I stood with my back to Charlotte as I had my feet strapped together and then tied to the end of a double bungee cord. Very stupidly, I had agreed to do a double bungee jump with Charlotte at Victoria Falls. I looked over my shoulder to make some witty remark, to cover up my nervousness about the whole situation. I was greeted with a tear streaked white face with eyes the size of dinner plates.
“You don’t have to do this, it is meant to be fun,” I gently said. “We can duck out now if you want to, I have no problem with that at all.” If truth be told, I would have been delighted on this decision.
“No”, she snivelled, “I do want to do it.” I was not overly convinced, she looked terrified. And rightly so.
Gap year expedition
I had been leading a trip for a group of gap year students through Southern Africa, we had started in Swaziland, travelled through Mozambique, South Africa and Botswana, and were having our last few days of a 12 ½ week trip at Victoria Falls. Victoria Falls is the hub for adrenaline junkies where there is not only bungee jumping but terrifyingly brilliant white-water rafting, stomach lurching gorge swings and mind blowingly wonderful microlights over the world-famous falls. It also has an incredible party atmosphere, ideal for all ages depending on what you are looking for. I love it.
We had started off in Swaziland working on projects over six weeks. And at night there were always discussions about the other aspects of the expedition that we were all going to participate in. One of the conversations centred around the bungee jumping and it had been agreed that the whole team would do it. Being the expedition leader I had done this trip quite a few times and have bungee jumped most of those times as well. The second time I had bungee jumped I was given the award of “Screamer of the Day”. Having known what was going to happen to me I did scream all the way down, and up, and then down again… I’m not really a complete fan of bungee jumping.
So, when the subject of bungee jumping came up I put my foot down. As the expedition leader I thought I could get away with it, and I did. “I will not be bungee jumping, that is one thing for sure.” And that was that. There were no more conversations about the whole team bungee jumping, in fact the whole team except myself was bungee jumping, and this was accepted. Time to move on.
A change of mind about bungee jumping
However, I am my own worst nightmare. There we all were, watching people hurl themselves off a reasonably sound bridge. Bungee jumping over Victoria Falls is a highlight for most, but not for me. There was tension in the air and big smiles from the gung-ho people – they practically ran to the weighing in desk to pass over their well-earned money. I was more than happy to step out. I smugly smiled to myself as I watched all these newbies signing their life away on the disclaimer forms. It was then that I saw Charlotte, she had a white death knuckle grip on the bridge railings as watched people take on temporary insanity and leap to a 95m free fall.
“I don’t know whether I can do this”, she whispered. “I really want to, but I am not too sure if I can do it.”
And before I could check myself I heard myself saying “I’ll do a double bungee jump with you.” Mentally I did try to suck back those words as they escaped my lips, and pretend that it hadn’t happened. Too little, too late.
Charlotte’s face lit up, “Would you? Would you really?”
I couldn’t deny her really, and to be honest, in a sort of macabre sort of way, I did want to do a double bungee. I’d never done one before.
“Of course, but we need to double-check that were not over the weight limit.” “Please let us be over the weight limit” I secretly hoped, my emotions were all over the place.
Charlotte gave me a huge hug, bounced up and down, and ran over and told some of the team members. Everybody was excited, it would mean that the whole team, really the whole team would be jumping. There was no way I could back out of this now. Me and my stupid big mouth.
We approached the weighing scales, where I was wishing I had had a humungous lunch, to find out we were just within the maximum weight limit. “Oh yippee” my inner sarcastic self said.
Preparing for a double bungee
We were then put through purgatory. We had to watch everybody else jump first as they were single bungee jumpers, being double bungee jumpers we had to wait. It was eventually our turn and we stepped gingerly onto the platform where we were attached to an oversized elastic band. The platform was made from metal, more like a grate, as you could see through it down to the water running under the bridge 95 m below. I am not overly brilliant with heights, but I had psyched myself up for it.
Having never done a double bungee jump before, I was not too sure what to expect. We were given a demonstration on how to stand on the edge of the platform. I would be on the right-hand side of Charlotte and put my left hand on her harness at her waist and my right arm straight out sideways. And Charlotte would do a mirror image of myself. When we were in the double bungee jumping position and on a countdown of ten we were basically told to dive out on the word bungee!
After we had put on our body harnesses we were told to stand back to back which seemed a bit peculiar. We both took off her shoes and socks and had a towel tied around our ankles and tucked in between our ankles. Then strapping was added by being tied really tight around and through our ankles, anchoring them together.
It was then that I turned around.
Charlotte’s face glistened with tears as she gave me a half-hearted smile. She nodded, unable to speak.
“You know that when I jump, I will be taking you with me.” She knew.
I would leap out as far as I could in case she hesitated. Could this get any worse?
Bungee jumping over Victoria Falls
We gingerly shuffled towards the edge holding onto each other’s harnesses, as we had been instructed. There was also this maniac shouting at us, trying to hype the whole situation up before we jumped.
“AND THERE IS A DOUBLE BUNGEE GOING TO HAPPEN IN TEN, NINE, EIGHT,..”
I looked at Charlotte. “OK,” I said calmly and quietly under the testosterone fuelled bungee guy. “Look at me, good…. focus on me and we are going to bungee in ( deep breath) 3, 2, 1, now.” And I leapt.
I jumped far, and Charlotte jumped with me. Apparently it was the most beautiful doubled jumper swan dive seen for a long time. We gracefully plummeted towards the rushing torrents of the River Zambezi below. We had got to the limit of the bungee because afterwards we noticed our hair was wet from the river.
A very important thing to note when one is doing a double bungee jump – after you hit the furthest stretch of the bungee cord, hug your partner tightly to prevent bashing into each and causing concussion. Head butting is a common injury. Charlotte and I clung to each other for dear life. We told each other how much we loved them and for generally surviving the ordeal.
The ordeal is not yet over…
There was yet more to come. You hang upside down for what seems an awful long. Your imagination will run away with you and you imagine that your feet might slip out of the bindings; the fact that you are also attached to a full body harness is neither here nor there. There is a tendency is to create as much of a right angle with your ankles to stay in place. This results in serious muscle ache afterwards.
Eventually the safety guy from underneath the bridge is lowered down and he clips himself onto your harnesses. As he gets pulled up you get righted and all the blood from your head then rushes back to your feet. Then you are manhandled onto a walkway below the bridge. We shakily wobbled along the narrow walkway towards a ladder that leads onto the main thoroughfare.
As your brain recovers from being bounced around and upside down, we realised there are a whole load of local people there sitting on various cross beams of the bridge, selling their wares.
I looked incredulously, I was on a natural high from having thrown myself off a perfectly sound bridge. I certainly didn’t need marijuana at that very moment. But I did give them a look of admiration, they were in the right target market after all!
And that was my last bungee jump over Victoria Falls ever, never ever again.
It still makes me feel queasy just thinking about it!