Heavy mist dusts the air across the old colonial bridge downwind from the famed Victoria Falls. Joining Zambia to Zimbabwe, the bridge is more than just a border, it’s the scene of screams. At the midpoint of the bridge, a ledge hangs vicarious from the lip and the enthusiastic shuffle their bound feet to the edge before diving towards the great Zambezi River below. The Victoria Falls bungee jump is a staple on the diet of the many young backpackers in Livingstone, and today it’s on my plate as well.
I’m led down a dirt trail away from the bridge and hooked up to a zipline. With a couple words of instruction the guide shoves me across the gorge towards the bridge. I soar gracefully across the brown rock gorge with the rapids of the heavily flowing Zambezi below me. Mist slaps my face and then for a moment clears up enough so I can see Victoria Falls pouring behind the bridge. As I arrive at the landing point, there is a shriek and a scream, as a girl dives from the bridge with the bungee harnessed to her feet. She springs back upwards, nearly to the arch of the bridge.
I’m pulled over the ledge of the bridge and my legs shake not from the adrenaline of the zipline but the realization that I’m next up to do the bungee jump.
I crawl under the bungee jump station’s barrier and out onto the ledge. The floor is see-through and past my feet I can see the river 111 meters below. This is the third highest bungee jump in the world, and as I stare down I don’t doubt it. I’m turned away from the ledge and told to sit on a bench where my feet are bound. I’m asked to sit farther back on the bench, but every inch closer to the edge, the more my heart beats. Though I’m sitting 4 or 5 feet from the ledge, each foot away from it feels more comfortable.
With my feet wrapped heavily in towels and rope, and weight pulling heavily from the bungee cord, I stand and face the open air of the world beyond the ledge. I waddle like a penguin towards the edge and make the mistake of looking at my toes as they hang over the edge. The guide holds his hands in the pits of my arms and I stand staring at the horizon without the support of the rail. They count down, and I jump.
Heavy wind kisses my face as I attempt to scream an elated cry. The free fall seems to last forever and the water seems to be racing towards me uncomfortably quick. Finally, the bungee tugs at my legs and I’m drawn back towards the sky; I can’t help but cheer as I do. As I bob up and down and spin in the recoil of the bungee, I have no idea which way is up, down, left or right. Eventually, a man slides down on a wire and drags me back to the base of the bridge.
I’ve done it, the Victoria Falls Bungee Jump, one of the many items on my African bucket list has just been crossed off. But I’m not done yet, still on the docket here is a bridge swing from the same launching pad as the bungee.
I’m again strapped to a series of harnesses and ropes, but this time I’m attached to rope at my waist. The heavy ropes pull me towards the lip and I have to lean back as to not be dragged into the gorge. After the bungee, walking to the edge feels like a piece of cake. I lean my toes over the edge and hop foot first into the river basin.
After a quick moment’s regret, and the shout of a profanity, the anchored rope catches hold and I’m sent into a fierce swing across the gorge. The mist of the falls drenches my face, the wind tosses the last of my hair, and a perfectly round rainbow stands proud along the river walls beside me. It’s hard to explain the feeling of being swung at top speed over the great Zambezi, but the word euphoria comes to mind. And as the rope’s swing comes to a stop I find myself hanging in one of the world’s most beautiful settings. From adrenaline to peace.
Since I was young pushing the playground swing has high as I could, I’ve craved the rush of adrenaline. Though I got my fix here in Livingstone, I know that it will only satisfy my extreme palate for so long. Like a drug addict, the adrenaline junkie is always looking for a better fix, a bigger buzz, and a wilder ride. What will be my next fix? I guess you’ll have to stay tuned.