The World’s Highest Bungee Jump … in South Africa
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE
Because this shit is bananas.
I knew the insane 708-foot leap was on our itinerary, but I had planned to watch. From a very safe distance. I’m talking about Bloukrans Bungy Jump in South Africa — by some measures the highest in the world. Yes, I’m usually an enthusiastic joiner, but this time I was opting for a nap or some Facebooking or a book or pretty much anything but the jump. But then came the peer pressure.
When we arrived at the site of the semi-suicidal leap, my so-called friends taunted me into at least walking toward the launchpad. You see, the jumping-off point was under a giant concrete bridge that spanned a massive gulch. The green forest and the river leading into the distance was beautiful, they promised! And the prospect of dying? Not beautiful! As for the company’s claim of 25 fatality-free years … not quite reassuring enough. But I couldn’t be totally lame, so I walked, slow step by slow step, across a metal mesh–suspended walkway underneath the bridge, cars speeding above me, until I reached the platform in the middle.
What I found was a mini rave, minus the booze and bright lights, but with the adrenaline and ridiculously loud music. Everyone was PUMPED. This was going to be EPIC. Or at least that’s what everyone else seemed to think. My friend, 28-year-old Katrina Schmaltz, was so jazzed to jump that she was actually smiling when she leaped. “The speed literally ripped the grin off my face,” she says. My other friend, Lindsy, approached her jump a little differently: She did a slow roll off the platform. In a fetal position.
One of the staff members must have noticed my slight smile. He sidled up to me, casually slipping the release form into my hands. “Sign it,” he said, “just in case.” Suddenly I was in a full-body harness, ropes tied to my ankles, standing on the edge of this platform with the wind blowing in my face. Bungee-jumping-gone-wrong YouTube videos were looping in my head. What if the rope snapped? What if it somehow strangled me? Or if my harness broke? Or I lost consciousness? But it was too late. They had warned me: Jump on the count of three or we’ll push you. And they weren’t fucking around.
So I jumped, pure swan dive, thank you very much, and the sensation was out of this world. A free-falling lightness matched only by the pure silence. A terrifying suspended meditation. It seemed to last forever, with the second and third recoil bounces almost more frightening than the leap itself.
Once it was all over — a long eight seconds later — I just swayed, attached at my ankles by what I was convinced was a too-loose loop of ropes and spongy material. The blood rushed to my head and I flexed my feet with all of my might as I waited for the guy working the bridge to lower himself down and flip me right side up. He greeted me cheerfully, my life seemingly hanging in his hands, and asked, “Are you on Facebook?”