“Take your pick,” the employee said. “You can descend as Spiderman, Wonder Woman, Santa Clause or a piece of bacon.”
I would call myself an adrenaline junkie with a fear of heights. I’ve jumped out of planes and off of cliffs. Even bungee jumped once with the helpful push of an employee. So when planning my stopover in La Paz, Bolivia, I was surprised to see an activity called
Urban Rush was founded five years ago by New Zealand native, Alistair Matthew. He’s the same mastermind behind
You start on the 17th storey of the Hotel Presidente in downtown La Paz. Then, you “rap jump” down the side of said building. Rap jumping— a technique developed by the Australian military— is essentially frog jumping, face first down a structure. Think Spiderman or something out of “Mission Impossible.” You actually have the option to rappel the traditional method down (facing the building), but what’s the fun in that given the spectacular view. And if the idea of this couldn’t get anymore awesome, Urban Rush offers you a wardrobe to accessorize your descent.
Urban Rush may seem like a rather looney endeavor, but it’s crazy safe. The equipment was designed and constructed by experts from New Zealand, the US, and Bolivia. They also utilize backup protection: two ropes and three breaks, changed every three months. That’s why Urban Rush has never had an incident, something they will emphasize to you over and over as you question your life decisions mid-training.
After choosing my costume (Spiderman, duh) and unsuccessfully convincing my boyfriend to join (lol, nope he said), it was time for a bit of practice. But even that— all two meters off the ground on their mini wall— felt like a challenge. At least I mastered some vague idea of how to maneuver the ropes: keep my right hand at my right side the entire time. Jump down the wall like a drunken frog. Obviously, no problem at all…
As with all things in life, the worst part was the beginning. I stood in the window frame, toes over the edge, as they carefully coached me. Several groans and head shakes of disbelief later, I was 90 degrees to the building, staring straight down at dumbfounded pedestrians. What sold me in those first seconds of terror was the feel of the ropes holding me steady. This wasn’t bungee jumping or skydiving. It was a controlled descent, in which I did the majority of the controlling. And that gave me confidence. So I let my inner frog take over and jumped. Awkwardly.
It was hilariously fun. I certainly wasn’t graceful but I hopped down that building, sure-footed in my Spiderman training wheels. I laughed and screamed in delight, especially during the six floors of free fall at the end. This involved letting go of my rope and smoothly sailing to the instructor below. Like a small child, I begged “Again! Again!” Good thing I signed up for two jumps.
For my second round, I donned the Spiderman mask to both accurately pull off the look and confuse the pedestrians below. It was rather difficult to see out of so I was glad I had my technique down before rap jumping yet again. And maybe it was experience— maybe it was the mask— but I felt more secure in full superhero mode. And pretty badass.
This is a guest post by Tamatha Roman.
Tamatha Roman has been wandering the world for many years as an English teacher and a journalist for various travel publications including Rough Guides and Metropolis Japan. Currently, she’s exploring South America after living in Colombia. Follow her adventures on Instagram @fresh.coffee.stains and her blog