TODAY I JUMPED 111 METRES (364 FEET) OFF A BRIDGE NOT ONCE, BUT TWICE!
Well, let’s start at the very beginning. Today we woke up around 7:20 and had a delicious breakfast – toast, two apples and cornflakes and milk! We piled into a van and got ready to make the trek to Victoria Falls.
Our first stop was the exit of Botswana (which is, apparently, separate from the entrance to Zimbabwe). We got our passports stamped with official Botswana Exit stamps, jumped into the car for a one-minute ride, and soon found ourselves at the Zimbabwean border.
This stop took quite a bit longer, as we had to buy, and then subsequently wait for our visas to get printed. Once we all had our visas, we piled into another van, and started the 45-minute ride to Victoria Falls.
But, before actually arriving at the falls, we stopped in the town center, to decide what activities we wanted to do at the falls. All six interns decided we wanted to do the triple air combo – zip line, bungee jump and bridge swing! We paid, and then were on our way to Victoria Falls National Park.
When we got there, our first step was to buy raingear ($3 long ponchos, and Grace ended up getting special croc-like rain shoes as well). After paying the park fee, we got to explore around the National Park.
The park has a great paved pathway that lets you see the falls from many different angles. Actually, Victoria Falls isn’t one waterfall, but two (ish). The path first gives you some great views of the first waterfall, and then gives you much more full-frontal (and as a result, wetter) views of the second falls. At one point, it literally felt as though it was raining on us – a feeling I haven’t experienced since May (although apparently my family/friends in and around Boston have been feeling quite a bit of rain lately!)
In addition, there were two gorgeous rainbows by the falls. The final outcropping along the path was a view of the bridge, where you could visibly watch people bungee jumping and bridge swinging. Actually, the platform was on the opposite side, so every so often, without warning, you’d just randomly see something falling from the bridge! Needless to say, it was a little scary to think that we’d be doing that in two hours!
After the walk, we decided to get a quick lunch. Unfortunately, the restaurant wasn’t too keen on speed, so we ended up having to get our order to go. That’s ok, though, since I’m a pro at eating while walking, and was able to finish my half of a chicken sandwich in no time at all.
We then had to cross THE bridge (i.e. the bridge we would soon be jumping off of) to get into Zambia. I couldn’t get my passport stamped since there is literally an exception that if you’re only crossing the bridge/doing adrenaline activities, then you don’t need a Zambian visa.
Then came time for the real adventures! First up was zip lining. We started in Zambia and zip lined across to Zimbabwe! It was a beautiful zip line – not too stressful, but with gorgeous 360 views of the Zambezi River cutting through the gorge and the Victoria Falls bridge.
After getting off in Zimbabwe again, we again walked the length of the bridge, although this time we stopped at the halfway point, because that’s where we’d be jumping from.
Scott (one of the RoxLat boys) bungee jumped first, and then Jennifer did her bridge swing. Then they called my name!
They strapped my feet into two burlap-y strips of cloth, then tied them together very tightly with a piece of rope. Then they attached different carribeaners, and, very audibly, ran through the checks, making sure everything was in place. They quickly briefed me on what would happen (i.e. the guy would yell “5,4,3,2,1 BUNGEE” and then I would jump OUT, not down, and I should keep my eyes on the horizon, and most definitely not look down). Then, all of a sudden, they told me I was ready to go and should stand up.
And that’s when it hit me. There would be nothing below me to catch my fall – no water I would dive into, no trampoline to bounce off of, just me, lots of air, and a rope. I really wasn’t scared before that moment, but all of a sudden I was paralyzed with fear.
Somehow I was able to manage to waddle my way over to the opening gate. The other interns were cheering me on, and, in my heart of hearts, I knew I had to jump! “Ready?” the man rhetorically asked. “5,4,3,2,1 BUNGEE.”
Miraculously, I managed to jump out. And boy did I fly. Those first few seconds were terrifying – just going down, down, down, at approximately a million miles per hour. But then the rope caught me for the first time and I breathed the biggest sigh of relief.
After that, it literally felt like I was flying. I knew the rope would catch me, so I felt no real terror, and I could relax (kinda) and enjoy the view around me. Up and down I bounced, as the rope tightened and then loosened again. I literally felt like I was flying, and it made the whole free-fall worthwhile!
Eventually, a man was rappelled down and pulled me towards his rope, and then hoisted me up. But he only hoisted me up to a walkway that runs underneath the bridge. I had to climb a ladder up to another level of the bridge (still not on the main walkway, though) and then walk along half of the bridge. Eventually I reached the Zimbabwean side again, and crossed the bridge one more time, stopping again at the halfway point for my bridge swing.
Alice and I decided that we would do a tandem bridge swing together. The bridge swing is when you drop 70 metres, then swing back and forth for quite some time. Before we physically jumped off, the crew made us go through quite a few practice rounds of stepping together (me with my left foot and Alice with her right foot) at the exact same time.
Then they harnessed us in, told us the countdown (or, more accurately, “count-up” since this time they would say “1,2,3 JUMP”) and suddenly we were ready to go. That’s right, we were jumping off a bridge for the second time today.
For some reason, I think the bridge swing was scarier than the bungee, because there were two of us, so we were falling the sheer vertical drop at a much faster rate! However, once we started swinging back and forth, we (kinda) regained composure and were able to once again, take in the beautiful views of the scenery.
From there, we were wheeled up onto the bridge once again, had to climb the same ladder and walk along the underside of the bridge one last time. Then, we all headed into Zambia again to check out photos and videos of ourselves jumping. I ended up just ordering photos of my bungee jump (including the picture that is now my Facebook profile picture!) You can see a bunch of pictures here: https://picasaweb.google.com/104071111771440864502/20130629VicFalls#
Finally, after all this was done, we started the long journey back home. I had given Scott money earlier in the afternoon to have him order me a hamburger at the place where we started/got our photos, but unfortunately they had closed by the time he got there. You can imagine what a great mood I was in, having only eaten breakfast and half a chicken sandwich (and by now, it was about 6:15).
Anyways, we drove to the border, where, miraculously, there were no lines. Two minutes later we crossed back into Botswana, and took our final bus ride of the day back to Kwalape. We then ordered dinner. And waited. And waited some more. By now I was getting lightheaded, but, once again, it was (kinda) worth it by the time the delicious food arrived!
Steak, chips, and cooked veggies. To top it off, we had more of the delicious marble cake for dessert along with some vanilla ice cream. Even though I went to bed still a tad hungry (don’t judge) it was a nice way to end a thoroughly exhausting day!
TGT: 1) legitimately feeling like I was flying today! 2) seeing one of the seven natural wonders of the world today (Victoria Falls) 3) delicious dinner and dessert
Until next time,