Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Birthday bungee ain’t what it used to be

Next time you get a shirt for your birthday, or a thing of aftershave, just be glad you didn’t get a bungee jump.
I got a bungee jump for my last birthday. It’s hectic, because you have to do it. There’s no looking a gift horse in the mouth, as they say. Also it was a present from my wife, Baby, so there was a manliness dimension to it as well.
She didn’t hand over a present or anything. She just called up a web page, Sky Riders Power Swing – off the cooling towers at Orlando Power station in Soweto. One hundred and ten metres off the ground! “That’s your present. Happy Birthday.”
Unfortunately I have just enough experience of adrenaline sports to know that 110m is bladdy high.
I hopped out of a plane about ten years ago, and I also did a bungee and a kingswing at Gouritz outside Mossel Bay. After that Mossels kingswing, I hung up my bungee cord.
Thank god that was over. Now I could say I’d done it, no one could call me a pussy and I’d never have to do it again.
Sadly no one told my wife that.
Of course we both insisted that it would be alright if the other one didn’t want to go through with it, but in the end we peer pressured each other into it. Next thing we’re at the foot of the left-hand cooling tower in the heart of Soweto, and Vaughn from Sky Riders is showing me how to make a special front pocket in my jeans to avoid the straps squashing my gonads when I bottom out at the end of my 50-metre plummet.
Then we’re putting a brave face on things as the cage ascends up the side of the tower to the jumping platform. I’ve got a little video cam, and I’m filming the ascent through that, hiding behind it, hoping it’ll shield me from the horror.
The vertigo hits as we exit the cage, clambering up the fragile staircase clinging to the lip of the chimney on the roof of Joburg. (Don’t look down don’t look down don’t look down).
Shhhooo. The wind’s gusting up there, and it’s bright as blazes. I got the camera thing going on, anchored to this tiny bench they have, as far as possible from the edge as I can get.
Then Baby goes and volunteers to go first. It’s gonna be like that. No hanging around. Next thing she’s inching her way to the very edge, and the instructor’s counting her down.
I’m giving her encouragement, all the while trying not to look down. Not easy when everything there is to look at is below you! There’s Orlando lake. I can see Maponya down there… This other girl can check her house from here. She’s waving to her mom!
Now Baby’s gone. Plunging into oblivion. Four seconds of silence, then just shrieks. Shrieks of relief and adrenaline.
In less than a minute that’s going to be me. I’ve just got to go through those steps. Clip on the cord, walk to the edge, feel the terror of the oblivion yawning below, feel every sinew of my body begging me not to do it. And despite all that, to step off into the abyss.
Thirty seconds to go now. Happy fuckin’ birthday…

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