Thursday May 17- 3, 2, 1, BUNGEE

Today was THE day.  Despite celebrating our arrival into Victoria Falls the night before, we were feeling great.  We made ourselves a PB&J sandwich and met Kailos in the parking lot where we loaded up into the van and drove the Safari Lodge which was where Celine was staying while in Victoria Falls.  Kailos had advised us that it was going to be a great day, and that we could wear whatever we wanted because despite jumping off a bridge right near the falls, we would not get wet and would not need a jacket.

So we took off down the road, out of town for about a 5 minute drive, where we arrived at the Safari lodge, and met Celine.  We drove back into town and started driving towards the falls for the first time since we had arrived in town.  Simba dropped Kailos and us 4 girls off (myself, Alex, Celine and Katherine) at the border patrol which was right before the bridge.  We proceeded through the border patrol with our temporary passes in hand, and started towards the bridge.  It was no sooner that we stepped outside of the border patrol building that the mist generated from the water falls SOAKED US TO THE BONE.  It was a welcome feeling, as Victoria Falls is warmer than Antelope Park and at 9am, the cool mist was refreshing in the warm air.

We trekked across the bridge soaking wet and made our way to the Zambia side of the bridge where there was the bungee headquarters.  We signed over our life to the bungee company and sat on the patio overlooking the gorge an waited for our guide to come and harness us up.  It was nearing 10am and the plan was that after being outfitted with a harness, we would make our way some distance along the Zambian side of the gorge to where the beginning of the zipline was waiting and zipline from the side of the gorge, back to the middle of the bridge where there was the bungee platform.  We would then switch harnesses on the platform, bungee jump, and then return back to the platform for the gorge swing.

Eventually, before being drying completely in the sun, we were outfitted in our harnesses and walked to the zipline.  We were told that the order we handed in our waiver forms would be the order we would do all our activities and I was OK with this.  I was second of our group of 4 and I knew I could not be first to do anything.  I was not having a brave day and was regretting booking this activity and was seriously considering walking away once I finished the zipline, and figured I was exchanging money for my life.  I REALLY did not want to jump.  Even as I write this, I can feel my heart rate quicken, my heart sink and the anxiety rise.  Overreaction?  Maybe.  But still, I remember all the thoughts running through my head about possible excuses to get out of jumping.  Black outs are common in my family, history of heart disease, possible spontaneous combustion.  Anything not to jump.

So while I am having an internal battle with myself, I watched Alex get attached to the zipline and cruise down the cable towards the platform.  I was next.  I was not concerned about this part.  I had ziplined before and was looking forward to being able to cruise down a cable, sitting upright and enjoying the view around and below me as I rushed overtop of the river and through the mist from the waterfall.  With toes pointed, suspended from a cable, I sped down the cable for a ride that was far to short.  In no time at all, and after only being able to take a quick peak at my surroundings, I was met at the platform my a staff worker who reeled me in the rest of the way.  With 2 feet firmly planted on the ground, I met Alex who was waiting with Kailos and talking with staff.  From the side of the platform, we watched as Celine and then Katherine came to meet us at the platform.

Once we were all reunited, we were able to quickly share a few words with each other before the staff members collected us to start changing our harnesses.  The short time we spent talking was dedicated to an inspirational speech to keep me from running back to the Zimbabwean side of the border.  Truthfully, it didn't help at all and I had devised a plan.  I was going to get harnessed up and wait for Alex to jump and while she was bouncing around my her ankles, I was going to conspire with Kailos and leave the group until the activity was done.

Confident that I was getting out of the jump, I swapped my ziplining harnesses which was sitting on my hips for a full body harness.  With straps EVERYWHERE, up and over my shoulders, between my legs, around my legs, Alex and I stood infront of the staff for a quick briefing that explained to us that this was our back up harness, with a cabale that attached right near our belly button.  Too bad it took a girl falling into the river to decide on a back-up harness, but I was pleased to have one nonetheless.  After having our safety talk, one of the staff grabbed my arm and started directing me towards the gate that separated the platform from the bridge.

