You may also remember me weakly excusing myself from doing the actual jump due to certain financial technicalities. I left Bloukrans with the paltry achievement of a quick zipline, and vowed to return one day to complete the job. My promise to myself was fulfilled rather unexpectedly yesterday.
For the past two days, I've been on the road between Cape Town (where I attended the totally rad Coke Zero Fest) and Grahamstown (where I'll be attending my totally boring graduation ceremony). I've been travelling via minibus with my brother and a couple of friends, and I was quite pleasantly surprised yesterday morning when I heard that we'd be making a quick stop at Bloukrans to throw ourselves off a bridge.
People say that your second bungy jump is always the most scary, because you know what to expect. After doing my first one and having the opportunity to reflect on all the indescribable sensations I felt in just a few short seconds, I can see why that would be the case. If you haven't done a bungy jump before, there's almost no way to truly explain how it feels.
Yeah, it's scary. You can try psych yourself up for it and do your best to clear your head beforehand. But in that moment when you first look over the edge (the bungy cord holding your legs in place like a python with a foot fetish), all courage inevitably melts away, and for a few precious seconds the only words going through your head are “holy crap”.
Fortunately, the gentlemen at Face Adrenaline are rather experienced when it comes to last-minute-willies syndrome, and they only give you about five seconds to ponder your potential demise through fally-squishy. No, really. They start the countdown as soon as you get to the edge, interfering your “holy crap” train of thought with a brief “waitwat” before you get 'helped' over the side.
Something that I have discovered from doing stuff like this: everybody has a unique “OH CRAP I'M GOING TO DIIIIIEEE!” noise. For some, it may be a high-pitched squeal. For others (like totally badass action heroes and stuff) it's a deep, throaty “AAAAAAAAAAAH!”
For me, it's invariably a rather intriguing “YAAAAAAAA!” sound which tends to mix the two extremes. I've screamed in the same way while cruising on rollercoasters and riding on giant chickens.
Here's the funny thing, though. After about the first two seconds of freefall, my screams cut out and gave way to a sort of quiet shock. Other jumpers that day reported the same thing: the breathtaking beauty of freefall mingled with the threat of an imminent demise pretty much just took away one's voice. Sound gives way to sensation: in a few short seconds, enough adrenaline to intoxicate a baby elephant gets pumped into your system. It electrifies your body, speeds up your heart rate and boils your blood in a way that cannot otherwise be experienced. That, combined with the invariable sensation of organ displacement when accelerating downward, brings a unique physical and mental state which causes you for the briefest moment to feel pretty damn alive. That, ladies and gentlemen, is the “thrill” behind death-defying joyrides such as this.
Once your freefall is over (and you've rebound, fallen again and then bounced about a little bit), you're left hanging upside down in the gorge for about half a minute while somebody is lowered with a harness and complicated hook things used to hoist you up again. Aside from the understandable rush of blood to the head and the unfortunate risk of dizziness if your bungy cord happens to be spinning around too fast, I think that the strongest impact on me during that upside-down hiatus was the complete and utter feeling of isolation.
The gorge was completely silent. We're talking about a silence that you don't encounter when you're in civilisation. Heck, it's the sort of silence that you often can't even find in nature (damn noisy animals and all). Literally the only noise to be heard was the occasional creak of the cord, and eventually the sound of blood pumping into my head. Even my breathing seemed muted.
I was stuck in the middle of nowhere, with no way up or down, removed not only from society but from the very earth itself. It was amongst the most amazing thirty seconds of my life.
I was eventually brought back up. In the picture above, my left hand is actually clutching a ceramic necklace-ornament-thing that I'd procured in Oudtshoorn. I'd forgotten to take it off before the jump, and about halfway down my second bounce I realised that it was hanging down in front of me and grabbed on to it (my dear little brother, watching my jump via CCTV, thought that I was trying to suppress a hurl).
It was a cast of the African symbol for “nyame”, or “immortality”. I decided that it was worthwhile holding onto it as a life insurance policy.
... of course, in looking for a suitable link for this symbol on the Web, I've just learned that the actual meaning of the symbol is “sack of cola nuts”. Go figure.