When I saw bloukrans bridge the following morning, I swallowed hard. It spanned a yawning gorge and seemed much higher that its 216 meters. A jump from that height would be like taking the lift to the 70th floor of a building before taking a swan dive off the windowsill.
At the reception, everyone had to be weighed before being allowed to jump. I was taken aback when I weighed in at a hefty hundred and eighty pounds.
Damn you, Castle Beer.
Next, I had to sign another liability waiver similar to what I had done for the shark cage diving. As I scribbled my name to the bottom of the page, I thought it was funny how both shark cage diving and bungee jumping can involve loss of limbs and excruciating death. Before departing, I looked up at the Guinness Book of Records sign, declaring the bloukrans bridge bungee jump to be the highest in the world. Walking toward the jump area, I stared down into the distant river below. It seemed miles away and I had second thoughts about the whole thing. It went against every part of my being to do this.
Bungee Jump Time
I was the first to jump that day and felt it was better to get it over with before I lost my nerve. The whole process felt like a death-row prisoner being prepared for the electric chair. Two members of the jump crew went through the series of straps and buckles attached to me, double-checking each one in quick succession. I tried to relax by cracking jokes with the guys securing the safety gear, but it was pure gallows humour. My instructor was a pony-tailed, cool dude who smiled silently at my jokes. He had seen it all before, the attempts to remain calm before taking the plunge.
“Because this is the highest bungee jump in the world, everyone has to wear a harness as well as having your ankles bound,” Cool Dude said. “Remember to walk out onto the platform and look forward, not down. We will give you a countdown of five and on five, spread your arms in the air and do your best Superman impression. Do not jump after five, jump on…”
His final instructions were drowned out by the sound of my racing heart. With my feet tightly bound and attached to a harness across my shoulders and stomach, they stood me up. My knees went a little as I shuffled towards the narrow platform above the abyss. They each grabbed one of my arms and extended it out from my body. They then let go and stepped back off the platform. I was on my own.
I could back out now, I thought briefly. No one would mind and I would never see these people again. Before I could entertain the thought any further, I leaned forward, feeling my feet leave the firmness of the bridge.
It was all over in seconds – the fall, the screaming, the tightening of the bungee rope, the bouncing up and down and the swinging. Once I slowed down a bit, I whooped with delight. In that upside-down position, my eyes filled with water and I couldn’t see much. Dangling a few hundred feet above the river, I had to wait for someone to come and hoist me back up.
Nobody tells you about the waiting. Those minutes I spent dangling in mid-air felt like an hour. I became convinced my boots were slowly slipping off and the harness was coming loose. I prayed for them to hurry.
“I’m coming down to get you,” were the sweetest words I’d heard in ages, as one of the guys abseiled down and hooked himself onto me. We were both hauled onto that blessed bridge and boy was I relieved to be on solid ground again. I walked back to the reception on a cloud of air, high on adrenaline for the rest of the day.
Extract from the book Cape Town to Kruger: Backpacker Adventures in South Africa and Swaziland by John Dwyer
Category: Cape Town to Kruger