No, no, no, no, nooooooooo!  This was not supposed to happen!  I was holding my arm up and point to the number 2 on my arm that meant I was SECOND NOT FIRST.  I was trying to wriggle free, and make my way back to the group of ladies on the bridge and swap places with Alex, Celine, Katherine, or anyone who wanted to jump.

During my panic, they sat me on a bench and started explaining what they were doing to me to prep me for the jump.  I didn't hear much of it because my ears started to ring.  Basically, I was sitting on a bench, with my feel planted on a platform that was made of metal but has slats so you could see down to the water.  The water was 110+ meters down but the ropes would only let me fall 110m (unless it broke of course... which was obviously which was running through my head).  They were wrapping towels, yes towels, around my ankles and then cinching a cable around my towelled ankles which would "supposedly" pull tight with falling.  Of course I was skeptical.  I didn't want to do this.  I didn't want to jump.  What sort of sane person curls their toes around the edge of the platform and jumps down towards a raging river 110m below?  I have always said that bungee jumping was something I would NEVER do.  I would rather jump out of a plane without a parachute before I jumped off a bridge and bobbed around for a while.  Where is the logic in that, right?  But still, I lived by that.  I did not want to jump.  In the background I could hear our little group of adrenaline junkies cheering me on, excited that I was actually going to go through with jumping.  Meanwhile, the staff are attaching a heavy cable to my feet which is hanging over the edge of the platform, and another to my backup harness, and telling me that I would jump, bob around and then someone would drop down and attach a cable to my safety harness would would pull me upright and return me to the platform.  The guys working at the bungee are telling me they will count me down and I have to jump when they say to and I have to jump as far away from the platform, at least 3 meters, for the jump to be optimized.  Then, at the most inconvenient time of my entire life, the camera crew shows up.  I had paid for a video of my jump (fully knowing I wasn't going to jump, but it was a charade) and the camera man was holding a camera in front of me saying "Is there anything you would like to say before you bungee?"

My response?  "I hope I live to see another day".

Cameraman: "There is life after bungee." (I doubt that... Truthfully, the girl who fell into the water did survive, so technically no one has died at this bungee). "Is there anything you would like to say to your mom?"

Me: "Don't talk about my mom!"

That was the end of that.  I guess the guy got the hint that I was truly petrified to jump.

So, holding desperately to the hand of the staff member who had wrapped my ankles and harnessed me up, I was directed to the platform where the cable dropped below me and connected to an unseen point.  The river was rushing and there was the roar of the waterfall behind me (I was facing away from the waterfall to jump towards the gorge).  There were several staff with our adrenaline junkie group that were cheering me on, and I was white-knuckling the bars on either side of the platform with my feet glued to the spot where I stood.  The man who was holding my hand, now held the back of my harness and inched me towards the edge where my little toes wrapped around the cold, damp metal, and I was desperately leaning backwards into him so that I would not fall.  Encouraging me to jump (how often can someone say that they were encouraged to jump...), I stood at the edge of the platform, knees weak for what seemed like hours.  It was really only minutes, probably about 5 minutes, but I hesitated so much that the kind man holding onto me started to pull me away from the edge and said to me "if you can't do it, we will stop now, and take the harness off" and still I would not budge.  I was going nowhere.  I knew that if I walked away, I would regret this for the rest of my life.  This was a world renowned bungee jump location, not only for it being in a picturesque location, but because of its height.  But I knew if I jumped, I would die, or at least pass out mid-jump.  So, with my little inner self cheering me on I pried my fingers from the bar, listened to the 3, 2, 1, BUNGEE, and jumped.

I can honestly say I screamed the entire way down and I went totally jello-like.  The free fall was about 4 seconds but I did not feel the transition from the fall to the recoil.  I had my eyes open for the first portion and then when I saw the water getting too close, I closed my eyes because I did not want to get any closer.

Hate is a strong word, so I cannot say that I hated bungee jumping.  But I did not enjoy it, and I would not do it again.  Ever.

