“The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide to Bungee Jumping”
By Jonathan Benaiah (The Ugandan Tourist)
That fearless decision of diving off a precipice against all possible odds and thoughts of discouragement into an almost endless emptiness with no possibility of defying gravity; that feeling of nosediving into perceived fatality, to many people sounds like a Very Bad Idea!
How different could this be from taking a hike to the top of a telephone mast, looking into the outreaching dungeon of space below and then jumping off the edge into a multiplication of eternal demise? This all must sound like complete madness at first sound. This most likely sounds like stuff for those #YOLO dudes or something for the advocates of the popular notion, “Risk it or Waste it”. But the good news is “you’re not alone”.
You could come across several articles out there about how to prepare for your next trip, what to pack when setting out for a safari, the guide to buying the perfect camera for your first safari or even what to expect on your ultimate gorilla tracking trip in Uganda. But how often do you hear something about how to plan for bungee jumping? How does one even prepare for bungee jumping? Could there be some guiding blueprints with outlines for having a smooth bungee experience? How do you even wrap your mind around that?
Well those questions pretty less differ from how almost impossible it is to explain the pain of child birth. Not even a mother can explain that to their child enough, but here I am not to preach to you but to help you plan for and make that decision to take on one of life’s most remarkable experiences, one that you’ll live to reminisce. I often say, “you can always thank me later.”
So let’s rewind to where it might have started. You possibly first heard about this strange activity through the internet, or from your favorite travel blogger or probably from your most wanted travel and adventure show, or even still, you might have seen some cool photos of your friends taking on the daring plunge into that open space. It could still have been through the aggressive marketing of that adventure company. Whatever it is, word has it that you have heard, seen photos, or watched a video of someone bungee jumping. Quite terrifying, huh? I know, and that doesn’t help. Does it?
Well surprisingly, that’s not even terrifying enough. The sickest feeling you’ll probably ever feel is attempting to bungee jump and then chickening out at the last moment. That’s the real Bad Idea!
A friend of mine narrates to me how she walked to the edge of the platform looked at the endless journey below, reached for the handles, and with knocking knees begged to abandon mission. When I asked whether she would ever attempt bungee jumping again (maybe in the future), she told me she will “never ever!” She now tells me how bad that feeling haunts her time and again. She must have cut – pasted all possible plans to ever bungee jump again into a folder labeled “Insanity – Never Touch”.
I chose not to compel her but to allow her some healing time. A lesson learnt growing up with my mom. Give people time to cry out, allow them time to heal before you begin babbling words of disguised empathy.
Having done bungee for two times now, I thought I’d dedicate this blogpost to people like that anonymous friend of mine living in fear of the unknown. You must be thinking “Oh my gosh, he’s effortlessly done it twice, WOW!” Of course I wouldn’t mind the fame and great feeling of being the genius in the crowd that simply walks off the wharf into space with an ear to ear smile, no hustle at all.
But let me kid you not, my tummy still rumbles when my toes peep over the wooden bungee crag, and the instructor begins to count me into perceived self-destruction. I’m here to share a few insights on what you need to know for your first bungee experience and how to get yourself in the right mindset.
Tip 1: Don’t get lost in fear thoughts
Growing up in Africa for the larger part of my life, I have fresh and fond memories of how my Mathematics teacher whipped our bums for not hitting the average mark in a maths test. He would come and read out everyone’s marks one by one and then spank the heck out of people like me who supposedly from birth had more travel instincts than an understanding of the relevance of equations or logarithms. Mathematics was just not my thing.
A very fearful moment was whenever he announced that all our test papers had been marked and in the next class he’d read them out. My memories of the time space between that particular classroom session and the next one are of complete fiasco! I’d get lost in endless thoughts of how the whip would painfully descend on me. But then annoyingly, my immediate buddy never broke a sweat. To him it was just another beating; life went on thereafter.
