The thrill is on the edge as Bungee jumping helps you conquer fear and relieve stress
Life on the edge gets risky, but sometimes one has to take chances because life is not just about the breath we take, but rather, the breath that takes us away. Bungee jumping has been pending on my bucket list since I got to know about it in 2004. Its an adventurous activity you can take while on your safari in Uganda to see gorillas and other wildlife or mountain hiking.
But it was only recently that we set foot on the grounds of Adrift’s tourism base camp by the River Nile in Jinja. This camp has stamped its name on Uganda’s tourism arena for being the only bungee jumping site in the country.
As we prepared to go bungee jumping, Isaac Mwanje, a courteous and knowledgeable jump master with over 14 years’ experience, asked us to sign a disclaimer registration form acknowledging that we are going to bungee jump at our own will. After that, we were weighed with the intent of allocating us appropriate jump chords.
We climbed the high bungee tower bridge positioned by the river’s edge. At its tail end was the jumping spot which hovers 44 metres above the flowing river. Mwanje’s two-man crew — Jonah and Kenneth — were already there, waiting to guide us with smiles and positive attitude.
As soon as I was done meditating on the last prayer, Jonah asked me to take the lead by taking up the hot seat to be readied for the jump. My ankle and waist harnesses were fitted by the two men, after which I was passed to the jump master who double-checked everything. The team gives much attention to detail and safety.
Before long, it was time to step forward and jump 44 metres below. At this point, Mwanje advised me not to look down. This was meant to prevent me from catching sight of the river below because it would make me freak out. “Solomon, I repeat, does not look down. It will kill your positive energy for the jump,” he advised. Alas!
No sooner had Mwanje said this than my eyes wandered down to the river. That was the moment I nearly needed a diaper. I was terrified, causing a wave of heat to run through my body. Frightened, I could not help but wonder whether the bungee jump would leave me in peace or pieces.
In a flash, goose bumps had covered every inch of my skin. With a determined effort, I tried pushing all this fear away by listening to Mwanje’s energizing assurances and cheer.
For a second, I wanted to step back, but the crew was already halfway into the jump off countdown. In a second, I had been pushed off the edge — just as I had requested earlier on and my body plummeted through the air at the speed of a bullet.
Jetting through the speedy crosswinds felt like I was in the cockpit of a faulty plane that was on the verge of crash-landing upon the top of an erupting volcano that was oozing hot lava.
Never had I ever screamed a no’ as loud as I did this time. Just when it seemed like it was my time to cross the great divide, the elastic bungee rope strongly jerked me over 30 metres back in the air — vertically with my head facing the river.
For the next 40 seconds, I was bouncing between the bungee tower and the river surface like a pendulum bob. It was not until I was lowered into the safety boat below that I realized how exciting bungee jumping is. It was a whole new experience knowing I had made it. I punched the air a hundred times in celebration of the sweet victory.
Three, two, one, bungee!” The voices behind me counted down, sounding very normal, as if this was just a children’s race they were flagging off. It was not!
This was the craziest thing I had ever attempted. Having quaked and trembled through the previous hour, I was determined to trust Isaac Mwanje and his co-conspirators atop the bungee tower.
But common sense kept interfering with my resolve. Yes, I had the advantage of having watched my colleague bounce off the platform and safely complete the 44-metre plummet down to the Nile River in one piece. Surely, these people knew their stuff, they had years of experience.
Surely, these ropes were time-tested, secure as a mother’s hug. Mwanja himself had done the jump at least 40 times! Surely, surely… but wasn’t this a kind of madness?
I contained my nervousness by joking with the crew, and admiring the spectacular view from here. The wooden chair we sat on while being prepped for the jump was covered in fearsome carvings and a cowhide seat — like I needed any thoughts of an electric chair operated by a very evil-minded executioner!
The wind was strong at this height and my hair flew all over the place. I tried to keep my wits about me, but the reality of what I was about to do kept me on the edge.
Shuffling towards the edge of the platform, my body gave in to involuntary shivers. What was I doing? But I had come this far, there was no turning back. Mwanje told me to wave at the camera and dive. At the countdown, I bent my knees, all the while praying it was not my last day on earth, and leapt off into oblivion.
I whooped as I went down, waiting and waiting and waiting for the rope to jerk and signify the end of the bungee. But I was to be jerked up and down several times before slowing. It was a heady relief to be lowered gently into the waiting rescue boat below. I was surprised to see a picture that showed my hand grazing the water, for I could not recall touching the water.
My colleague blamed this temporary amnesia on my having closed my eyes as I fell. Truth be told, I opened my eyes a few times and the sight was too frightful to take in.
The bare cliff to one side and the shrubs to another seemed to be bouncing towards me, at the same time the water below and the bright sun winked menacingly, forcing me to keep my eyes shut.
Later, Mwanje showed us a climbing wall up the side of the tower. Eyeing it with envy, I wished I had had that option first, but then again the bungee jump was so worth it that I would choose it over and over again.