Romania Bungee Jump
It all started with a phone call to a random man that Jackson found on the internet…
By Alexander Anglin
The sounds of crackling on the other end of the phone
Romanian: “…….. ya haallloo…”
Me: “I was told that you offer bungee jumping in a gorge.”
Romanian: “Yaa I do.”
Me: “Well, we would like to go bungee jumping this week. Is that possible?”
Romanian: “ …..ya that’s fine. How about tomorrow? Meet me at the only gas station in town at 9am”
Me: “Great, we will see you then and how about….”
Romanian: “I’m sorry I can’t hear you, I’m in the mountains building a house. I’ll see you tomorrow.”
The morning came early and I didn’t sleep very well. We walked to the only gas station in this small Romanian town and watched the traffic in the parking lot to try to find the man that looked like a bungee jumper. An old beaten up black car pulled slowly into the parking lot and on the side was faintly written “bungee.” We gathered our belongings and went outside to meet him, but by the time we made it to the black car he had disappeared. We waited by the black car and about 5-10 minutes later a man with a large white beard, holding some sort of large glass jug walked toward us… The jug was so big that he was carrying it with both hands.
Romanian: “How are you men doing? Sorry for the delay, I had to grab this jug from across the street. It is for making homemade wine.”
We introduced ourselves to him and he told us to get in the car. I tried to make small talk with him as we drove, but he did not seem interested in talking. I thought that there might be a language barrier between us. So, we stayed quiet for a few minutes. Suddenly, he turned up the radio and started singing to the song and banging his hands on the steering wheel to the rhythm of the music. I caught Jackson’s eyes in the rearview mirror and I could tell he was thinking the same thing that I was, “Are we sure we want to do this?”
“I need me some Gypsies!!!”
The bungee jump instructor continued jamming to the steering wheel and then let out a yell, “I need me some Gypsies!!!” We were driving through a small village and he laid on the horn. Five seconds later a young Romanian guy came out of some bushes on the side of the road. We slowed down and the young man hopped in the back of the car with Jackson. It was pretty quiet in the back because unlike our guide, the young man did not speak any English.
We drove on for another five minutes and then we arrived in front of a huge abandoned building with a chain link fence around the perimeter. The front gate was chained and locked, but the bungee instructor had the key. He unlocked the fence and then we drove inside. We parked next to a small building within the complex and he unlocked the door. All of the building’s windows were boarded up and the ground was littered with broken beer bottles and trash.
The two Romanian guys rummaged around inside for a bit and then they came outside with what looked like bungee equipment. They attempted to load it into the trunk of the car, but it was difficult because the trunk was full of items and the newly acquired wine jug. They were finally able to fit the equipment into the trunk and we left the abandoned complex. We were hoping that we were now driving towards the gorge. During the drive, I wanted to make sure that this guy knew what he was doing so I started asking him a ton of questions…
“How long have you been doing this?”
“How old is the equipment?”
“How many jumps have been successfully completed in the gorge?”
“How many jumps have you done?”
“What is the highest jump that you have done?”
Tell me about the gorge where we will be jumping.
His answers to these questions and many more put our minds at ease. At first, the instructor had seemed a little crazy to us, but after listening to his answers we started to trust that he knew what he was doing. A few moments later we drove into a beautiful gorge. The sun was lined up perfectly in the middle of the gorge’s two rock faces, which were as large as skyscrapers. We could hear the sound of running water and saw a stream running alongside the left side of the road. The instructor parked the car next to a wooden platform and we all got out. Standing in front of the platform was another young, strong man who had been waiting for us at the jump site. The whole crew was together and we started unloading the equipment from the car and placed it on the wooden platform.
The two young men left…
Me: “Where are they going?”
Romanian: “They are going to the top of the gorge so that they can operate the manual winch. They need to lower the cable so that I can attach the bungee cage to the cable.”
Our instructor spread the equipment out on the wooden platform and asked, “Who wants to go first?” We looked at each other and after a brief pause, Jackson volunteered to go first. We asked about the bungee cord because it appeared to be fairly new. He told us that the cord was new and it only had about 80 jumps on it. He said that this type of bungee cord can withstand several thousand jumps. He bought it from a French company and told us that they are quite expensive. “Your jumps will be a little rougher than usual because the cord is still new. The more jumps on a cord the more that the elastic stretches out. So over time, the jumps become smoother.”
