Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Best Weekend EVER

I don't even know where to begin. Maybe Friday? I cannot remember anything before Friday night, other than Friday during work in which is was ridiculously unmotivated and it is safe to say that it was the least productive day at Alstom yet. And it's not like I had nothing to do either...

Anyway, Friday night...

After work, Mike and I went to Manor to buy us some fireworks, the only time of year that you can buy them and the only time of year it is legal to set them off. And people did light them. Everywhere. But I'll get into that later.

In the evening, a bunch of us went to the castle to meet the newest Interns. He had a few beer, light some bottlerockets and smokebombs, and just had a jolly ol' time. Tragically, it was an early night because we had to be on the train early Saturday morning to get to southern Switzerland. But before leaving, we watched people at the bar by the train station light fireworks from the patio and aim them across the tracks, probably at people.

Saturday. Early. Very early. How early? 6:00 early. Just to get a feel for how early that is, I get up at 8:00 for work. On weekdays. This weekend had better be worth it, because it was off to a not so great start... That changed rather quickly. Someone pointed out the most important garbage can/ashtray in the world. I'll nab a picture one day. Took the train to Airolo where we rented bikes and started an epic cycling trip. It should be pointed out that this was a planned weekend with IAESTE, so there was no planning whatsoever on my side apart from signing up for it and having money in my wallet.

Cycling. I would call it peddle-biking, but peddling would be the wrong word because 80% of the trip was downhill. And 15% of it was flat, but still coasting from a previous downhill part. Not the most exhausting experience. Which was a good thing. I managed to crash into a guardrail on a steep downhill part. It's the only accident I've been in where I was laughing going into it (knowing fully-well that I was about to hit something), laughing during the contact, and laughing afterward. I'm such a retard... Hahaha I'm still laughing about it.

As a side note, you know you are in Switzerland when the one time you decide to look at the Autobahn, you see a Ferrari go by. Cycling was broken up by frequent pit stops at generally nice locations with something to look at, and at a restaurant where we used their giant grill to have the biggest BBQ I've ever seen (minus the Stampede, you can't top a BBQ where thousands of rednecks congregate together like that).

When we got to the hostel in Lugano, we had an hour to shower and get ready to go out for the night. The Canadians decided it was a better idea to go to the pool. Every single one of us. We really are a peculiar nationality. Or maybe it's just chance that every one of us in the group are crazy. Who knows. In the end, it is irrelevant.

We went up a mountain to see Lake Lugano and the surrounding cities and towns. It was a really nice view, but something much more important occurred on that mountain top. We found a church that had stairs up to its roof. Atop this roof, a large group of us shotgunned beer in a race. The most important race of our lives. The winner had rights to be the first to jump the Verzasca Dam. More on that later. There is definitely a video of the gun posted on fb if you're interested. Damn you Bruce, why were you born to be a gunner? I was sooooooo close too... Then there's Riley, who was authentically pissed off about it. That in itself was worth the gun. Go Riley!

On to supper at a pizzeria restaurante. We had huge food, free wine (managed to choose the table upon which the ice bucket remained at) and watched a parade go by. The parade wasn't right there, but we heard explosions and we weren't being served, so a few of us deemed it acceptable to run to the next street and see it. There were actually a lot of explosions, and if I hadn't known it was Swiss National Day (and that I was in Switzerland), I'd have thought there was a small war going on. Fireworks went off at 10:30. I had just finished eating. I just booked it off to the lake without a care in the world. The organizers stopped me to try to decide on a good meeting place, but I just said come back to the piazza where the restaurant was, and ran off.

FIREWORKS!!! Everyone loves fireworks, but these were just amazing. I can't even explain, more free (terrible, but free) wine may be a contributing factor. The finale was so bright you could have read a newspaper. It was just shy of daylight. Afterward, we pulled out the bottlerockets and roman candles Mike and I had bought from Manor and had ourselves a joy of a time. We tried to blow up Mike's phone with bottlerockets, but only managed to damage the screen because we had no way of focusing the explosion on the phone instead of out of the open end of the plastic cups we had holding the two close together.
The roman candles on the other hand were a roaring success, as pictured here with Riley, Bruce and I firing them into the air while dancing. I'm also very sure this is how I managed to get burn marks on the back of my shirt. That and the really enthusiastic kid lighting fireworks beside us all night...

