As a young boy I was never keen on heights and that fear, to some degree, has remained with me ever since… ask me to stand on a tall ledge with a steep drop and I’ll go very quiet, very white and my heartbeat will double! However, place me somewhere indoors at height where I my mind can weigh up the risks involved in “falling” and I’m fine. ..
The Empire State Building in New York, Burj Khalifa in Dubai, The Shard in London all have viewing floors to gaze down at the world below and I’ve enjoyed all of them with no issues or fear and I look forward to visiting many other such viewing spots around the World some day.
However, during a four month stay in South Africa in 2014, I decided (for reasons I still haven’t quite worked out) to do a bungee jump at one of the world’s biggest at Bloukrans Bridge in the Western Cape, a short flight and car journey from Johannesburg.
So on Sunday 15th July, 2015 I set off from Pretoria to O.R.Tambo International for the flight down to Port Elizabeth with Mango.com. Once there, I picked up my car rental and headed out the city in a westerly direction towards Cape Town. I’d only be doing 200km drive to Bloukrans bridge however, not the full journey to Cape Town itself, a further 560km!
The bungee operator is a company called Face Adrenalin who will let you throw yourself off the 216m high bridge to the canyon below for a modestly competitive price of 900 ZAR (approx. 55 GBP or 70 USD in February 2017) and for a little extra, a USB stick to take with you containing some photos and a video of your jump. Those wanting more souvenirs like polo shirts, coats etc can max their credit card in the gift shop. There’s also a lovely restaurant to enjoy a drink and some food before (or in most cases after their jump).
On arrival I went to the booking office. I’d booked online in advance, something I’d advise anyone to do as it gets quite busy and turning up without booking may have you waiting around a little while. You also save money that way too and can be sure that after travelling all the distance, you will definitely have your slot to jump in!
I was taken over to some scales t so they could be sure to set the bungee up correctly for my weight and it was then written on the back of my hand and I had to sign a form agreeing to the weight stated. All a little unnerving but essential of course. Soon after, we were led along the gangway under the main road bridge to the main operating location directly under the centre of the bridge at the top of the arc structure.
I was 3rd last in our group so had the joy of watching everyone go before me looking terrified and thrilled at the same time! Before long it was my turn and I was led closer to the seat by the edge to be fastened into the ankle harnesses. I was feeling OK at this point even looking down at the valley below, but the minute they ask me to stand-up and move to the edge my heartbeat jumped hugely! A quick check on my Apple Watch had my heartbeat at 135bpm – so not exactly calm then!
The two guys guiding me carefully moved from in front of my arms (now out wide) to behind them and quietly advised they’d do a countdown from 5 to 1 then shout BUNGEE and I was to jump! So it began…
“Five” – heart beating wildly.
“Four” – sweaty hands and hopefully less sweaty ankles for the straps to slip through!
“Three” – “Oh sh**!”
“One” – “hang on a second, what happened to Two?!”………….
Too late, with eyes closed I jumped……
The video shows it all unfold rather uneventfully I’m pleased to report, but for the first few seconds of the jump, sensing no wind resistance, no noise, nothing, as I fell for what seemed like forever was far more terrifying at first then say jumping from a plan at 15,000ft in a skydive. Perhaps it’s the closeness to the ground that made it feel worse but despite loving it once I was hauled up back to the bridge, I swore I wouldn’t do another one any time soon! As it turned out, the next time wouldn’t be all that far away…..
One week later to be exact, only closer to where i was staying in Pretoria, Orlando Towers in Soweto, Johannesburg has a 110 metre bungee jump nestled between two old cooling towers. The ground was plain grass and concrete so not quite the picturesque view on offer at Bloukrans, but jumping in a place as historical as Soweto made it worth the while…
I’d love to report I was much more relaxed for the 2nd jump in Soweto but it felt just as stomach-wrenching as the first but over far more quickly as it was half as high as the 1st one I did! Sadly no video this time as the USB stick I paid for didn’t work on my return home!
I decided after that 2nd jump that would be that…. but over the weeks that followed I found one jump I would make an exception for…. namely the one made famous by James Bond film GoldenEye located at the Verzasca Dam in Switzerland, hosted by Trekking Team. If anyone has done this already, let me know how it went in the comments below please!