It took a lot to fight the instinct to look down at the lake. As I nervously shuffled to the edge of the plank, I could barely breathe. Plunging 55 metres over still water with your feet tethered only by rubber cords is not exactly everyone’s priority while vacationing in Goa, but there I was. Words of encouragement echoed in my mind, as the instructors began the countdown to my leap.
It was only a few hours ago that I was boarding the bus to the launch site for the Jumpin Heights’ bungee jumping endeavour, the first-ever permanent bungee jumping project in the state built in association with the Goa Tourism Development Corporation (GTDC). I counted the number of toasts I had gobbled down at breakfast—the perfect amount to avoid any embarassing mishaps.
After an hour-long drive from Panjim (mostly consisting of light snoozes), we arrived at the viewing deck. Vivid drapes brought life to the stark white setup, but my vision skipped all decorations and darted straight to the tower adjacent to the water body. Live footage of the jumps played on large television screens.
Disrupting the cheers, the speakers crackled and the voice of Rahul Nigam, the owner of Jumpin’ Heights, took over. In a concise speech, Nigam narrated the conception and development of the new project, while in the background, his daughter Niharika took the first leap.
“India was not perceived as a safe bet for adventure sports when we began our Rishikesh venture in 2010,” he said in an interactive session, as jumps continued in the backdrop. “Our instructors are trained by experts from New Zealand and follow international standards of safety. Niharika was the first jumper in Rishikesh as well. It assures people of our trust in the standards.” A company run by ex-army officers, they pride themselves on their attention to detail over safety concerns.
Questions and conversations over lunch took up the rest of the afternoon. I pecked at my two spoonfuls of salad, increasingly nervous about my turn. Soon enough, I found myself huddled in a small room, signing an indemnity waiver as the crew walked us through the entire procedure. We stepped on to the weighing scales and were categorised into groups.
The short walk to the bridge was daunting, my faith in God increasing every minute. The elevator ride from the base of the tower to the launchpad took what seemed like twenty minutes (more realistically, two). Stepping out on the platform, all my fears were buried when I took note of the spectacular view. Grey skies spread like a giant canopy over green hills, the base of which merged into the deep waters of the lake.
As they bound my feet, I was comforted by the fact that an extra harness was also wrapped around my body. I stood stiff on the edge of the platform, the countdown making me hysterical. I heard a booming “jump!” and my feet lost the comfort of solid ground, gravity yanking me down. I barely registered the shock until I felt the first jolt from the rope and went swinging back.
In a matter of minutes, I was hanging by my feet, giggling uncontrollably, blood rushing to my head and turning my cheeks red. They pulled me down on a stretcher, letting me catch my breath and slapped a victorious ‘You’ve got guts!’ pin on my sleeve. My walk back to the deck turned into a skip and then an excited jog.
The establishment of the first bungee jumping platform is a stepping stone to a larger adventure zone that the GTDC wishes to create in the hinterlands of the state. “Every destination has to evolve every few years,” said Nikhil Desai, managing director of GTDC. “Our endeavour is to offer tourists experiences that they wouldn’t get anywhere in the country. We started this idea of new tourism services with private businesses in a radius of 40-50 kilometres. Processes are underway for a hanging restaurant, a floating hotel, a giant wheel and bike tours.”
I can hardly wait.