In the Jump Zone
Published in the Saturday Star on March 15 2008
Written by Gero Lilleike
I’m afraid of heights, I admit it and am not ashamed of the fact. But there comes a time in one’s life where fear needs to be put aside if pleasure is to prosper. Jumping off a bridge may seem ridiculous to most of us and that’s what I thought until it happened to me. What the hell just do it, is what I kept telling myself, over and over again, but it would never be that easy and even I should have known that.
The Bloukrans Bridge is situated on the Garden Route at the Tsitsikamma Forest Village Market 40km from Plettenberg Bay along the N2 highway and is the highest single span arch bridge in the world. Spanning an incredible 216m above the Bloukrans river, the Bloukrans Bridge is a spectacle to behold. Construction of the bridge was completed in 1984 with the Bloukrans River forming the border between the Eastern Cape Province and the Western Cape Province.
The Bloukrans Bridge is not just a roadway, it’s a landmark, a place to visit and if you’re up to it, it’s a place that can change your life forever. The Bloukrans Bungee Jump is considered the world’s highest commercial bungee jump and at 216m – it’s no joke. Face Adrenalin has been operating the Bloukrans Bungee Jump since 1997 and have maintained a 100% safety record since. Even so, nothing can prepare you for that moment you step off the edge.
It was the perfect morning. The fresh pungent smell of fynbos hung heavy in the air with not a cloud in the sky. It was 7am and the heat was already unbearable. Standing and staring at the mammoth gorge before me was really amazing but the thought of falling into it left a lump in my throat. Before long it was time to put my money where my mouth was. I knew why I was there and there was no turning back. Doubt seeped into every corner of my mind but eventually I forced myself to part with R590 for an experience I would never forget, ever.
The friendly personnel took my weight reading and I was immediately directed to the harnessing area, where I was fitted with my very own safety harness, my lifeline from the very hard rocks strewn at the bottom of the gorge. Then, the waiting game began.
Getting to the jump zone at the centre of the bridge is a frightening experience and there are two ways of getting there. The Bridge Walk is a steel, caged walkway attached to the side of the bridge and offers easy access to the jump zone. If you are brave and have R100 to spare, a 200m long cable slide called the Flying Fox will get you to the jump zone in no time. Once on the bridge, the shear size of the Bloukrans gorge becomes all too real. The vibe on the bridge is energetic with dance music blaring into the gorge, calming shot nerves and preparing the jumpers for that moment of truth.
The bungee personnel also referred to as ‘The Crew’ always ensure that the bungee cord is safe for jumping purposes. Jumpers are ordered according to weight and then the thrilling fun begins. Just watching ‘The Crew’ operate made me nervous. Images of snapping bungee cords flashed through my mind on a regular basis. I felt ill to the stomach, which by that stage had shrunk to the size of a golf ball.
The Bloukrans Bungee makes use of pendulum bungee technology ensuring that the jumper experiences the smoothest and most comfortable bungee jump possible. Jumpers are required to jump outwards as far as possible to maximise this pendulum technology. In my world things don’t work that way. I heard a crew member call my name. The time had come. ‘The Crew’ rigged me up, with the bungee cord attached to my ankles and my harness clamped on. I was struggling to breathe. Adrenalin surged through my veins, making my fingers tingle.
The crew helped me to the edge with my toes dangling off the end. “Look down,” they said. Far below, I could see the river making its way to the sea, and all the hard rocks were there too. I was pale in shock. “Smile for your friends at the camera,” said the crewman to my right. I obliged. Then suddenly, five, four, three, two, one, bungee. At that moment nothing went through my mind, my knees went weak. Unable to jump, I literally fell off the side of the bridge, plummeting to the earth with incredible pace not realising where I was. It wasn’t long before I came around and started howling as loud as I could. A feeling of weightlessness overcame me. My attention quickly shifted to my ankles. My feet felt like they were slipping through the ankle padding and panic set in. I clenched my toes outwards in distress. There I was, dangling hopelessly in the Bloukrans gorge only to be rescued by a crew member and hoisted to the relative safety of the bridge. I was overjoyed.
I had conquered the Bloukrans Bridge but more importantly I had conquered my worst fear and it felt out of this world. A word of advice though, jump, don’t fall. For more information on Face Adrenalin, visit their website on www.faceadrenalin.com.