The Greatest Fear, but the Greatest Reward

My entire trip across South Africa had been leading up to this moment. As I treaded across the seemingly precarious metal grate towards the middle of the bridge, my hands trembled nervously while I wondered if I could really do this. Every downward glance filled me with an overwhelming sense of dread as I saw 216m below my feet. As we walked in single file, I clutched the hand of the person in front of me. The fact that we’d only just met meant nothing, and we relied on each other for emotional support like the closest of friends.

When we arrived at the platform, we somewhat relaxed knowing we had concrete beneath our feet. However, this comfort was only temporary. We were on Bloukran’s Bridge, the venue for the highest bungy jump in the world, and we were soon to be leaping off of it. Since I’m terrified of heights, leaping to my doom has never appealed to me, but a record breaking jump was too much to pass up. So I found myself harnessed up, ready for what would inevitably be the worst moment of my life.

All my fellow jumpers assured me that it would be amazing, but I found that incredibly hard to believe. As I waited for my turn, I constantly battled with myself in my head, alternating between child-like excitement and crippling anxiety. I panicked as one girl danced on the platform moments before jumping, as I was convinced she must be clinically insane. How could something so incredibly distressing for me be so frivolous for her? Loud dance music blared through speakers around us, which lifted everyone’s spirits and fuelled the exciting atmosphere like a catalyst. However, I still couldn’t get over my fear, and remained beside myself with worry. I spotted one of the technician's t-shirts which read ‘fear is temporary, regret is forever’. This was a reminder that although it was probably going to be a terrible experience, it was something that had to be done. From then on I knew there was no backing out. I needed to conquer this.

We jumped in order of weight. As the lightest person there, that left me as the last person. I’d watched everyone else do it, hoping that somehow my turn would never come, but it had. I’d been scared up until this point, but nothing could have prepared me for the wave of terror I felt as I stepped up to the edge. I began to wonder ‘why am I doing this?’ The bridge was perfectly safe. It wasn’t on fire, there was no train hurtling towards us, so why jump off of it? But it was too late. As two men, lifted me and planted me on the very edge, my mind somehow escaped me, as if to say ‘sod this, you’re on your own!’ They asked me to hold my arms out straight, but even that was a challenge. Then, the moment of truth came. ‘5, 4, 3, 2, 1, bungy!’ they shouted. In the absence of my brain, I hesitated for a moment, and somehow managed to jump feet first. Seconds later, while I was in mid-air, I realised what I’d done. Falling vertically, knowing that there was nothing I could do about it was the worst feeling I’d ever experienced. How had I managed to make it even more horrific than it needed to be? Luckily, I somehow managed to turn on the way down before the rope had reached its limit, like a cat falling from a tree, which saved me from whiplash.

After what seemed like endless bouncing, rising, falling, and turning, I dangled helplessly at the bottom. This is when I began to appreciate where I was. As I hung above the trees, the sheer beauty of my surroundings overwhelmed me, and all I could hear was my own frantic inhaling and exhaling as I struggled to catch my breath. In seconds, I’d gone from the most emotionally hysterical atmosphere I’d
ever experienced, to the most peaceful, tranquil, and mind-blowingly beautiful setting ever. Alone, I congratulated myself. I’d done it! I’d conquered not only the world’s highest bungy jump, but my greatest fear.

As I was lifted back to the bridge, an uncontrollable smile decorated my face as I knew I’d done something amazing. I was greeted by high fives, hugs and congratulations from my fellow jumpers, and we all left feeling like we’d gone on a journey together.

E Thomas

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