Travel: The Tamalie legacy 

Plunging with Whistler Bungee

Tamalie had no way of knowing, the poor, splattered bastard. Legend has it he got scrappy with his wife, a spat of the type quarrelsome lovers pursued in Bunlap, a Vanuatu village on Pentecost Island in the Pacific. All kitty-like, the wife climbed a tree for solitude, which Tamalie decided to disrupt via a visit to the branches. The wife, who is unnamed in the legend, made to jump, probably because Tamaile swore nothing happened, that chick in the reedy skirt is just a friend and they were only cracking coconuts. Whatever the reason, jump she did, and Tamalie, his heart asunder and hut unkempt, followed suit, plunging to his death while his wife dangled from vines she tied to her ankles.


But impressive. So much so, the men of the village, fearful they might land in similar peril, began practicing the vine jump. So stoked where they on the thrill of it all that they made the thing customary. They called it land diving, involved elders and inadvertently gave birth to modern bungee jumping.

Since then, people have thrown themselves from air balloons thousands of feet in the air, bounced off the Eiffel Tower and started commercial practices in tourist meccas like Whistler.

Whistler Bungee is a family business managed by Matt van der Horst. A curly haired chap from Port Moody, he’s tossed himself into the ether some 500 times. The business has been kicking for seven years, and van der Horst has been on the vine for the last six.

“The first jump I did was on Boxing Day of 2002,” he says. “It was snowing hard, and it was windy. There was a bunch of people, and it was awesome. The first jump is the best because you don’t know what to expect.”

Neither did Richard Stevenson, my vertically challenged sidekick in endeavours of participatory journalism. A pansy of the highest order, he wouldn’t go first, which left the honours to me, a pansy of barely less distinction.

Composed of putty, my brain had been moulded to accept bungee jumping as face-first from-the-ankles affair, and that’s what I opted for. The staff at Whistler Bungee are agents of tasteful sarcasm with nerves of galvanized steel. Accordingly, they strapped and clipped me into the harness, ankle holds and bungee cord, all the while spouting casual commentary that did little to quell my fears — which is not their fault, but rather a symptom of my sometimes cowardly nature.


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