Happiness is . . . a leap into the unknown

00:58, Feb 11 2013
Leo Mandier
RECOVERING: French tourists, Maxime Rouison, left, and Leo Mandier, right, with Yann Meury, who suffered serious leg injuries.

Happiness is being helped by strangers in a foreign country, or so found a trio of French visitors whose travel plans were put on the rocks after an ill-fated bridge jump.

Maxime Rouison, Leo Mandier, and Yann Meury, all 22, are on a mission to discover what makes people happy around the world.

They have been travelling around New Zealand, and updating their blog - Looking for Happiness - along the way.

Their travel plans were temporarily put on hold, however, when Mr Meury suffered a serious leg injury in a bridge jump about a week ago.

The three men inspected the depth of the water below O'Sullivans Bridge and checked for submerged objects before jumping together - a favourite pastime back in France.

But they underestimated the more than 30-metre drop, and Mr Meury landed awkwardly. The impact shattered his right femur, which is now being held together by titanium screws.


Mr Mandier said they often jumped from cliffs in water back home, from about 20 metres, but they realised - too late - that 30m was too high.

"We had a lot of questions in our head - why we were jumping, and we knew something would happen. I was sure that there would be one of us that would be injured," he said.

Mr Mandier hurt his arm and his head, and Mr Rouison injured his knee. Mr Meury, who surfaced after his two friends, didn't get off as lightly.

He said hitting the water was like hitting a wall, and the pain from his broken leg was 8 out of 10 on the agony scale.

"It was horrible. My leg was in the river. The river was moving. My leg was moving," he said.

A man who they had roped into filming their jump got the entire ordeal on camera, and Mr Meury also got footage on his GoPro camera.

He was winched from the water by the Nelson Marlborough Rescue Helicopter, and airlifted to Nelson Hospital, where the men's luck started to improve.

The elderly patient in the hospital bed opposite Mr Meury, Don Mochan, was recovering from a broken hip. He was also very friendly, and invited Mr Mandier and Mr Rouison to his son's house for dinner.

Brett Mochan's wife, Sue, said: "He [Don] said, ‘You have got some dinner guests'. It was a done deal."

Mr Mandier and Mr Rouison ended up staying with the Mochans for a week, and were spoilt with comfortable beds, warm showers, and food.

Mrs Mochan said: "We have five children, and they're all overseas, and we'd hope someone would do this for them. They're such nice boys. We had a lovely French meal cooked for us, and they taught us how to play petanque properly."

Mr Mandier said staying at the Mochans' house was "perfect". Mrs Mochan was a great cook, and "Brett tried to teach us New Zealand humour".

The men left Nelson on Saturday, and were going on to stay with Mr Mochan's sister in Te Awamutu in the North Island.

They leave for Sydney on February 13, where they'll stay with one of Mr Mochan's good friends.

Mr Meury will be on crutches for six weeks, and although "it's not going to be easy", did not want to cut his trip short and go home.

He and Mr Mandier will head to South America for about four months after a month in Sydney, and continue their adventures.

The Nelson Mail