Recently one of the most important events of both the Korean and western calendar took place. That’s right, it was my birthday!
[Pause for songs and congratulations]
Thank you, thank you. This year I decided to celebrate by scaring myself, and more importantly my friends, as much as possible. To this end, I chose to spend the weekend preceding my birthday (which was on Monday) climbing up high things and jumping off tall things.
I’ve never done a bungee jump before. I’m no great fan of heights, but I wanted to have a go, and I knew Josh and Susie wouldn’t be able to refuse my birthday wish. We found a place with the highest bungee in Korea at 63m, over 200 feet. They also offered Via Ferrata, or Iron Way, a form of climbing that I’ve done once before in the French Alps. It was decided, all we had to do was wait for the weekend to arrive, and until then we tried to forget that we’d soon be stepping into thin air.
The weekend arrived. Susie came to Incheon on Friday, she didn’t trust us to wake up on time on Saturday morning. We went into Bupyeong to toast the weekend. It turned into a late one (as usual) but we got home at a reasonably sensible time and I had just enough sleep before he next morning arrived. Josh and Susie looked like they could have done with a little more. But I was excited, I was treating this as my birthday and I was ready to go.
We had to go to the opposite side of Seoul to where I went to get the bus on Chuseok. We got there in time and got our seats, then we all fell asleep for the two hour journey to Inje, in the mountains on the eastern side of the country.
We arrived, hangovers peaking. Lotteria, a Korean burger chain, helped a little and the man from X-Games (the company hosting us) picked us up from the bus station and drove us to our first activity, Via Ferrata.
The office, oddly, was located at the back of a dried fish museum with surprisingly hi-tech interactive displays. We got suited up with harnesses and other equipment which is used to keep us attached to a cable that runs along the rock face. Before we started we had a practice and the instructor decided which routes we could do, as some were harder than others. I had done VF and climbing before and was allowed to do the medium route, Josh and Susie would be doing the easier route. We split up and got started.
VF involves going along a route across and up a cliff face using iron bars as hand and foot holds. It was designed to get soldiers across the Alps quickly. It’s safer and easier than rock climbing but still has the thrill of height. This one got to about one hundred feet. I was shaken for the first twenty or so but I was surprised that once I got into the hang of it the fear disappeared.
When we finished it was starting to get colder and we got rid of our kit before jumping in the car and shooting off to the bungee site. Conversation turned to who would jump first. Susie volunteered and the nerves kicked up a gear.
We saw the bungee structure as we approached, it didn’t look too high, which was nice. But it was high enough to make me wonder why I wanted to do this. We signed a piece of paper (not really sure what that was about) and we were each put in a waist harness, and ankle harnesses. Josh was thrilled that the ankle harnesses were held closed with Velcro, “like children’s shoes!” He pointed out.
It was finally time to go. Susie got in the carriage and rose to the top of the structure. From far below I could see her walk onto the platform and look down. She had her toes over the edge. I held my breath. A hand popped out of the carriage and Susie fell head first 63m towards the ground. Screaming. Then she was shouting. “James! It’s fantastic!”
There was a little mix up next. As Josh was getting ready to go I was getting hooked up to the bungee. Once I was all clipped in the guy pressed a button and we began to rise up as his carriage was lowered back to the ground. Luckily Josh went on the platform otherwise he might have left it early. The mistake meant I was going next.
I was standing on the the platform with my toes near the edge. “Ok,” said the guy. “Now?” I asked. “Ok,” he said again. I didn’t think for more than a second. I jumped, arms spread out. It was a great feeling. I was shouting and laughing and the bounces were great. I could feel the adrenaline and as I was lowered back to the ground I could feel all the blood rushing to my head. Josh jumped next after a little hesitation. Once he got down his eyes were bloodshot. I’m not sure he would have done it again.
We rushed to the station and got a bus home. We were heading to Hongdae that night to celebrate and arranged to meet some friends there. It was a great night. Josh and Susie surprised me with birthday cake and a big birthday banner. We danced all night and slept late the next day.
A brilliant birthday in Korea.
James Vs World