Tag Archives: Courage

Facing the Fear in Queenstown

Mark faces his fear of heights in the open door of an airplane at 15,000 feet.  Appeared on MSN Travel UK on 19 Jan, 2014.

The plane leveled out at 12,000 feet above Queenstown, New Zealand.  I straightened up and looked out the window to my left.  The deep blue of Lake Wakatipu snaked through the Southern Alps, the outline of New Zealand’s adventure capital reduced to just a few small houses in one corner of the lake.

The jump master threw open the door and the cabin pressure dropped.  A green light began flashing. To my right, the line of first-time skydivers was sucked out of the plane with their instructors strapped to their backs.  Out the window I saw them hurtling towards the earth at 200 km per hour – terminal velocity.

Then the door was closed, leaving just me with my brother Alex and our dive instructors.  The plane nosed sharply upwards, climbing towards 15,000 feet.  I tried to remain calm, but somewhere in the crevasses of my mind lurked was a primordial, instinctual aversion to what I was about to do.

From behind me, I felt my instructor tap my shoulder and pass something forward– a thin tube of oxygen, perhaps to calm my nerves.  I put the tube between my lips, breathed deeply, and prayed that the parachute was packed correctly.

Read the full story at MSN Travel UK

Bungee Jumping Over the Zambezi

Marko moves past his fear and steps to the edge for his first bungee jump…which happens to be at an intimidating jump with a spotty safety record.  Appeared on MSN Travel UK on 22 Nov, 2013

The bridge loomed over our week at Victoria Falls. No matter where I went I could either see it or feel its steely presence. Ever since I’d first seen it arching over the Zambezi River I knew that once I set
foot on it, I would never make it to the other side.

We’d come to Zimbabwe to visit Victoria Falls, one of the seven natural wonders of the world and by some measures the largest waterfall on earth. But soon after arriving I’d scheduled a second, more personal bucket list goal: to conquer my life-long fear of heights by bungee bumping 111 meters off the Victoria Falls Bridge.

But a single story held me back: three years ago, a woman had nearly died on this same jump. Her chord had snapped and sent her hurtling into the river below which was – thankfully – swollen with water from the rainy season.

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We’d come during the dry season. The river was at its lowest level all year – 128 meters below the bridge, strewn with rocks and rapids.

For two days, visions of a similar freak accident haunted my mind. But on the third day I walked to the centre of the Victoria Falls Bridge, tied a bungee cord around my ankles, and stepped to the edge.

Read the full story at MSN Travel UK.

Running for the Skies in Rio

A first attempt at hang-gliding over Rio de Janeiro illustrates the importance of taking a leap of faith. Appeared on MSN Travel UK on 13 September, 2013.

For a moment, I thought the lady before me had plunged to her death. I stood on the launching ramp, frozen with fear, envisioning my first attempt to hang-glide ending with my body plummeting off the same cliff into the rainforest outside Rio de Janeiro.

She’d stood right in front of me just seconds earlier, strapped into a hang-glider just like myself, looking over the Tijuca Forest National Park 1,300 metres below and trying to ignore the conspicuous abyss that separated us from our landing spot on the beach.

A gust billowed the windsock at the edge of the ramp, uruburu birds circled in the thermals. Nervous, I asked my instructor Paolo for some last-minute tips.

“When we start to run down the ramp, whatever you do, don’t stop running.” He looked at me pleadingly. “Do not stop running. Please.”

“Why?” I gulped, “What happens if I stop?”

“Not good things.”

Read the full story on MSN Travel UK.  

Wrestling with Sturgeon in British Colombia

Mark fights a phobia of fish as he and Alex grapple with five-foot prehistoric fish in B.C.’s gorgeous Fraser Valley.  Appeared on MSN Travel UK on 7 August, 2013.

“I hope you ate your Wheaties, boys” says our guide, Davie, as he jams a hook through the head of a minnow and casts it off the boat and into the Fraser River, two hours east of Vancouver.  “Hooking a sturgeon is like wrestling a bull.”

My brother, Alex, rubs his hands together eagerly, “I want to catch a ten-footer!”

Frankly, I don’t. I can’t explain it, but all my life I have been petrified of fish: touching their slimy bodies and watching their beady black eyes as they gasp for water.  Needless to say, I’m not much of a fisherman.

But now we are 150 km into the wilds of British Columbia hunting the largest freshwater fish in North America, and I decide it is not the time to dwell on my phobia; it is time to conquer it.

“All set,” Davie says, casting the bait into a pool of calm beside a turbid torrent rushing down from the Rockies. “Get ready for a fight.”

“That’s why we came here,” I say, “Right?”

Davie says nothing, fully focused on the lines.  His hands hover over the rods like a pointer dog on a fresh scent, waiting.

Read the full story at MSN Travel UK.