The jump and bobbing around seemed like forever, and while I was falling, and bouncing around, the inner walls in my head started to close in.  When you jump, you are supposed to jump with your arms out and once falling, I didn't know what to do with my arms.  So I just let them flop around at my sides, while I let my walls close in.  All the while, I was thinking "I told them so.  I told them I would pass out while bungee jumping."  Then, miraculously, I could feel the blood start to drain from my head as I was returned to my upright position and hoisted back up the the walkway just below the platform where my bungee capable attached too.  The was the most kind young man waiting for me, arms wide on the walkway.  He grabbed me and place my feet on the ground where he explained to me that he was going to unclip my harness so that I could return to the platform.  When he asked if I would be able to stand, I promptly said no because my hands and feet were shaking, I was not sure if I would ever be able to control them.  Finally, nerves under control, I was unhooked and returned to the platform in time to see Celine jump (Alex had jumped while I was making the trek back to the platform).  I was greeted by more open arms and congratulated on the jump, as I was clearly the only baby in the entire country of Zimbabwe who freaked out and panicked as much as I did about the bungee jump.

After Celine jumped, Katherine was next and I can honestly say she made me feel better about everything.  She made me laugh because although she was excited to jump, she had a not-so-great jump and basically melted off the platform.  I may not have jumped 3m but I actually jumped.

Katherine, if you read this, I seriously loved your jump/collapse.  You made everyone laugh and it may not have been pretty, but neither was mine.

So after reuniting our group, it was time for the gorge swing.  I had just finished telling everyone I was never to jump again and was content watching, when Alex had volunteered to jump tandem with me, to which I agreed.  The gorge swing, which used the same harness as the bungee, differed from the bungee in that you jumped feet first.  The capable that we were also attached too was suspended above the gorge and so instead of dropping and bouncing around, we would drop and then swing out of the drop back and forth.

So content with the fact that I was not jumping alone, Alex and I walked to the platform, grabbed the sides of each others harness (which was the only thing keeping us together as we were each independently attached to a cable) and took our spots.  Alex, who had loved the bungee jump, was calm, cool and collected while I was having another minor panic attacked (not to the same degree as before).

Remember where I said I would never jump again.  False.  I jumped twice on May 17th.

3, 2, 1, SWING was our count and we took a jump step off the platform for the second time.  Alex with her gymnastics background, had her legs and toes pointed for the entire fall like she was supposed to while I did the "running man" through the air.  The dropped seemed like it took less time and we did a smooth transition to the upwards swing.  Suspended above the raging water we enjoyed our swinging back and forth, still clutching each others harness and sharing an awkward laugh as our harnesses became uncomfortable.
Again, we were returned to the man waiting just below the platform, were unhooked and allowed to go back to the platform, where Kailos was waiting.

When everyone finished their swing, we joined Kailos on our way back to the border patrol where Simba was waiting with our van.

With absolutely zero adrenaline left, and having used my quota for life, we went back to the rest camp where we had to prepare for our next activity.

Stay tuned... I will post the video of my bungee jump and gorge swing so that we can all share my embarrassment!

1 comment:

  1. I found this site after gooling 'I hated bungee jumping' as I felt like I was the only person to ever bungee jump and not get a massive kick out of it! I did it for the first time (170ft) last week and was absolutely terrified the whole time! I was a bit nervous/excited beforehand and got more excited watching the people before me. It didn't look that bad.

    I was fine on the way up and was happy enough chatting to the instructor and enjoying the amazing view. But as soon as I stood up on the platform ready to jump, I just got a really intense feeling like this was the LAST thing I wanted to be doing! My survival instinct went into overdrive! The fall into empty air was just sickening (fortunately I wasn't actually sick), and it's something I NEVER want to experience again!

    I've been in lots of scary situations and have tried various other extreme sports, but unlike bungee jumping I got a massive high from those. After the bungee, the was no high, just an overwhelming relief that it was over and I was safe.

    I guess I'm glad I can say I've done it and know what it feels like, but it's definitely not something I want to repeat!