of ash and ahs

On the long way down,
The screaming girl approaches
Rocks and dam, she thinks.

Hello, friends!

This weekend I had the chance to do the world's highest fixed-point bungee jump without guide ropes.

Remember that scene from the opening of Goldeneye? Yeah. So that's the Verzasca dam in Switzerland (near Lucerno, in the southeastern--Italian--part of the country). It's about 4 and a half hours from Geneva by car.

Julius and Malte (my dear Jugger friends from last summer!) came down to visit me and to pile me and some of my coworkers into cars to make the drive. Five of us plunked 195CHF onto the counter and strapped into bungee gear. YOU CAN FUCKING DO THIS STUNT.

The dam is 220m high, and it's slightly concave, so the bouncing and such doesn't actually bring you anywhere close to the wall or the ground.  But it's a helluva long drop: 7 seconds of free fall before the rope catches you for your first bounce.  And what a bounce it is.

I was trying to come up with some epic clothing to wear for the jump, and Julius suggested that I put on a bikini and a pair of swimming goggles and dive off.  I desperately wanted to, and in fact wore the bikini up to the top of the dam and had the goggles around my neck (does anyone else type "googles" instead of "goggles" when not entirely focused?), but it was too cold and windy for me to manage that, so I went, instead, in a dress.  If I can't be James Bond, I can damn well be a Bond girl.  With a few extra square metres of fabric.  :P

So, about the jump!  I had called dibs on going first out of our group, and everything happened fast.  I guess dozens of people do this every day, and the Trekking.ch people (the website for the jump is here) are an efficient machine.  I had no sooner told them that I wanted to jump than I was given a form ("I am doing this at my own risk"), weighed, put into a suit, tied to a cable, and out on a tiny two-foot-by-one-foot platform looking down.  For those of you who are lazy with math, 220 metres is about two and a half football fields.  Seriously high.

I am a little girl at heart, and this terrified me quite a lot.  Skydiving wasn't this scary, in fact; I guess because that ground thing isn't so imminently visible from 13000 ft.  Anyway, they gave a countdown for the jump as soon as they saw that I had my, er, sea legs.  They had informed me beforehand that it's not just about falling off the platform, but more about jumping as far as you can towards your photographing friends several metres away.  So I pushed off, and almost as soon as my feet left the platform I began screaming like a ninny.  A really happy ninny, but a ninny.  According to the video, I then tucked my feet in and performed a front flip; the bungee cord trailing from my feet formed into a nice spiral behind me.

The echoes of my shrieks off the sides of the big concrete dam were awesome.  I imagined the people in the town at the mouth of the valley could hear them as I bounced wildly at the end of the cord, watching my shadow stretch and slip across the warped and stained concrete surface not too far away.

After getting all bounced out, I pulled a few of the ropes I was attached to and got into a horizontal position (so that I was no longer letting all my blood settle in my brain) and reached my hand out so the operators above could see.  They lowered a big hook to me, which I clipped into my harness, and pulled me up.  And that was that.  :)

We called my mom afterwards.

Me: Hi, Mom.
Mom: Hi, Valie Girl!
Me: So, I have some...
Mom: Where are you?
Me: Switzerland.  I have some news.
Mom: Okay?
Me: I'm (haha, guys, don't point that camera in my face) I'm pregnant.
Mom: !
Me: No, I just bungee jumped off a 200 metre high dam.  Is that better?
Mom: No, um, maybe, um...

Also, Italian Switzerland is gorgeous.  Now that it's spring, there were flowers everywhere and... well, it was awesome.  Piotr has pictures on his Picasa page.

Now, about that ash cloud.  The Eyjafjallajökull (pronounced kind of like "Ey, I forgot la yogurt;" thanks, NYT) volcano is Iceland is spitting crud everywhere, and it's closing airports in Europe like nobody's business.  I even read today that the easternmost airport in Canada has begun cancelling flights due to the ash threat.  From what I understand, there's basically a cloud of glass in the atmosphere, and people seem to think that that would be bad for planes.  Seems reasonable to me.  It sucks for a lot of reasons (my bosses are trapped in Boston, I might not get to go on my Croatian vacation this weekend, Patrick barely made it here and had to hitchhike from Barcelona, I don't know if it will clear in time for me to get home at the end of my stay here, it's costing airlines millions of dollars a day, etc.), but I'm excited that it's cutting down carbon emissions.  TAKE THAT, GLOBAL WARMING.

Except that now scientists think that the volcano is melting a nearby glacier that has been keeping another volcano dormant.  Could be a chain reaction, they're saying.  In the meantime, I guess I'll just stick to bike riding.

Additionally, this weekend saw some adventures related to Jugger and Freebording: my coworker Victor's put up a bunch of photos from both (and other stuff) on his Flickr page, but here are some I like in particular:

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