Who jumps off a bridge for fun?

2016-06-03 18:00 - Louzel Lombard
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Seriously, who does that? 

About 10 people a day in mid-season, actually. And despite my hypocritical tone here, I am a contributor to that statistic. 

Some nights I still wake up in a cold sweat thinking I'm about to step off the platform on the Victoria Falls Bridge on the border of Zimbabwe and Zambia. I can even hear the mighty Zambezi rummaging below... My stomach makes the same deep, hollow turn it did that day, but without the adrenaline rush to numb the nausea... 

But then I give a sigh of relief and fall back in my bed, knowing that I've conquered this fear. 

That's the thing with getting a real hit of adrenaline in the gut, you become addicted to it. Not necessarily to the moment of impact where you actually step off a bridge (I mean, that's just crazy)... The addiction is rather in the accomplishment of making it through that moment of fear and living to tell the tale. 

And let me tell you, fear consumes you when you walk a 111-metre-high plank until your toes are sticking over the edge. The only option is to look dead ahead of you and pretend you're jumping into your swimming pool at home. 

At the Victoria Falls Bridge, where we were, there's this option - the Big Air Experience. This means you get to do a bridge zip slide, bridge swing and bungee jump all in one go, each activity increasing in fear-factor as you move along. 

The zip sliding was great fun. Perhaps a one of the adrenaline scale, if measured up to 10. Looking back now, this meek little slide was probably the reason behind my very easy-going attitude towards the second Big Air Experience - the bridge swing. 

We partnered up for this event, which set my mind at ease even more. It was going to be great fun. Until... my media trip companion and I were standing on the bridge's edge with me constantly telling her that it was going to be okay. 

What the hell was I doing!? I had never jumped off a bridge before, and now I was convincing  poor Priscilla to 'lean on me', saying that 'I had her back'... Adrenaline and fear are a frightening combo - much like Priscilla and I were at that very moment. 

(Priscilla and I, moments before take-off...)

We went down like a screaming tonne of bricks. Priscilla lost her one earring in the fall and I nearly lost an ear from all her screaming... 

While we hung there, suspended between the bridge and the river, a fit of laughter came over us. We bellowed out of our stomachs while tears rolled down my cheeks. Was I this happy to be alive?

There was no time to ponder on philosophical issues. The third and final round of my Big Air Experience was pending. 

Once we reached solid ground, Priscilla tapped out. The bridge swing was her limit. I contemplated to opt out too, but by then the bungee operators had already bound my feet and strapped me in. 

If it wasn't for the persuasion skills of those charming guys that tie you up before they throw you off a bridge, those Vic Falls adventure companies would have all closed down by now, no doubt. Like me, everyone standing in line to bungee or bridge swing wanted to back out at one point.  

It's the officials' job to try and make sure they don't, and they succeed. "You should be afraid," my guide told me. "That's normal. The fear isn't going to go away. It's just about your mind being stronger than that fear."

As soon as I made the decision to jump, the fear was gone. My heart was still pumping bullets, and I could literally feel the blood rushing through my feet, hands and ears as I stepped onto the metal mesh hanging over the bridge... but I knew what to expect more or less, unlike with the bridge swing. 

I dived over the edge like a boss. It felt like I was flying.

On the video they show you afterwards, my initial leap took about five seconds. But to me, it felt like a full five minutes of falling into nothingness. Plus, with bungee jumping, the stretchy rope ricochets a few times as you come to a halt upside down, causing a few more little 'bungees' after the initial big fall. 

When I came to a halt, swinging from side to side upside down underneath the bridge, I finally regained my senses. I couldn't believe my eyes... I was right in the centre of a full circle rainbow formed by the mist of the gushing Victoria Falls. I've never felt more alive. 

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