This plan had been in the works since before the list was even created.
Truth be told, #7 only made it onto the list because it was already booked. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do, but never would have prioritized on my own. Enter EF, my fearless sister. I got a text from her, out of the blue, that just said: “Want to go bungee jumping?” and I immediately texted back in the affirmative. Coolest sister ever (though I’d never admit it to her face, lest it go to her head…).
Since the bungee place she had in mind was in Gatineau, Quebec, it seemed only fitting to make a weekend trip to Ottawa for the occasion. When I mentioned to NB that I was going, he immediately wanted in. This surprised me greatly. Apparently he was also somewhat surprised by his own enthusiasm, because he spent the weeks leading up to the trip being nervous and unsure about the decision. At first I tried to reassure him, but then, when that repeatedly failed (to be fair, there’s no way to calm yourself for this kind of thing, in advance), I switched strategies and started telling him that he was welcome to wimp out, since I could just use his jump to go a second time (I’m supportive that way). My strategy gained traction when I showed NB a video of my friend doing the same 200ft jump that we’d be doing; it was terrifying.
To give you a sense of what 200ft looks like, here’s a picture with a totally non-helpful attempt to show scale. You’re welcome.
The drive to Ottawa on Friday night was absolutely lovely, and felt (to me at least) as though it went by in a blink. The sun was setting as we passed the exit for the Diefenbunker, which is by far my favourite Ottawa attraction. If you’ve never been, you should definitely make some time to fit it in next time you’re in the area. I can’t recommend it highly enough. Seriously. Words cannot describe how much I love the Diefenbunker. Be sure to go when they’re giving a free guided tour, unless you’re really well-versed in Cold War history.
We arrived at NB’s friend A’s home shortly after midnight, and settled in. We were both extremely exhausted from an early morning and long day, so our Friday night wasn’t terribly social, unfortunately. Saturday was a little better; the guys picked up breakfast from Kettleman’s (another must-stop in Ottawa) and then played games while I got some work done, before NB and I headed out to explore the city. I decided that I could find my way to my sister’s place without directions, which seemed logical enough given that I barely know the city and didn’t even know her address. I mean, that makes sense, right? So off we went! NB was a terrific sport about the whole thing, indulging me as I made up stories about the various things we passed along the way. Actual things I included on my made-up-as-I-went tour:
“Bank street is so-named because the Ottawa river used to come all the way up to where we are now. When they filled it in, years ago, to make way for the city, the street was named after the banks of the river that used to lie right about here. You’d think it had more to do with being a financial district, but you’d be wrong.”
“That laundromat was frequented by Trudeau and his wife. True story.”
(Not likely a true story)
We did eventually make it to EF’s, but by the time we did I had managed to take us on a whirlwind tour of most of the city, including three lovely drives along the same stretch of the canal. It’s all about the journey, right?
That afternoon we trekked out to the Canadian Air and Space museum, which was part of a secret plan that I had been looking forward to surprising NB with since we decided to make the trip. He nerded out like a little kid, which was super adorable. A school friend from his aerospace program called him when we were approaching the doors, and he was like “Guess where I am?! The Canadian Air and Space Museum!” Cutest thing ever.
(NB got a hug from the Canadarm!)
…and I made him do all of the interactive things meant for small children…
(like climb in the pilot’s seat of a… whatever that plane, above, was…)
We attended a talk/demonstration on ejector seats, and then perused the plane collection and even got to see a helicopter take off. My favourite part was when NB explained to me how turbine engines work. I also enjoyed the fact that I spent the whole time getting excited about seeing the Avro Arrow, and then forgot that I had seen it, like, 2 minutes after finally seeing it. le sigh.
The day concluded with a stop in the Byward Market for some (heavenly!) olive baguette from Le Moulin de Provence, and then Chinese take out and board games with A. A solid Saturday night in.
Sunday began similarly – breakfast from Kettleman’s and some window-shopping in the Glieb. The day had a very different tone, right from the start, though; today was the day we’d tease death.
