Finding Nemo

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Cliff Diving for Idiots

I wiggled my heels a little further back so that they were hanging over the abyss.  Raising my arms I yelled, "How about a little encouragement?!!"  The crowd duly went wild and cheered and clapped.  Liquid courage and a crowd yelling makes a sane man do things which, in retrospect, perhaps should never be attempted.  I jumped into a backwards swan dive, falling, guessing when I should tuck.  The platform was about 6 meters high, twice the height of your local neighborhood high-dive.  I waited a second, then lifted my legs to flip... but it was too late.  The water came up and my face impacted into a cement sidewalk.  Underwater, I waited for the shock to subside and then the pain came.  It was a King Kong bitch-slap right in the lips.  I lingered underwater, letting it soothe, then finally came up.  The noise of laughing and clapping above, along with a shout of "Woah dude, are you OK?" confirmed that my jump had been well-received.

Face Down Ass Up
The place was about a 45 minute ride by boat, you round a corner of the main island of Panay and suddenly you see a set of huts and platforms, artistically perched on cliffs above a calm clear blue-green lagoon.  It is protected from the wind and the water was glassy and beautiful.  You walk up stone steps through a dark cave and suddenly emerge into a little wonderland of palms, cliffs, huts, and secluded little picnic tables scattered in the greenery.  The DJ came on, the bar opened, a fantastic buffet was spread on the tables, and the party started.

We had our little pack of Frendz from the hostel, but there is something about the fear and hilarity of watching people jump off cliffs, arms rolling frantically like they are desperately trying to roll up a pair of broken windows, and then impact into the water in all manner of painful styles that instantly bonds.  Soon everyone on the boat were best friends and chants of "Jump, Jump Jump!!" rose in the air, egging on each new cautious contestant.  The highest platform was maybe 10-15 meters, it is hard to tell.  But its high enough that doing flips was completely out of the question.  You are in the air long enough to pray that you don't land on your back and that your health insurance is in order.  Our friend James had filled his tank with Red Horse and was fueled for liftoff.  He jumped from the high dive, and quickly it became clear that he was leaning back, leaning back... his arms flailed like out of control windmills but it was useless.  CRAAAACKKK!!!  A collective "oooooooooooo" came from the crowd.  James came up, his face in a grimace, one hand on the back.  On dry land he proudly showed blood oozing out of his skin.  "Mate I just couldn't breathe... oh I'm shattered!"

Dave and Pat, actual size, surrounded by their fans
The finale came a few minutes later.  Dave came up to me and handed over his camera.  "Nemo, just put it in video mode and start filming.  Trust me."  A few minutes later people behind me started whistling and cheering.  A naked man with one hand covering his twig and berries came hurtling towards me.  It was Dave.  He stopped in front of the camera, raised his free arm in a salute, and yelled "For England!", and then jumped off the platform.  I noticed out of the corner of my eye that Patrick, equally naked, was simultaneously jumping off the other platform.  They hit the water perfectly synchronized, obviously having practiced this many times before.  The crowd of Japanese and Chinese girls were giggling in shock and covering their mouths and the men hooted wildly.

I had never realized Cliff Jumping could be performance art.

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