Let me start by saying, if your life will not be complete unless you tick bungee jumping off your bucket list; If you’ve made a pact to do it with a best friend or are raising funds for charity on the promise that you’ll jump. Stop reading now, skip to the end of this review, to the lessons learned and, like most people I know who have bungeed have a great time, you’ll love it. For everyone else, read on.
There is a bridge in Africa, between Zambia and Zimbabwe. Below this bridge flows the mighty Zambezi river, you know, the river with all the crocodiles and hippopotami. The name of this bridge is the Victoria Falls Bridge. I had always thought, given my name that it would be poetic for this to be the bridge that I chose for my first bungee jump experience. Turns out this was not the best decision I have ever made.
Your bungee jump at Victoria Falls Bridge starts off with a little orientation, really more of a promotional video. You choose between the 111 meter head first bungee jump, the bridge swing where you swing out over the river upright for an 80 meter free fall or the more tame bridge slide where you are harnessed at the waist and sit back as you “slide” over the river on a zipline. You can also choose between various photo and video packages to help you remember the day, or relive the terror as it turned out for me.
Bungee jumping is not an activity for the weight conscious. For safety reasons, after you have signed the obligatory waiver and been reassured that, given the reliance on tourism the locals wouldn’t let them run the bungee jump if people died doing it, you are weighed, your weight written on your hand so that it can be unceremoniously yelled out to the crowd of onlookers before your jump.
You then walk out onto the bridge where you can psych yourself up for the big jump by watching others go first and survive.
Your harness gets strapped on and you walk out onto the platform where you are asked to give a smile for the video camera and some inspirational last words. A towel is wrapped around your ankles and then the bungee cord. My cord felt quite loose and I was a little concerned that I could still move my legs independently of each other. I was assured this was normal and it tightens up when you fall. I then asked what I thought was an obvious question, how do I get back up and was told, its not the getting up I should worry about but the getting down. Maybe I should have taken this blitheness as a sign that all was not right but instead I laughed and headed towards the edge.
Standing on the edge, with my toes poking over the 111 metre drop did not worry me in the slightest. I am one of those crazy people that stands on top of a tall building, close to the edge and gets the urge to jump just so I can feel what it is like to fall. I had thought that bungee jumping was the perfect way to do this without the nasty end that pavement would otherwise provide. Which is why, after the count down 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 I was more than ready to push myself off of that platform.
Unfortunately after years of experience with sane people who hesitate before jumping into the abyss the bungee team had learnt it is better to just count from 5 to 2 and then push the bungee jumper before they can back out. As a result I fell with bent knees and boy did this seem to help me fall, and bounce back up again higher than anyone I had watched before. So high that I flew higher than my bungee cord which had looped up and was falling around my head.
It is amazing how things really do slow down when you think your life is about to end. I remember clearly thinking “ohhh, that’s right, that’s one of the ways you can die from bungee jumping, you can be hung by the cord” and “wait, is that how I get up. Am I supposed to grab this rope and be pulled up?” So I did, I grabbed onto that cord for dear life, ignoring the painful rope burn up and down both of my arms and the screams from the bungee crew for me to let go. I eventually did let go and was thrown back and forth by the cord, less vigourously for what seemed like forever until I finally came to a stop, was harnessed to a man I’m fairly certain I declared my undying love to and was lifted back to the relative safety of a lower level of the bridge.
I made it to the end of the bridge, hands shaking from the adrenaline to watch the video of what is hands down the most terrifying event of my life. Two years after my jump another Australian girl bungeed of the same bridge in Zambia and her cord snapped plunging her into the water where she almost drowned. Luckily she survived thanks to her quick thinking as her rescuers tried to roll her on her back instead of her side to clear out the water.
Having said this, I know lots of people who have loved bungee jumping including people who jumped from the same spot as me. There are bungee jump sites all over the world, including some amazing jumps in New Zealand where I think it is safe to say they really wouldn’t let you jump if they weren’t absolutely certain you were safe.
So my advice is, do your research. Make sure that you are 100% confident with the place you bungee from. Any good bungee jump company should be more than willing to give you all the details (such as how you get back up) if they won’t make sure they know you seriously want the answer and its not just nerves, or politely leave to try somewhere else.