Face your fear
5 months ago, 20 Apr 16:05
One February afternoon, 3pm, finds me seated facepalmed on a wooden staircase, 20 or so metres above ground.
Below me, the Nile river flows majestically. Bungee jumping, a sport said to have originated in New Zealand, involves free falling from a tall structure while suspended on a large elastic cord.
Considering that I am not generally a thrill seeker, I’m not sure how the idea to engage in such a risky, wild adventure became entrenched in my mind.
I can only blame my interest in Africa’s natural wonders, and, in this case, my goal to encounter the mighty River Nile.
My chosen jumping spot is the Nile High Bungee in Jinja, Uganda. The bungee is attached to a restaurant, and jumpers are cheered on by customers enjoying their meals or drinks on the balcony.
The cantilevered bungee tower hangs on top of a cliff over the deep, fast-flowing river. I did not know that the tower was 44 metres high.
From the restaurant balcony it looks like child’s play.
Initially, I am scheduled to jump at 1pm, and as the time approaches I am itching to go; I make sure that my cameraman and videographer are ready before I climb to the tower with the bungee instructors. By 1.15pm, I expect to be sending heroic photos to friends and family.
The endeavour is not as easy as I imagined. By the time I reach the top, I am out of breath, the result of general unfitness and height phobia. I am led to the preparation chair, where a harness is fitted, frighteningly tightly, around my ankles and waist.
That done, I am escorted inside the tower, like a high security prisoner, weighed down by the harness and the reality of my decision.
I walk over to the edge of the platform. Between me and the river is the plank of wood I am standing on and the instructor holding the harness around my waist. I look down. Huge mistake. I am terrified of the menacing river. I start to tremble.
“Don’t look down. Fix your eyes across the river,” the instructor advises. But I keep looking down. “Close your eyes,” the instructor tries again. I start to scream internally. The instructor starts the countdown.
Five, four, three, two, one, jump!
Every instinct in me rebels against that order. “Are you insane,” I want to shout at the instructor. “Why would I jump?” I obey my instinct to save myself. I lean backwards and hold firmly onto the door separating the platform from the rest of the tower.
Three or four more attempts later, it becomes clear that I will not jump. “We have an aborted jump,” the instructor yells to the retrieval boat team located strategically in the river waiting for braver jumpers.
I am taken out of the tower and unharnessed, and, tail between my legs, I head downstairs. At the restaurant, I sit thinking. I am under no obligation to jump. But the aspiration to complete this dare-devil mission persists. I need to override the ...
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