Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Millipede; Bungee

The clique of 5 Americans and I left Oudtshoorn via Baz Bus for a town called Storms River. They reserved rooms in one hostel, I was in another (As I've done up to this point, I always get my own room. Average cost in South Africa so far about $35, not including breakfast.)

My room in Storms River was pretty nice and included my own shower. As I was preparing for bed, I saw a black, 6-inch bug, the width of my middle finger, rifling through my day pack. All my valuables were safely hidden, but the room wasn't going to be big enough for the two of us. He had to go. I wrestled him to the ground, applied a half-nelson, and, with extreme prejudice, threw him out the door.

66-Story Jump: Cost about $75

The next morning, I decided to skip breakfast. My stomach had no room for food; it was full of nerves. It was raining hard, so I was half hoping the bungee jumping would be cancelled. No such luck. A hostel staffer drove me to the Bloukrans bridge (www.faceadrenalin.com), which claims to be the highest bridge offering bungee jumping in the world. For a little perspective:

The bridge is 216 meters high above the ground, about 1/8 of a mile, 660 feet, or 66 stories.
The Hancock tower in Boston is (I believe) 50 stories.
Tallest buildings in the world are a little over 100 stories.

Note: You don't jump off the top of the bridge. You jump off a platform underneath the bridge.

The other jumpers:
- mostly 20 year olds (one german girl who kept waffling on whether she was going to do it or not)
- a 50-something guy.
- everyone was terrified. Some people got quiet, some people danced around, some people hyper-ventilated. (I got quiet)

The Process
- sign release forms, which are suprisingly free of legalize. Forms basically, said "If you get hurt, tough nuggies."
- get weighed
- get strapped into special harness that is used to retrieve you after you jump. (after you hang upside down, a staffer is lowered down. He attaches hooks to your harness and the two of you are pulled back onto the platform.)
- walk out onto the jumping platform via a metal walkway that provides a vertigo inducing view of the gorge below.
- on the platform, pounding techno music is playing. When your time comes, the staff wraps your ankles in pads, and ties them together. They hook a carabiner clamp onto the ankle pads.
- they hook a back up clamp to your harness in case the ankle rig doesn't hold.
- After being fully trussed up, you can barely walk. Now you wait.
- Then, the staff carries you to the edge of the platform and you try not to look down. You try to breath. You wish you had been nicer to that millipede.
- you bend your knees and, with a push from the staff, you jump.
- the first second, as you see the ground coming up at you, is a real diaper filler. But once the bungee cord tightens around your ankles, you are hanging upside down with a great view of the gorge and river below.

Note: The girl who was waffling eventually appeared on the platform in a harness and jumped.