Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Hurtling Down the Garden Route

Why live life on the edge when you can JUMP OFF IT
A J Hackett

There is a bungee, a very BIG bungee, nestled on the quaint garden coast of the Cape. Over the last few years I have picked up a penchant for jumping off things, so, right from the first murmurings of planning, I had earmarked the jump off Bloukrans Bridge for this trip – the highest bridge in Africa!
Spot the jumper! On arriving in Cape Town I soon discovered an obstacle to this ambition, namely how bloody huge this country is. A short distance on the map turned out to be over a thousand kms round trip. There was only one thing for it…….a road trip!

THE GARDEN ROUTE IN A DAY

It is so nice when everything comes together and that is exactly what happened on bumping into Rupert the day before our planned departure. He not only had a car (rented for peanuts), but the will for an adventure.

Well after the crack of dawn we jumped into our oddly shaped Fiat Multipla and hit the road with one aim – to jump that day. Six hours to cover 550km – no worries.

We were so unconcerned that we stopped off for the most part of an hour at the first service station we came across, satisfying glutinous urges after the comparative (but still minimal) privation of the last 5 weeks – my word the South Africans do carbs and protein well, which goes some way to explain why the Afrikaans guys are so HUGE! Taking shifts between Dingo, Rupert and myself (other Dave lazed back in the surprising comfort of the bubble car) we made our way out of the big city, up into the mountains and across the cape. Stunning views looking back over the city and before us into the rugged valleys. As we passed from Anglo region to Afrikaans – indicated by an increase in comedy signs – our procrastination became clear. We were running late and there was only one thing for it. Foot down and away...
We hammered away to the coast across sweeping tilled lands. There we found one picturesque town after another, racing our way between them through lush forest and wetland. Up and down the green valleys of the Garden Route (N2). A unique narrow strip of land which resembles much of northern Europe. Mountains to its back hoard the rain from the hinterland and create a climate and scenery quite unlike anywhere else in this part of the world.

I dare not think how many speeding tickets were picked up, or of the poor old bearded man Rupert scared half-to-death with his questionable driving.
The clouds set in as we pressed on through rain and mist. There were little fishing villages and nature trails. In the bigger towns, shopping mauls infested by pick-ups. And you know what, as we past through these towns we barely saw a black African. Sadly, economic division holds strong.
The final stretch. Booming along at 100mph along skiddy windy roads, we were nearly there. Despite a detour down a collapsing road we had made it the bridge for 5pm. As we approached realisation hit that we were actually going to do this. I could feel my stomach turn at the thought of throwing myself off the bridge and down.....down some 700ft, waiting for that cord to bite...we egged each other on.

But alas, it was not to be. The rain and mist were so bad they had closed for the day. We stared at the wide-spanning bridge and deep canyon below. We would have to wait until the morning. Gutting, but all the better for added suspense (and doubts).

THE JUMP(s)

Some beer, pool, chat and sleep later - we were back... and here's the evidence...
That moment when you perch on the edge. Your brain can not compute what is about to happen. The endorphins rush, adrenaline peaks. A strange smile comes over my face and I jump. Arms spread out wide you hurtle downwards at break-neck speed. No time to think, mind-blowing sensory-overload. Hard earth rushing towards you. The bungee bites and you decelerate. Then comes a stretch and the bounce. The gentle sensation of sprung into the air, swimming with your arms and shouting with delight. In short - I f*****g love it!!
In fact we loved it so much we hogged the platform for a good hour and a half doing 8 jumps in total. The safety guys were great lads. As the music pumped they let us do forward, backward with chest harness and, last but by no-means least, running jumps. There is no buzz quite like grabbing the chord clipped to your chest, taking a run up and legging it off the edge into oblivion. A veritable road-runner moment as you hang in mid-air before plummeting southbound with an exalted yell!
For a better understanding of what its like, check out a great video at :
And/or Rupert's expression:
We had taken on what the Guinness Book of Records says is the highest commercial bungee jump in the world. Though the Guinness Book is wrong (depending on how you measure it, different jumps have a better claim to this including the Golden Eye Bungee I have done off the Vedasco damn in Switzerland), it was every bit as good as I’d hoped and well worth a 1100km plus round trip. Still pumped we jumped back in the bubble and took out the map…..foot down to the Klein Karoo!
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