“Bloody hell they got me here fast, my toes are so far over the edge they might as well just dangle me over.”
“Wow, the gorge really looks beautiful at sunset.”
“Well, I guess it’s too late to back out now.”
“Right OK, if I’m doing this, I at least need to nail the dive. I don’t want to look like a sack of potatoes falling off the edge.”
“Oh shit, I keep forgetting how high this is!”
Never have so many thoughts stampeded through my mind. Every second welcomed a new emotion which promptly disappeared as quick as it had arrived. As each second rolled on I felt more confident, more assured and more ready. But in the half hour leading up to that final countdown I had more ups and downs than the bungee jump itself.
Arriving at the Bloukrans Bridge you first have to drive over it. A long stretch of grey concrete straddling the gap between the impressive Bloukrans River gorge. I headed straight to the viewpoint, a fair distance away from the bridge, to watch as other people took the plunge. First mistake! If you want to bungee, go bungee. Don’t watch, because watching, I guarantee, is worse than jumping.
Here I toiled, my initial confidence dashed by the sheer scale of the bridge. Bloukrans is the highest bridge bungee jump in the world, standing at a colossal 216m. As I watched another jumper fling them self off the edge, I tried to visualise myself making the jump. I couldn’t! Slowly, I was backing down!
At this point I needed some tough love.
“If you’re not going to do it then lets go!”
Now I started to remember all of those inspirational quotes I had backed up in my memory for times like this.
“In the end we only regret the chances we didn’t take.”
I didn’t want to walk away from the bridge and wake up the next morning regretting missing out on this fantastic (yet slightly insane) experience.
A well placed sign hung on the wall behind quoted,
“Fear is temporary, regret is permanent.”
That was it. Decision made, I was jumping!
Filled with the vigor of my own decision I marched towards the registration area and paid quickly before my mind was changed again. Now I had to make the walk to the jump spot which sat at the very centre of the underside of the bridge. Access was via a specially designed walkway underneath the road. A shaky, wobbly and precariously bouncy metal cage hung ominously over the gorge I was about to jump into. The walk was tense, nobody spoke. The only sound was the occasional clanking of our harnesses upon the cage walls. A wicked wind ripped through the gorge causing me to shake, partly from nerves, partly from bone chilling cold.
As I emerged onto the centre of the bridge the wind increased but the atmosphere changed completely. The instructors were bouncing around to house music and the conversation was jovial. My nerves dissolved almost instantly as the instructors introduced themselves and told us what was happening next.
By the time my turn came to be harnessed up I was utterly confident. Now that I was here my own pride would never let me back out and so my mind willfully accepted it. This was happening.
Despite my new found ease with the whole situation, an annoying voice from a cautious corner in my psyche would crop up every minute or so and say,
“We might be doing this…but I’d just like to remind you that everything about this is absolutely mental”
I tended to agree!
Now sat on a small box my instructor attached the bungee cord to my ankles. Pulling each knot and clip tightly he gave me a reassuring nod as if to say,
“Look how tight this is.”
A few pictures were hastily snapped before I was hoisted to my feet. Now only able to walk like a penguin, I waddled awkwardly towards the jump platform. It was all happening very quickly, I hadn’t really had chance to take anything in. Within an instant I had two instructors assisting me towards the edge. Here I felt very exposed, but strangely comfortable with it. Everything surrounding these moments was calming. I stared purposefully out at the beautiful view. The sun was setting slowly below the gorge, painting the clouds in a warm orange glow. In front of me was nothing but the landscape I was jumping into. The noise behind me was drowned out. All I had to do was enjoy the moment.
I have to say that my dive was quite exquisite. A youth spent as a swimmer may have contributed to that. There isn’t a word that I know of to describe the initial feeling of the jump. Euphoria comes closest. A mind blanking thrill which for only a fraction of a second transports you to another place. And then you’re back. Now everything becomes complete adrenaline. The unmistakable feeling of falling fast. My arms started to flail uncontrollably, ironically, probably in an effort to regain control of the fall. An unconscious reaction. The wind charged past my face and an instinctive “wooooooo” burst from my lungs. Next the bungee chord kicked in propelling my body upwards with stomach churning force. Again I plummeted, but this time everything was clear. No mind blurring shock, just the thrill of the ride.
Now I was hanging, bouncing, swinging, spinning and hanging. Below me the gorge closed in and the shallow river rushed by. It was hard to know where I was – somewhere between the bridge and the river. All I could see was down. As the bouncing ceased the chord pulled tight on my ankles. It felt as though I was being stretched on a rack between the bungee chord and gravity. It creaked and moaned but never felt like giving way. Now I dangled and dangled some more. Above me the instructor was lowering himself down to meet me. But I couldn’t see. My mind thought unthinkable things,
“Maybe they’ve forgotten about me?”
What a ridiculous notion! But time seemed to slow and the dangling wasn’t getting any more comfortable.
Eventually I felt a kick on the back of my legs.
I was hoisted up in ways I will never understand. There was a clanking of metal and changing of clips and then somehow I found myself upright. It wasn’t until I’d bungee’d that I’d really appreciated the benefits of being upright. It felt magnificent. I was greeted by a smiling face. He seemed genuinely excited for me – shaking my hand and congratulating me on the jump. He was a Liverpool fan; and it doesn’t get more surreal than floating through the air with a complete stranger talking about Liverpool’s newest signing.
Finally, I was dumped hard by the hoist back on the bridge. A soft landing clearly was not in the bungee jumping handbook.
Jumping up I had one of those gratifying moments of achievement. Although strangely, I hadn’t accomplished anything particularly meaningful. But bungee jumping is not something you do every other week. More likely, once in a lifetime. That is until you’ve done one. And then you’ll want to do it again and again.