In the middle of a spectacular drive across the coastal stretch of Garden Route on the way to Port Elizabeth, is the Face Adrenalin Bungee Jump point at Bloukrans Bridge in South Africa. The 216m altitude doesn’t really soothe an amateur’s nerves and being greeted with a 100% safety record, only to sign a waiver in case of a mishap, provides conflicting emotions at best. Asking questions doesn’t help either, the cheeky response “If something happens it’s really not too far down” doesn’t quiten the butterflies fluttering in my stomach. After a quick weight check (the limit is 150 kg), it’s time to head for a massive leap of fate.
Getting ready to jump (Pic: Face Adrenaline Team)
Once harnessed, we take a long, beautiful and nerve wrecking walk to the jump area, which lies on a steeply arched metallic walkway suspended from bridge. The scene ahead is astonishing–besides the Face Adrenaline team recovering the cable from the previous jump to prepare for the next one, a DJ plays music at full volume. A few people tap their boots and groove to the music on the airborne dance floor. The music sets the tone for the next hour, while I wait for my turn; I continue debating whether to take the plunge or chicken out. No refunds are issued if you back out, but I’m told, many quit.
I’ve done my share of adventure sports: paragliding, parasailing, undersea walking, snorkelling and more, yet the idea of jumping off a bridge is scary. But flying (or as close as one can get to it) with about seven seconds of free fall, alone with the wind, is like pure ecstasy. What’s more, Mohr Keet, world record holder for being the oldest jumper, jumped from the very same bridge at the age of 96, not too long ago.
For such adventures it’s really important to have two things in place: a pillar of support and a team you can trust to bring you back safely. I found the support in my wife (we were a newly married couple on our honeymoon); she jumps first. We exchange a very emotional best of luck and goodbye before she zooms down and after a terrifying few minutes of watching her swing dangerously, we have the inevitable, you-made-it-back-in-one-piece, I’m-so-happy hug”. Finally, MY TURN!
Bloukrans Bridge and the top view (Pic: Rishabh Shah)
The surrounding hills are verdant and the Bloukrans river below seems like a tiny white line diving the ground miles away. The only thing between me and imminent death is a velcro-joined cushion pad around my ankles and a thick, elastic cable tied around it. Looking down from the of the bridge is BIG rookie mistake! I almost give up thinking I’m crazy to even consider jumping. and then just pray the cable holds. The DJ insists on playing Yo Yo Honey Singh because I’m from India, group members cheer in the background and I finally jump. It’s one of the best decisions I’ve made.
It’s very difficult to explain the jump experience in words.
You have to feel the cocktail of jumbled up emotions hitting you all at once, listen to the small nagging voice saying ‘the cord around your ankle is going to slip’, feel the blood rush to your temple once you’ve dived head down and experience the joy of being one with yourself on the near-death journey. You maybe no adrenalin junkie, but you’ll feel the rush too. It’s just like marriage, you’ll never be ready for the jump until you take the leap.
When I finally settle down after bobbing about in the air like a yo-yo, wondering how I’ll get back up in my inverted position, a man in a pulley comes down, attaches a safety clip to my jacket, removes the cord, pulls me upright and distracts me with small talk as we return. His last question, “Will you do it again? This time you’ll have to jump backwards.” With an almost tired smile I say, “Maybe Tomorrow”.
My two cents, if you ever plan a trip to South Africa, you must do the jump too. If you’re a couple, it will be a bonding experience like none other, if you’re a group of bachelors or spinsters this can be one of your Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara trips, but if you’re a family on a vacation, it may not be a good idea. You’ll have a hard time talking your kids out of it. For me it’s one thing ticked off the bucket list, with several other leaps to go.