Stepping aside to allow the quaint Vélorail of the Larzac open train to pass I glance over the edge of the bridge. Immediately the heady rush of adrenalin that always accompanies a view from height follows. It’s time to take the bungee jumping plunge.
I had already been up here several hours, taking countless images of others jumping off the small platform that seemed especially designed for the purpose and it was time to join the fun.
The bridge near St Eulalie de Cernon in the Aveyron is not especially high but still provides sufficient excitement for most, especially those bungee jumping for the first time.
Signalling my intention to go next I step forward fitting the harness and allowing the supervisors to fit the ankle restraints. The senior supervisor called Louis gestures for me to come close and hands me the surprisingly heavy bungee cord to hold whilst he does some last minute preparations.
“In this manner I indicate my intention to go backwards”
Using a simple hand signal I am ushered onto the platform and manoeuvred into a position where he can attach and adjust the fittings to my ankles.
Louis speaks very little English and my French is not much better so we communicate through a series of hand signals and gestures. In this manner I indicate my intention to go backwards, initially Louis looks doubtful, only one other had gone backwards and that had been his third time today.
Preparing to attempt to explain this was not my first jump while Louis eyes me up and down making a quick assessment, suddenly he relents nodding his head vigorously.
Stepping to the edge with my back to the ‘abyss’ and attempting to listen to what my supervisor is telling me, but almost all of his safety brief delivered in stacatto English is going over my head.
These last few moments seem to take an eternity, leaving me with plenty of time to to get a little lost in my own thoughts.
“terminal condition I can relate to”
I have never really had a fear of heights, a natural and healthy respect certainly, but with quite a few bungee and countless parachute jumps under my belt this was well within my comfort zone. However even with my initial experiences there had never been any feelings of doubt. Years of climbing have given me plenty of confidence in the equipment provided. It did not seem strange at all to trust my life to an over-sized elastic band.
There is apparently a condition where people at height feel an urge to jump, and some even needing to be physically restrained. Whilst fortunately not suffering from this undoubtedly terminal condition I can relate, as jumping off always seems more natural than just standing there.
I become aware momentarily of the buzz of a microlight overhead. It reminds me of a giant insect hovering whilst deciding whether to sting or not before it moves off to find a sunflower field or something.
The only real piece of information I manage to glean from Louis’s well rehearsed but lost in translation brief is that I need to keep looking at him when I jump. This is to ensure that I do not somersault, just as the thought this might be fun enters my head and I consider suggesting it he is counting down for me to go.
“Plunging towards the ground like a ripe peach”
Immediately all other thoughts leave my mind, my jump trainers conditioned me too well. Launching myself from the platform as far our as possible I can at once feel the rushing air all around me.
The sensation of falling is all too brief however, just a few short moments of feeling the ground rush towards me, even on this still day the wind whistles tunelessly to me. Plunging towards the ground like a ripe peach, watching it get ever closer.
Abruptly the heavy duty elastic takes effect and my downward momentum is halted, the laws of physics coming into play. For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction, like a slingshot I am immediately heading skywards back towards the platform.
Spending several moments feeling like a yo-yo in the hands of a skilled but hyperactive child I am bounced until the energy of my fall is dissipated by the band and they are able to lower me to the mat below.
All the while the professional photographer Mick Avery has been talking to me, snapping away and working me like a catwalk model to get the best images. His thick Scottish brogue seems a little out of place in the middle of this very French countryside but at least he is understandable; most of the time.
“brothers in the elastic”
Soon back on the ground and unhitched from my elastic umbilical cord, my pack is lowered to me. Taking a moment to pause and gaze upwards. I watch the next two jumpers wondering what thoughts they have just prior to taking their personal leaps of faith.
Thanking my ‘brothers in the elastic’ I pick up my pack, turn on my heel thoughtfully and stroll away without looking back, still subconsciously hanging weightless in mid-air. It always takes some time to come down properly from an adrenaline high.
This activity was provided courtesy of Antipodes, an adventure activity company based in Millau.
*All images of me ‘Lost in Space’ are courtesy of Mick Avery Photography