Bungee jumping, the unseeing way


BHOTEKOSHI, (SINDHUPALCHOWK), May 9 - It was the biggest jump of their lives and they accomplished it as if they were pros. We are talking about four visually impaired but daring Nepali youths who went bungy jumping.

In doing so they set a national record Monday, while jumping from a 160-meter high suspension bridge over Sindhupalchok's Bhote Koshi River. Free-falling one after the other, their feet tied to a flexible rope whose other end was fastened to the bridge, the four experienced the thrill and adventure of Bungy Jumping.

"It felt as if I was falling a few feet down the rice field," Santosh Sapkota, 20, narrated his experience. He had actually taken a jump from the second highest Bungy jumping spot in the world. "I went down without any obstruction in the beginning and, after a few seconds, felt a soft jerk [of the elastic rope] on my feet." He said that he realized how deep he had gone only when he was climbing back to the bridge. "Climbing up the hill [with the help of a friend] was tougher than falling," said the I. Ed. first year student of Sano Thimi Education Campus.

Sapkota lost his vision before he was born because his mother had been taking anti-Tuberculosis drugs but he proved that he hadn't lost his courage.

Santosh and three other boys associated with Welfare Society for the Blind and Disabled (WSBD), a Kathmandu based organization, were sponsored by The Last Resort, the company that manages the bungy jumping spot and a resort nearby.

"We want to challenge the able bodied people by showing that disabled can also do bungy jumping," said Surdash Milan Sharma, 28, before the jump. The computer instructor at an institute in Kirtipur added: "I think able persons are frightened while jumping. We are more stable mood because we can't see where we are jumping."

Though they are sightless, all four bungy jumpers and their two friends who didn't jump were full of humor and cracked numerous jokes as they 'watched' other people falling from the middle of the 166 meter long steel bridge designed by Swiss technicians. "Oh...she's a girl," reacted Sudeep Chaudhari, 23, as he heard the screaming of a foreign lady taking the jump. "She must be a Khaireni (white). I bet Nepali girls can't jump because they can't even fight back against their drunkard husbands," added Santosh. "She must be wearing pants, ha ha ha," remarked Amar Oli, 21, who didn't jump. All of them roared with laughter concluding that the female jumper wasn't wearing skirts. The foreign girl was wearing very short, shorts.

The jump master who helped the four adventure seekers was equally excited about the new experience.

"This is the first time visually impaired people have jumped," said Prakash Pradhan who is also the manager of the resort. "They all jumped very well because they listened to my instructions. Actually two of them jumped better than those who can see."

All sorts of records have been created since the only bungy jumping service in Nepal started eight years ago. Once three members of a family - grandfather, father and son - jumped one after another, the manager said. "A man without hands below the elbow, and a person with an artificial leg have also experienced free fall," he said.

A New Zealander started the bungy service, in a tropical gorge near the Nepal-China border in 1999. Foreigners are charged US$ 90 for the package that also includes transportation and lunch. A Nepali has to pay Rs. 2,500.

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