If everyone else jumped off a cliff…

After our week-long group trip to Italy, we were given four days to travel anywhere we wanted directly from Florence.  This was a tough trip to plan because there are just so many options of where to go out of Italy!  In the end, six of us booked a trip to Interlaken, Switzerland–the adrenaline capitol of the Europe (and maybe the world?) and are convinced we picked the best place.

Cotton candy sunset

I don’t have too much to write about Interlaken, mainly because we didn’t do a whole lot.  Though it is a place known for its adrenaline-filled adventures, we spent the majority of our time just relaxing in the mountains.  We hiked up a hill/small mountain one day and ate a picnic lunch.  I obviously brought along Swiss chocolate, and let me tell you, that stuff is good. The Swiss don’t mess around with their chocolate.  Or their cheese or watches or knives or water….yeah, they have really good spring water.

Later that night, we climbed back up to a grill site on the mountain and cooked-out for dinner.  It was absolutely beautiful up there–the sunset was unreal against the purple Alps, and we could even see stars once the sun went down. We ended up going back another night to have a bonfire and continued our relaxation the next day by going to one of the nearby lakes (Interlaken is a city between two lakes in a valley of the Swiss Alps).  The weather was wonderful, and we spent hours eating lunch and lying out on a deck by the water.  I even got a little tan by the time I got back to Oxford–something I hadn’t experienced for months!

While most of our Switzerland trip was spent relaxing in the town, mountains, and lake, we did set aside one afternoon for adrenaline…and boy, did we get it!

Somehow I got talked into going canyon jumping.  Looking back on everything, I’m not really sure how this happened.  I know that I originally wanted to go paragliding, but that ended up being really expensive, and the three people who wanted to go canyon jumping needed a group of at least five to commit to going.  So everyone ended up hopping on board, and paragliding didn’t happen (maybe in Spain? We’ll see).  I watched a video on YouTube about canyon jumping and just couldn’t stop wondering what I had gotten myself into.  Just watching the video made my adrenaline kick in…I couldn’t even imagine actually doing it.

When the dreaded day finally came, none of us knew what to do with ourselves.  The bus was scheduled to come pick us up at 1pm, but our hostel required us to be out of our room by 10:30.  That left us with two and a half hours to kill, and all the while we were trying not to think about the fact that we were about to jump off a cliff before the end of the day. We literally just wandered around the town and sat for two and a half hours. (There are some videos from that time, and they’re actually really funny because we’re all serious and speechless, just thinking over what we’re about to do). We ate a little bit but didn’t want to over-do it and lose our lunch on the mountain. So after slowly but surely killing the rest of our time, we hopped on the bus and drove up to the canyon.

Harnessed-up!

And the rest is kind of a blur. Well, not really. But my brain did shut off about the time we reached the top of the canyon. I just refused to let myself think about what I was doing. Our guides were a little eccentric but very nice and professional. They weighed us, fastened us in our harnesses, and took our pictures before we took the plunge. And by the time we all got out to the platform, we were ready and excited.

I went second out of our group–the first of the girls to go–and I was pumped! Surprisingly, I wasn’t nearly as nervous as I thought I’d be, just really jittery and anxious to go. As soon as I got out on the platform, I shut my brain off, smiled for a picture, asked the guy if I could go, and RAN. I didn’t even let myself think, I just jumped off the platform like I was jumping into a swimming pool. And then the fall came.

Let me take a brief moment here to explain exactly what canyon jumping is.
As opposed to bungee jumping where you are attached to the same platform where you jump and go straight down and back up, in canyon swinging, you are attached a good distance away from you by a rope, not a bungee. The rope is secured somewhere a few hundred yards in front of you and some feet down so that when you jump, you start out higher than the level your rope is attached to.  As a result, you fall down to the level of your rope and then some 85 meters.  Once you fall as far as the rope is long, it catches you, and you swing forward through the canyon.  This 30 second video here shows pretty clearly how it works…it’s much easier to see in this one because the guy shows up well against the white snow.

So, back to me falling. You know how it feels when you’re on a roller coaster, and you get that jolt where your stomach drops? It seems like forever when you’re on a ride, but it’s nothing when you’re free falling. That stomach-in-your-throat feeling may have lasted about half a second for me…I hardly remember it. I just know that after that very brief instant of my brain saying, “yay, falling!” it quickly turned into “FALLING.” Austin described it well by saying that for those five seconds of free fall, you are the only thing in the universe. Your brain goes into panic mode (if it looked like a computer, mine would have had the words falling falling falling falling scrolling across the screen over and over), and your body starts flailing, subconsciously looking for anything to grab onto. I remember feeling like it was just me and gravity speeding through a wind tunnel that seemed to go on for years. And I think if the rope hadn’t caught me a second or two later than it did, I would have blacked out (one of the guys from another group said he thinks he did black out). But how wonderful it felt when that rope caught me! Whereas a bungee tied around your ankles prevents you from flailing and also jerks you when it catches, the harness I was in allowed for a very smooth catch and swing. It took me a moment to come back to Earth and reorient myself, but that second after shaking off the panic was the best feeling in the world. I screamed and just couldn’t stop smiling as I swung through the canyon. Even though those five seconds of free-fall are terror, the moment you realize you made it through is one of the most invigorating feelings in the world. We all felt like we could conquer anything after jumping off the canyon–and we probably could have with all that adrenaline coursing through our veins.

Original Video – More videos at TinyPic 

Even when I watch the video of me jumping, I still get a little scared. It really feels as insane as it looks, but it is SO worth it. Though it’s not the craziest thing you could ever do, it was by far the craziest thing I’ve ever done. And it was a blast! Interlaken really is the place to be–for naps in the fresh mountain air or a free fall through 85 meters of rocky canyon. Both are a must in Switzerland!

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