11.30 am. We’re standing on the old bridge, looking for the Mostar diving club.
We followed Gianni, a veteran Mostar diver and our teacher for today, like ducklings about to take their first plunge. At the 10m diving board, he started explaining the tricks of the trade.
“Before you jump you must be ready here.” - Pointing at his head -“I want to be friends forever, not for one day.” “First, arms wide. All time!” “Chest, little bit forward. Not to much!” “Then, small step, forget big step, otherwise lose balance” “1 Meter before water, hold the balls. TIGHT! Otherwise small problem.” “When you enter water, you are hard, like stone!”
We repetitively climbed the board, repeating the same phrases in our mind. After each dive he gave some words of advice: “You have small problem. Little bit forward. Again.” Or: “If you lose balance; fight! One butterfly and you are straight. Again!” A few dives later we started getting better: “You see? No splash! Well done my friend. Next time, I want to see same dive!”
After a couple of hours Stef emerged from the water, seeing the teacher throwing his hands up in the air, clearly displeased. Finally, he said: “What are you doing here? Go there!” – pointing at the bridge – “You are ready!” One by one we completed our training, drew some deep breaths and ducklings no more, we followed Gianna to the bridge, ready to spread our wings.
Stef was the first to step up to the plate. At this point, he felt ready to take a leap so long that it allows you to rethink the decision you just made… twice. He glanced at Anton and said: “You know who to send my regards to.”, gave one last high five to Oli: “Love you guys” and looked to the water 25 meters below. When getting in starting position, everything around you slowly fades: the clapping of the tourists, the teacher’s last advice and the beating of your heart. All that was left was one small step and everyone held their breaths as he took it. Small step, chest forward, arms wide, fight, hard like stone, tight - SPLASH! The next thing you know, the cheering of the croud loudens as you are swimming back to the surface, which you answer with an adrenaline packed “YEAAAAH!!!”
Without much hesitation, Anton climbed the iron bars as well. Standing on the ledge, he gave a short wink to his brother and started his three second freefall to the cold dark depths of the Neretva. After emerging to a second round of applause, he cried out to his sibling “Clear your mind and take three deep breaths.”
Oli, standing ready in nothing but swimming shorts, heard the instructions of his brother started counting one… two… three…! Before he knew, he was hitting the water at 75km/h.
Last up was Yuri, the camera man, the man who was 90% sure he was not going to risk his life that morning. After careful training and gaining much confidence throughout the day, a devil on his left shoulder whispered “You HAVE to do this!”, turning to his right he found an angel saying “What are you doing here? You are ready!”. Moments later, Yuri was spreading his wings as well and the Silkroad Cyclers had conquered what they had came for, earning their certificates as acknowledged cliff divers, allowed to compete and jump at famous high dives around the world for free. Making his way back up, he received many congratulations, including from Gianni, as his landing was near perfect, without splash.
The Silk Road Divers shared a beer with their master to celebrate their new achievement and more important, that no one got hurt today. With the adrenaline still pumping through their veigns, they said their goodbyes to Gianni, Mustafa and the rest of the diving club, as they left the Stari Most behind them, making their way to Dubrovnik.