We managed to start a dance floor beside a random outdoor DJ on the walkway beside the lake, IAESTE people being the only people dancing and the Swiss just watching like we were nuts. Go figure. CITY LUGANO! I also met up with Penny and had a goodbye beer with him on the way back to the hostel.

What an epic day. Could the Sunday be any better? Yes it could. And it was.

Sunday, up early again and surprisingly not that hungover. Although it would be a blatant lie to say I was on the top of my game. One early and long/strenuous (and mostly residential, which is my first of the kind) hike up to Verzasca Dam. The longest single-cable bungee jump in the world, and something like only 13m less than the world's longest bungee jump. 220m from top to bottom, and 220m of complete glory. To anyone paying close attention to the following media devices, you will notice that this is the James Bond bungee jump from the intro to Goldeneye!

It could take an entire blog just to explain the experience, and I still wouldn't do it justice, but I'll give it a summarized go, followed by a VIDEO. Yah, I have proof I had the kahunas to do it.

So jumping. You get strapped up and you think "man this is going to be AWESOME!" You walk up the steps on to the platform overhanging the dam and someone hooks you up asking if it is your first jump. You smile, and say yah. You look over the rail at where you will be falling in a matter of a minute. It looks surreal, like the picture above. You can honestly fool yourself into thinking that you are dreaming. It is THAT surreal. I have video of myself actually laughing with the people hooking me up (relaxed, not that nervous laugh you can get) and I was just jamming away to the beats like I had been doing since we had arrived. You are hooked up and you realize it's not a dream. You are told to walk up to the edge and put your toes over. You do it and realize you are about to do the coolest thing you will probably ever do.

"Are you ready?"

*Nod*, "yes".

"On three. 3, 2, 1" (I would write three, two, one, but it goes by too fast for that)

Jump. Your legs do not want to leave solid ground and lock up a bit, but you've got the jump momentum to carry you through. You are falling, and you realize you've made the worst decision of your entire life. You are going to die. That feeling seems to last an eternity, but once you are over it, it is the best feeling ever. It becomes the most peaceful place in the universe. Nirvana, if you will. All you hear is the wind whistling by, and see the concrete blur past you. You realize that it is definitely the BEST decision you've ever made in your entire life.

To get an idea as to how long it takes to get over the initial fear, watch the video and note when my arms go out from in front of me. It is at that point that I cease to be afraid and think about how bad my form was jumping, and that I should put my arms out so it would look cooler.

The bounce up was crazy, and I don't remember it very well because it didn't seem like anything more than a super huge jump upward. The second fall was the best part of the whole jump. You can hear people yelling when you bounce up the first time, and then it goes back into complete silence. And you feel like Superman.

You get towed to the top and you reach the platform again. They unhook you, and you are just SO pumped up that you are shaking. It was just ridiculous. You are pumped for soooooo long afterward. You want to do it again, immediately.

While still feeling like I was on the top of the world, the remainder of the group finished jumping and we went to the other side of the dam to do a commemorative gun. Surprised? You really shouldn't be...

Once you are back to a stable self, you also come to a horrible realization. The only way you can top that rush now is by skydiving, because there isn't anything substantially bigger to bungee off of. If that's not an allusion, I don't know what is...

After the jump, we took a bus to a local town which has a river that feeds the dam. It also has a bridge 12m from the water that you can jump off of. Hahaha... After jumping off a dam, that bridge jump was a joke. No fear what so ever. Then again, I didn't give myself time to be fearful. I just asked one of the locals if I was at the right spot and was airborne before I even looked down longer than to make sure it was clear below before I vaulted the rail. It didn't even hurt, which was a pleasant surprise. You get a fair bit of hang time on 12m, just for the record. Afterward, we explored the river downstream and slept on some big rocks.

After we had dried off and got back to the bus, we went to a train station where I jumped off a curb. It was epic. We went on a train. I jumped off the train. It was epic. It was also stopped. We had an hour to burn in Bellinzona, so we went kebab hunting. We found a castle and some of us went exploring. I jumped off a castle.
Sunday was just a jumping type of day.

I don't want to ruin this blog by going into what has happened this week because it will just water down the epicicity of the weekend. So I won't. I will just say that I officially have fellow interns in my building, on my floor. And it is great.

Even two full days later, I am still SO high on life.

And now, without further delay, I present the "Steve is better than Pierce Brosnan - Goldeneye Bungee Jump" video: