadowed by another, even more, powerful one. The next day, three of my friends and I left for The Last Resort, a picturesque 101km drive and a four-hour ride from Kathmandu. The curiously named resort is just 12km from the Tibet border and sits on a ridge above the gushing Bhote Kosi River, which translates to “River from Tibet”. Our mission for the day was Bungee Jumping and the star of the day was supposed to be one of my friends, who had a serious fear of heights.
As we approach the resort, the sound of the gushing, frothing grey waters of the Bhote Kosi, coupled with the sight of the suspended 160 m high steel bridge from where we had to jump overwhelmed us. Suddenly, I wasn’t sure I wanted to do this. But the time for fears and doubts had been left behind, so we mustered all our guts and set foot on the bridge. Guess what: it rattled as we moved! I felt my confidence dip down to my toes, and my heart rises to my mouth. The organisers made us fill out Declaration Forms that contained words like death and accidents. My pen shook as I signed. Our Bungee Master, Prakash Pradhan, who also manages The Last Resort, boosted our confidence with his humorous and engaging instructions. I still remember him saying, “Walk like a penguin and jump like a bird.”
The moment had arrived. My friend who fears heights was the first to go, surprising me with his alacrity. Hearing his screams echo down the gorge, I felt the goosebumps rise along my arms. Mr. Pradhan tied the harness on me, and I stood there, unable even to quake…I was so numb. I took three steps toward the edge of the bridge. It was the longest walk of my life. And when I heard his voice “Ready…On a count of 3, 2, 1… and jump,” there was a sudden rush of emotions in my heart. Countless moments of my life flashed in my mind. My mom. Home. My office desk back in Delhi. And then I jumped. Everything inside me froze as I plummeted toward the river, though I could feel each and every part of each and every bone. I so wanted to scream, but I was frightened as hell. At the same time, I felt so free that I closed my eyes and lived every second of the fall.
And when I was finally suspended, I thought it was over; only to realise I was upside down, spinning continuously. Below me, the monstrous river gushed in full flow. I reached desperately for the bamboo that would pull me back up to the river bank. The moment I felt solid earth beneath my back, I let out the pent-up air from inside my lungs, and cried—bawled—like a baby! My friend who had jumped first hugged me. We cried, and then we jumped around crazily, as we didn’t know how to deal with the sudden rush of emotions. I count this among the most liberating experiences of my life, but if you asked whether I conquered my fear by jumping once, the answer is No! Because when we stepped on that bridge again, it shook as before, and I felt the same fear.
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