Zambia -- I approached the bungee platform on Victoria Falls Bridge
as an observer, not a jumper. I had never given leaping off a
bridge much consideration. But my friend, Nelson, was committed.
That was fine
with me. I could watch from my perch, interview Nelson afterward
and have my adventure story.
happened that turned me into a bungee jumper.
We were on the
Victoria Falls Bridge, standing a half-mile or so from the falls, a
phenomenon that defies description. The power is overwhelming as
you stand within view of it, enveloped in its massive roar, dwarfed
by the mile-wide, 328-foot deep drop over which the Zambezi River
hurls 144 million gallons of water a minute.
bet. Enough to make you willing to hurl yourself off the bridge?
No, not to my mind.
The drop off the
bridge is even higher than the height of the falls itself. At 364
feet, its said to be the second highest bungee jump in the world.
(The highest is in nearby South Africa.)
At the bottom is
the river, only a half-mile or so from what is called the boiling
point at the bottom of the falls, aptly named for the violent
turbulence of the water. Under the bridge, where the river turns
narrow, I could see whitewater rafters.
I watched as the
bungee-jumping team harnessed and prepped Nelson for his jump. He
was intrepid, enthusiastic.
When he was
firmly wrapped, bungee cord hooked to the straps that bound his
ankles together, he hopped to the perch overlooking the gorge as
the team counted down: Five ... four ... three ... two ... one ...
And off he went,
falling, falling, turning, twisting. I watched him bounce for a
while, and when the bouncing slowed, one of the team descended to
meet him as the others ratcheted the two of them up to the
Well, there it
was. He had done it. Now it was my turn. I could take it or pass.
Against all reason, I took it, and the team performed their
preparations on me.
towels around each ankle, then more towels around my ankles coupled
together, creating a soft padding so the strap would not cut into
the skin. They hooked the bungee cord to my feet, then attached a
safety backup strap to a harness that encircled my
When I was
wrapped and hooked, with legs fastened together, they invited me to
hop to the edge, spread my arms like a swan and leap out as far as
I could from the platform.
Five ... four ...
three ... two ... one ... BUNGEE! Down I went, the wind in my face,
the landscape rushing toward me at an accelerating
That moment often
comes back to me as an example of how empowering a leap of faith
can be. It was a transformative moment, and it always gives me a
jolt of power when I think of it.
was much smoother than it had appeared when observing it. The
extension and contraction of the cord is on such a massive scale
that there is nothing jerky or rough about it.
It felt as though
I was jumping on a soft trampoline to the height of a skyscraper.
The elasticity of the cord translates into a gentle absorption of
the force, so there is no rough contact with anything.
I was flying,
soaring. It was an aerial ballet. Never had I felt so graceful.
Never had my body experienced so much direct physical force, and
yet it was all smooth, smoother even than walking.
To arrange for
bungee jumping at Victoria Falls, call the Zambia Tourism Board at
reporter David Cogswell, send e-mail to [email protected].