African tales aside, here is the verdict! Bungee feels insane of course and no sane person will allow to get buckled up, feet-bound and then tossed off into a perceived land of no return, but what’s with the seriousness? #YOLO – You Only Live Once, so why let your life be a continuous boring episode of no fun, season after season. It is not going to be perfect (never has), you won’t go down in a dreamily faultless straight line, you won’t swing at perfect angles of 45 degrees, you may twist around a little, feel a bit wiggly and swing from side to side. It’s very spontaneous and that’s what makes it uniquely fun for everyone. Each time you jump is a different new and indescribably incredible feeling! You better quit thinking and calculating your jump, and stop questioning reason. Rule of thumb is to relax and accept it for what it is: it is what it is! Don’t suffer from your insanity but enjoy every minute of it.
Tip 2: You are the master of your nerves
Don’t let your nerves get to you. Don’t let them ruin your opportunity to break free. Make that step to go forward and just keep going. It helps to remember that your body, including your nerves are under your mastership.
Tip 3: The Right Clothes and good Health
Are there perfect clothes for bungee jumping? Well, I’ve jumped twice in different pairs of jeans and barefooted too, I have watched friends jump in shorts but with shoes on, watched a stranger clad in a fine sleek shirt tucked into a shiny pair of tuxedo pants, I have seen ladies jump in leggings and each time it has been seamlessly enjoyable to see. Take home message is just dress comfortably; let your clothes not be another stress factor.
Does your health condition matter? Yes, No and I don’t really know! There’s no real definition of perfect health; it’s just not there. Why I recommend good health. Of course you don’t want to jump if you have a severe cardiac complication or if you just walked out of an accident surgery yesterday or still have limb extensions. You might also want to be a little cautious if you are epileptic or asthmatic (I am asthmatic by the way), but sometimes you just have to put that behind you. If you feel unsure, please ensure to consult with the bungee team. They will often examine you to check you are in just the right state of health.
Tip 4: Please get weighed
“Oh please don’t start!” I am not being sexist, but I know for the ladies it might be an encroachment on privacy. But think of it; you’re probably jumping with your boyfriend, family or friends. Chill being too serious, loosen up. Head on to the scale and get weighed and if the team forgets to weigh you, please demand that you are weighed. Your weight will determine the color of bungee cord you’ll use. All the times I’ve gone with friends; I have been the one to use a unique rope. I don’t feel that heavy, but I respect the experts’ opinion.
Tip 5: You’re free to Close Your Eyes, or Face the Challenge with your back
Which kid watched their very first spooky movie with eyes wide open? Your first horror movie normally involves diving into a nearby pillow or veiling your face with your little palms, peeping in-between fingers to check that the scene is done. Well, bungee jumping does not only freak out chaps that fear heights but everyone, at least a little bit. To some, it does feel like death too. Let no one fool you that it’s as easy as biting through a warm and fresh cheese burger.
The beauty in bungee jumping however is the freedom to do it the way you want. You can close your eyes, or turn around and drop “back-first” or even jump with a friend. It’s sometimes a little simpler looking at monsters through sunglasses than through your bare eyes. But once the swinging begins, please open your eyes and enjoy the remarkable experience of boyhood. Oh and one last thing, when at the edge, it might be simpler not to look down but straight ahead or above.
Bonus Tip: Please jump with safety gear and have fun
This is rather an insane and hilarious one but is perhaps the most important. Bungee is a very safe activity, but only if done the right way. You don’t want to invent your own bungee after reading this blog post. I wouldn’t want to be held responsible for that lunacy – haha! The winner’s awesome trick is to follow the instructions of the bungee guides, allow them to dress you in appropriate safety gear and attach you to a bungee cord that fits your weight not color preference – they have your best interests at heart.
And lastly, please don’t jump without a cord, bungee does not involve the use of parachutes or life jackets.
In the words of Atticus, “What good are wings, without the courage to fly?” I like to add “What good is man without some extreme adventure?” Head on, take the leap for the champion in you and please remember to leave a message in the comment box below.
My two bungee experiences have both been in Uganda over the source of the world’s longest river, the Nile; with Adrift Adventures. Check them out on www.adrift.ug they have a very well trained and friendly team. They’ll have you sorted.