Sunday, February 7, 2010

Becoming Part of History, or, Pastings from my Journal

2/3/2010 – Wednesday

Yesterday was a very packed day. We glanced through the local brochures – there was lots that looked fun around Plettenburg Bay, South Africa. Ziplines around a river with a bunch of waterfalls; a bungee jump from a bridge over 200m high (world's highest bungee base); a private game reserve just outside of town; ocean kayaking near dolphins; a large nature and marine reserve on a peninsula just down the beach. So much to do, so little time!

We planned out the day to do the furthest activity first, then work our way back towards Plettenberg. So we drove out first to the Tsitsikamma Adventure Tours, which is in Tsitsikamma National Park and we did the zip-lines around this river, near some waterfalls. It was pretty fun – especially since our two tour guides – Heinrich and Henry – were pretty funny. Henry had all of the English phrases down, and kept repeating things like “brother from another mother” during our tour. The river we kept crossing was a dark, cola-brown color. Evidently this is from the tanins seeping out of the trees into the water. Safe to drink, according to our guides. Just unsettling to look at, and will give you stomach cancer and tan leather, I suppose, at least that is what LGRichards told me. Then we saw a two-tailed lizard Just your average day, so far.

Our next stop was the Bloukrans River Bridge, where this bungee jump is located. Guiness Book of World Records Certified. Maybe not as memorable from 5th grade as those fat twin brothers on their motorcycles, but still in the book. We spent a little while looking at the bridge and watching some of the jumpers. I knew I wanted to do it, as I knew I'd never have this chance again and have never been bungee jumping. Chris wanted no part of it whatsoever, but was content to watch and take pictures. Although it was about $90, I thought it worth it. So they got me in a harness and then walked out to the bridge. I started getting more and more nervous as I saw how high the bridge actually is, likely accentuated by the fact that the walkway we used to get out to the middle of the bridge was bolted to the side of the roadbridge. It had a metal-mesh flooring that not only allowed one to see the horrible height that was growing under us, but was also only spot-welded to the metal frame, and had an uncomfortable give to each step. I was quickly becoming more and more nervous.

Arriving at the middle of the bridge, they had house-music blaring, and several other jumpers were having their harnesses removed and gave me some of the strangest looks – pity mingled with awe and fear in equal parts. The crew started wrapping my legs up, and claimed to attach a bungee rope in two ways to my feet, but both caribeaners attached to the same spot, and I could not see the connection between the stuff wrapped around my feet and the harness. My anxiety continued to grow as they stood me up.

Hopping with the aid of the staff to the edge, they kept hold of me until my toes were just over the edge. Looking down was a mistake, but a mistake that I had just paid $90 to make. Counting down from five, the crew did not give me a chance to back out. So I bent my legs and jumped out, away from the bridge and towards - nothing. For the next ten seconds, the only thought in my mind was, “This was the worst decision I've ever made in my life.” It was a very long ten seconds.

Then came the rush of blood to the head. It wasn't anywhere close to a neat experience, like Coldplay may have led you to believe. As I felt my head nearly explode from either the worst valsalva maneuver I've ever performed while upside-down or the change in inertia at the bottom of the rope, I had another clear thought that reconfirmed what a geek I am. I didn't think, “Whoa, what a rush,” or, “Awesome!” No, I thought, “Well, I guess I don't have a berry aneurysm because I'm sure this would've popped that sucker.”

I continued to bounce up and down 4 or 5 more times. Those ones were just fun. No lame thoughts or fear at that point. Just the fun experience and an incredible rush of adrenaline. Once I got back up to the bridge I remember feeling a little really jittery from the adrenaline. I also had a clear thought at this point. “I'm going to enjoy having done this a lot more in the future.”

It's the future, now. I'm not sure if I was right or not yet.