To stave off a nervous breakdown from anticipation, we spent the morning distracting ourselves with touristy fun. I had never been inside the parliament buildings before, so we got free tickets for the walking tour at 12:50pm. Since we had about half an hour to kill before it began, we had to find some way to amuse ourselves. Luckily, parliament features a lovely grassy lawn that is conveniently bereft of prohibitionist fences. It practically begged for lunatic frolicking. And I was more than happy to oblige, with rolling…
…and random jumping (staple tourist photos)
And then we went on the tour. I took two pictures inside parliament, and they’re not even slightly interesting. In contrast, there were over 85 pictures of our frolicking on the lawn. Clearly my priorities are in order.
Finally, on to the main event!
We were bungeeing (no really, that’s a word.) with Great Canadian Bungee, in Chelsea, Quebec – about a 25min drive from downtown Ottawa. We got there, as recommended, 30min before our jump and used the time to try to relax our frenetic nerves. It’s terrifying to know that you’re about to jump off a super-high platform into a gigantic quarry and have to watch and hear many people do it before you. It doesn’t help that the waiver you need to sign before jumping is double sided and involves waiving your right to sue if you die. Pft. As if you could sue once you were dead…
For the record, here’s the platform, viewed from the office/hut:
After what felt like an eternity, we were finally given the green light to climb up that gigantic hill, just so that we could jump back down. Totally logical.
My favourite part of the safety instruction was when the staff member described part of the process as “not an exact science” (his exact words). He was telling us that we had three choices to make: (1) whether to have an ankle harness or just a waist harness; (2) whether or not we wanted to be ‘dipped’ into the water; and (3) something else I’ve since forgotten. EF, NB and I all chose to be dipped, but the wettest any of us got was that NB’s hands went in the water (hence the “exact science” comment). They then arranged us in jump order. EF was first, I was second, and NB and JB (EF’s boyfriend) were last, which meant that the least nervous of us got to go first, and the most nervous had to watch everyone else go before them…
I don’t have any pictures of my jump, or EF’s, but I had time to run to the car before the guys jumped, so here’s a still image of NB, flailing through the air:
…and safe and sound in the boat, after being unharnessed…
The most terrifying part of the whole experience, for me, was climbing the metal staircase up to the platform itself, from the ground. There’s so much procedure after that that you get a chance to calm down and catch your breath before they walk you, individually, along the long extension to the jump platform itself. After that, two guys tie you in and double-check your harness, then you shimmy over to the ledge, put your toes over the edge, and before you know it it’s “5, 4, 3, 2…” and then your body somehow propels itself into the air. For me, it felt as though my body just decided to go before my head could make sense of how high up I was, or that I should be scared. NB said that for him, it was more like his body was rejecting the whole situation, but his brain was like “well, we’re already pretty committed…” Either way, it seems that people experience a bit of an internal conflict over the whole thing. But then you find yourself free-falling, and all you can think is “DEAR GOD WHAT HAVE I DONE” followed insanely quickly by “THIS IS AMAZING.” For me, the whole jump (after the initial 0.0001 second of sheer terror) was utterly relaxing. My whole body went limp and I flopped around very gently. At a few points, I couldn’t tell that I was moving at all – let alone whether I was falling or bouncing back up – because the whole thing was just so gentle and smooth. As soon as I finished, I wanted to go again. So I did. And the second time was way better, because I just stood straight and let my body fall forward from the platform, without thinking about trying to jump/propel it forward. I highly recommend doing it that way. It was also much more graceful than what I did on my first jump, which was something resembling a squat-and-fall. Ugh.
If you’re thinking of going, I highly recommend Great Canadian Bungee. It costs about $120 for the first jump (an even $60 for a second jump on the same day), the staff were phenomenal, and the whole day was a total blast. Apparently they offer first jumps of the day at dawn, and I can only imagine how gorgeous it would be to jump into the beautiful early morning sky. I might just have to go back…