What you need to know:
- Thing is, some things are meant to be once in a lifetime experiences, so why was I here, getting weighed and signing an indemnity form?
- Well, bungee jumping is a mental game and you have to just do it.
What is it that would make a perfectly healthy, sane person, decide to jump off the highest bungee bridge in Africa, at 250m long?
And on a chilly morning, no less? These were the questions running through my mind in the day leading up to our planned jump off the Bloukrans Bridge.
Our group of eight was staying at Fynbos Golf and Country Estate in the Tsitsikamma Mountains. The property sits on a cliff with stunning sea views and a 9-hole golf course to play, but, if I’m being honest, none of that actually registered.
Over a light breakfast, I asked everyone who had signed up for the jump why they were going to do it. I was interested in the psychology behind it, because let us be honest, it is not a normal thing. Man was not meant to plunge 216m into a valley with nothing but a rope tethering him to life.
The answers were interesting. Someone had recently gone through heartbreak and was terrified of jumping but wanted to do it so they could feel like they could face whatever life threw at them.
Another was a high-level executive at a company and was constantly stressed at work, and wanted to feel free and ‘fly like a bird’. Another, yet, simply loved adventure and wanted to cross it off their bucket list.
Once in a lifetime experiences
We were in the Eastern Cape, said to be the home of adventure in South Africa. We flew into the airport in Port Elizabeth, aka P.E, and the two-hour drive to get to our hotel was made shorter with biltong, amapiano on the stereo and canned bubbly cape Fynbos rose (a dry wine brand).
Here is the thing. I fancy myself a bit of a thrill seeker. I have gone sky diving and shark cage diving and the works. And just two weeks prior, I had actually gone bungee jumping for the first time ever in Uganda. And yet I was still nervous.
Last time I hauled myself off a platform into the abyss, I was going through things and actually had something to prove to myself, and it was in fact therapeutic.
Thing is, some things are meant to be once in a lifetime experiences, so why was I here, getting weighed, and signing an indemnity form?
And yet, even while I got strapped into my harness, I wasn’t sure if I would actually jump. I would leave that decision for the bridge.
We had to do a short zipline to get to the bridge itself. The staff were great, and reassured us of our safety like 1,000 times.
Some of them have done the jump over 100 times, and yet get nervous each time. The zip lining part was fun. Then when we got to the other end, we jumped by weight. The first person got to the edge, and hesitated, which was the beginning of the end for her. A few rules. Do not look down. Do not hesitate. Imagine yourself as an alter ego if you must.
She didn’t jump, which made me even more nervous. The second guy, who fancied himself a bit of a Bear Grylls, would have taken off without a rope if they could let him and he would somehow survive.
His enthusiasm all morning had somewhat irked me, but seeing him jump was comforting.
Two ways to jump
Unlike the jump I did in Uganda, which is over the Nile and so a raft comes and ‘rescues’ you and takes you to the shore, things are different in Bloukrans.
You are ‘rescued’ by a guy in a crane, which then slowly goes back up to the platform you jumped from, while he holds onto you. It is really chilled, and the scenery, missed the first time because eyes were tightly shut, is beautiful.
My turn was coming up, and I was so nervous I thought I might burst out crying. Things happened in a blur. There are two ways you can jump: either tied at the ankles so you go upside down, or with a chest/waist strap so you jump backwards.
There was also a camera taking pictures and videos of everyone as they stood on the edge of the platform.
I looked forward and saw mountains, and the thought of plunging down that valley was unbearable. I didn’t know why I was so nervous…I had just recently done this, darn it!. But this was so high up it made the Uganda one look like child’s play. You could still change your mind at this point but will not get a refund of the 1,490 rands.
Bungee jumping really is a mental game, and you have to, like the Nike logo says, just do it! Plus the fear is temporary, but the regret is forever. I was a little dazed, and even thought someone was drumming nearby, but in retrospect, it was just my heart pounding.
What no one tells you
From experience, what no one tells you about bungee jumping, is that you don’t just go straight down and that’s it; the rope repels and bounces a few times. The first time, it comes up to about 80 percent of the jump, then 60 percent and so forth.
If all that sounds too daunting, there is a skywalk for those who want to experience the thrill but are not quite ready to jump just yet. And so, there I was, standing on the edge of the Boulkrans bridge, contemplating my life choices.
There are other adventures to go on in the region, too, such as a 40- minute walk along the 2km Storms River Mouth suspension bridge in Tsitsikamma National Park. The boardwalk takes you through a lush indigenous forest to the mouth of the Storm River, and the photo opportunities are endless.
You can also explore Storms River village on segway, whereby after brief instructions, you’re ready to take off through the pine trees. Ziplining on steel cables through a series of 10 platforms suspended 30m above the forest is also an option.
The rope repels and bounces
From experience, what no one tells you about bungee jumping, is that you don’t just go straight down and that’s it; the rope repels and bounces a few times.
The first time, it comes up to about 80 percent of the jump, then 60 percent and so forth.