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In your face, fear of heights!
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In your face, fear of heights!

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Home General In your face, fear of heights!

This year, Belgian radio station Q-Music organised a competition with a trip to the real Titanic as the prize to win. A flight to Canada, a boat trip to where the unsinkable ship sunk and a dive in a small submarine to go see the ship wreck. Am I that interested in the Titanic? No, I’m not. Does it seem like a unique experience to me that I would definitely like to do if I got the chance for it? Definitely. So I participated and ended up being one of the 100 finalists to be expected in Zonhoven (Belgium) today.

I was expected to be there at 6am already, which meant that I had to leave home at 3am. Someone asked me if it would be worth getting up so early for something like this. Looking back at it right now: HELL YEAH! I don’t care how arrogant this will sound, but I don’t think I’ve ever been more proud of myself. I believe in myself again. The bucket list I made some time ago? I still believe it just might be possible.

Anyway, let’s go through the day..

Got up at 3am, left at 3.30am, arrived at 5.30am. (Had to be there at 6am.)

100 candidates were expected, but only 85 actually showed up.

In any case, the catering was ok. There was breakfast for everyone and it was free. The same for lunch. But as I was very nervous, I didn’t exactly eat much. The first thing I saw upon arrival was a crane that was being prepared for bungee jumps. Not exactly something I was hoping to see as I am afraid of heights.

The 85 finalists that showed up were divided into four groups. I was in group C.

There were four challenges that we had to take on and I will discuss them in the order that I did them.

Challenge 3 – Climb the ladder of an old fire brigade truck. Ring the bell on the top of it (35 meters high).

I was happy that this was the first thing I had to do. As my fear of heights is usually not that big a deal as long as I have something to hold on to, this seemed like a perfect preparation for the bungee jump later on. Yet, even if the climbing was no problem for me at all, the ladder just didn’t seem to have an end.. The ladder also became narrower as I got closer to the top but this also wasn’t a problem for me. In the end, I didn’t have much trouble with this challenge and I was also lucky that there wasn’t as much wind as the people before me had had.

Challenge 2 – Do a bungee jump..
The top of the crane was about 60 meters high, the platform from where people would jump hung about 2-4 meters lower.

Of course I was extremely nervous, but as I had hoped I had gained a bit of confidence with climbing the fire truck ladder. Everything went quite smoothly. Getting some information about how everything works from the guys that do the security checks and stuff like that, that helps a lot as well. And then you step on that platform and start going up. Suddenly things get very real. But here as well: the guy that accompanied me was very experienced and talking to him helped me relax.

Got to the top, turned around, thought the view of the area was nice, turned to the right direction according to the wind, couldn’t resist to look down, yelled out a couple of “Fucking hell!”’s, heard a countdown, 3.. 2.. 1.., got a little push and there I went..

That fall.. I did chose to spread my arms while falling (I preferred that to holding them to my chest) and to close my eyes in order not to be confronted with the fall too much.

The first second is thrilling, that’s for sure. What a kick you get. Just the fact that you suddenly have nothing around you, nothing to hold on to, no support, no way back. An incredibly crazy feeling.

After about 2-3 seconds, you’re at the end of the elastic rope and that’s when you let go of all your built up fear and excitement.. “WAAAAAAA…. FUUUUUUUUUUUUCK”.

After that, they lower you and that’s it then.

If I ever do this again, I’ll be equally stressed and frightened I think, but at least now I know what to expect and I probably wouldn’t say ‘no’ to another bungee jump!

By the way, just to illustrate how nervous I had been and what a kick you get from a bungee jump: half an hour after the jump my legs were still literally shaking..

Challenge 4 – Pamper pole
A pole of around 3 meters high topped off with a little wooden block of about 23×30 centimeters. You climb it, stand up on that block and jump off.
After the fire truck ladder and the bungee jump, this would be easy. Or that’s what I thought, underestimating it enormously.

Climbing it was no problem, but then you have to get on that block without having anything above it to hold on to. So grabbing that block, putting one foot between your hands and somehow getting your other foot in there as well and standing up. All of that while the wind had started to blow harder. But I did it!

And then I had to jump off… Luckily I lost my balance or I would’ve started doubting again I think. It’s a difficult jump as you’re directly confronted with the ground 3 meters below you where there is no mattress or anything to catch you or break your fall. Of course, you are attached to a rope so you wouldn’t get hurt, but that’s not something you’re really aware of if you’re standing there with your fear of heights. But anyway, I lost my balance and “jumped” off, so I passed this test as well!

Challenge 1 – Speleo Box
A closed and dark box where you crawl into on one side and get out on the other while bending yourself in different ways to get through it.
I had the easiest thing as the last one. This was an easy challenge and I had no trouble doing it.

 

Everyone who had successfully passed these four challenges moved on to the final in the swimming pool in Genk where there would be one last challenge and then the real final of the competition. Unfortunately, it was still 83 of the 85 contestants that were in the competition, so only 2 didn’t make it this far. One person hadn’t deared doing the bungee jump and one person had failed the pamper pole test because of the wind (sheer bad luck). An unexpected high number of contestants had made it this far. Unexpected but admirable, as I had met a lot of people who (said they) were afraid of heights, I definitely wasn’t the only one.

The fifth and last challenge before the final was an easy one: jump of the 3 meter diving board into the swimming pool and swim through a tunnel on the bottom of the pool. As I was wearing my lenses, I got to wear diving glasses so that made it even easier as there was room to breathe in those. My fear of not being able to hold my breath long enough was gone.

After this test, we were still 81, again only two people hadn’t made it.

The 81 of us had to get back in the people during a live radio broadcast between 4pm and 6pm. The pool was divided into two parts: A and B.

From 4pm onwards, radio host Wim Oosterlinck would ask questions related to the Titanic and give two possible answers (A and B). We then had to swim to the part of the pool that corresponded with what we thought was the right answer. If you were in the wrong section, you were out.

And the questions weren’t easy ones like “In which year did the Titanic sink?”, but questions like “What was on the menu on April 14th 1912 in the upper class deck of the Titanic?”. Except for one question, I always just guessed or followed the majority.

And so I made it to the final 58.

At that moment came the question why the Chinese censor Kate Winslet’s nude scene in ‘Titanic 3D’. Answer A: Because the men in the cinemas would want to try to touch her breasts and thus disturb the view of other spectators. Answer B: The movie is being used in Chinese schools during history lessons and that scene isn’t suitable for kids eyes. At the moment I thought Answer A would be the probable answer, but I doubted too long and was still in section B when time was up.

I should’ve followed my first thought, as A was the correct answer, but in the end I wouldn’t have won anyway. By the end of the show, around 6pm, there were too many candidates left and a tiebreaker had to decide who would win. We all had to answer a question in the morning upon arrival and during the day I already heard from other people what the answer was. I was definitely too far off and wouldn’t have won anyway.

To summarise: I didn’t win a trip to the Titanic, but I did live a unique experience that I wouldn’t have wanted to miss for the world. Eat that, fear of heights!

 

Update April 29th, 2012 – Video of the day, made by Q-Music and published on their YouTube-channel!

 


 

Picture made by Leila Van der Mauten, Q-Music.

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