While we were talking, we looked up and there was a cord being lowered with a metal weight attached to the end. The vertical cable was attached to a few horizontal steel cables, which were attached to each rockface high above us. Once the weight on the end of the cable was low enough, the instructor reached up and detached the weight. He then let out a yell for the young men to stop lowering the cable. Next, he attached a metal apparatus that looked like a “birdcage” to the vertical cable. He told us that this was where he and the jumper would stand for the ascent. He attached the bungee cord to the bottom of the bird cage and strapped Jackson into the bungee harness. Jackson and the guide then entered the cage. The instructor yelled and the cage slowly ascended towards the sky. Jackson was on his way to his first bungee jump.
I went next to the stream to film and watched as they winched him up. Over 45 minutes later the bungee cage stopped moving. A few moments later Jackson jumped and flew down toward the valley. He let out a booming yell and the canyon was filled with the echoes of “aaaahhhhhhhh!!!” On the first bounce up, Jackson didn’t go that high but on the second jump it looked as if he went as high as the cage from which he jumped. Another interesting thing was the cage in which the instructor was standing in moved upward and downward with the motion of the first few bounces. The instructor traditionally joins riders on the upward journey. Since Jackson was the bigger guy, the cage moved significantly when he jumped.
Jackson continued to bounce up and down until he came to a stop, hanging in the canyon. Once Jackson started to gently bounce up and down, the two younger men started lowering the vertical cable down to the pad. I ran over to the crash pad to help Jackson reach the ground. His downward journey was much quicker then his upward rebound! I grabbed Jackson and helped him to the ground. We took off his straps and disconnected him from the bungee cord. Jackson was so excited that he could struggled putting his experience into words. The instructor arrived shortly after Jackson’s descent.
Now It was my turn to get strapped and into the cage. Once we were in the cage, the instructor announced our ascention. During our upward journey, I had nice conversation with the instructor. He was very personable and I noticed that the bottom of his beard appeared to have been burned, so I asked him about it. He told me, “Yeah, me and my friends had some drinks and built a bonfire the other night. After we lit it I decided that I could jump over it. I made it over, but my beard caught on fire!”
As we went up, I couldn’t help but admire the construction of the entire bungee apparatus, so I asked him about it. The instructor and his friends designed and built the entire rig! He told me that this was not his first bungee construction. He built another bungee site on a dam in Moldova. “I constructed a bridge, which protruded over the dam’s face and then I connected the cable to the bottom of the bridge.” He added that, “It was really scary for the jumpers because it looked like you were going to hit the face of the dam, but physics made that impossible. The government finally asked me to shut it down. So I came back home to Romania and built this.”
“You’ve had the entire way up to think about not jumping. When I open the cage, don’t think, just jump!”
There were some quiet times on the way up and I enjoyed the blue skies, sun, and the light breeze. It was very peaceful and quiet. Suddenly, we stopped moving and the instructor looked up to the young men and the winch. He yelled something in Romanian but we could only hear the wind. He let out another yell and the young guys resonded. They went back-and-forth for a bit and then we again started moving. A few minutes before the jump, he told me, “You’ve had the entire way up to think about not jumping. When I open the cage, don’t think; just jump!”
The feeling of apprehension was real now. Jackson and I had been skydiving before and it was intimidating looking out of the plane at 10,000 feet, but it was even more intimidating now because I was jumping by myself without someone strapped to my back. He opened the cage, I looked down, and I could feel my throat in my stomach. It was time to jump.
When you are going down, it is a surreal feeling. I experienced the sensation of falling with the wind in my face, but I couldn’t really comprehend what was happening. I felt like Superman with my arms stretched out in front of me as I was flying back down to the earth. For some reason, when the cord stretched out completely, I slowed down I thought the jump ended. I thought I would be going down to the ground soon and then my mind finally comprehended that I was again upward bound. After a few bounces, you start to come back to your senses and the bounces get smaller and smaller until you are just slowly swinging.
Once you are suspended above the ground, you have to stand on the rope. The instructor told me before I jumped that I needed to use the upward movement of the cord to do a sit-up and then grab the cord. Once I had the cord, he said I needed to stand on it so I could come down feet first and not head first. The ride down only lasted a few minutes and Jackson was waiting at the crash pad. The journey was over. The guide packed up everything and we waited for the two young men to come down the mountain. The young guys jokingly told the instructor that they wanted to charge Jackson double because he was so heavy!
Without a doubt, this was some of the best money we spent on our first backpacking trip around Europe.