Words: Sarah Kobal | Photos: Skruf Mtloki
"This is it," I tell myself. "It's now or never." Standing in my fluffy socks, now adorned with ankle harnesses, and wrapped up in a bright red straight jacket, with red and orange tinted sunglasses to complete the look, I hesitantly shuffle forward until my toes curl over the edge of the platform.
The wind is moving the platform and I start to panic as I can't get a good grip in my socks. My heart is pounding, my breathing is short and quick, and I close my eyes. I hear Sizwe Mathebula, a staff member, in the background saying, "Don't worry, I have you, and remember to not look down." That is all I hear as I take a leap of faith, head first, towards the ground, 100 m below me, in-between the artistically-painted Orlando Towers in Soweto, Gauteng.
As I plummet towards the earth, I open my eyes and try to take in everything as it rushes past at speed … upside down! Just then my blue bungee cord tightens, pulling me back into the air before I hurtle once more towards the ground! Being light, I unfortunately don’t bounce as high as some of the heavier people, but I still go pretty high! With the wind racing through my hair and the ground drawing nearer, I jubilantly scream out, "I did it! Woohoo, I did it!"
As I'm lowered to the ground, I am greeted by the staff and a large crowd who watched this crazy, blonde girl bungee jump in a straight jacket and socks, woo'ing her heart out during the jump. A staff member unhooks me from the rope, then takes off my body and leg harnesses and places a helmet on my head in case anything is dropped from the bridge above us. My whole body is shaking from the amazing adrenaline rush and I have an enormous grin that stretches from one side of my face to the other. I have faced my fear of heights head on and come out smiling.
Before the jump
When driving through Soweto to get to the Orlando Towers, you can't help but notice these huge towers, covered in aesthetic images of the township, that dominate the landscape. As we arrive, we are greeted by the bold towers, festive music and smiling faces. We walk past the restaurant, where there are long tables filled with people either celebrating their courageous jumps or celebrating the bravery of those they had come along to support.
The jumpers are led away to a quiet area and introduced to everyone, but I am so nervous that I don't take much in. After I sign in, I'm weighed and this number is written on my hand along with my jump number. Thereafter, a vivacious staff member straps on my ankle harnesses, which the bungee cord will be attach to - and why I am wearing socks. A body harness is also put on as a safety precaution. Once we are all kitted up, we gather in a circle and are briefed on what to expect once we reach the top of the one tower.
Gathering in the open lift, my heart is now pounding furiously and I feel nauseous. The lift starts off at an angle and up we go in silence; I'm silently freaking out.
When we get to the top, the lift stops so abruptly that it makes a loud noise and one of the jumper's scream, which in turn gives me a fright! As we leave the lift, we are welcomed by music and smiling staff. As I volunteered to go first at the briefing, I set off across the sky bridge, suspended between the two towers, to the platform in the middle. The bridge is slippery and moves quite a bit because of the wind, and my socks do little to stop me from wobbling around.
Sizwe and Motswako, the jump masters, and Mfondu, the jump assistant, strap me up and double check each other for safety purposes. As I shuffle towards the edge, I am panicking so much that Sizwe tells me to sit down and gives me an awesome pep talk. With my confidence regained, I stand up and edge once more towards the end of the platform, until my toes curl over the edge, and then I jump!
After the jump
This whole experience went really quickly and felt so surreal. From being strapped up on the ground to being told to jump, I didn't really have much time to take in the beautiful view, lovely paintings on the towers or even the conversations with everyone around me. My only disappointment was that it was mainly people from outside of South Africa who were jumping. It would be great to see more South Africans participating in this adrenaline-rush activity.
Orlando Towers offers various extreme options, such as rap jumping, power swinging, abseiling, SCAD jumping or the obvious, bungee jumping. A jump costs R480 and if you would like a DVD, then it's an extra R150. There is an option to book, otherwise you can just pitch up on the day and do the jump!
Going to the Orlando Towers was such an amazing experience, the overall vibe was fantastic, everyone was friendly and helpful, and everyone seemed to be having a great time. I have always wanted to jump, but never had the courage to do it - until this opportunity came along! Thank you to Gary Crookes, from Blue Eyewear, for sponsoring my straight jacket jump.
So if you want to do something exciting, different, and extreme, bungee jump in a straight jacket because if you're crazy enough to bungee jump, you may as well show it!
Other bungee jumping locations
If bungee jumping close to the ground isn't your scene and you'd prefer to bungee jump off a bridge into a gorge, the best place for this is the Blou Krans Bridge in Storms River. With a staggering 216 m drop towards the Storm River, this jump holds a place in the Guinness Book of Records for being the highest jump in the world.
Something I didn't know was that you can bungee jump from the Kings Kloof Bridge, in Krugersdorp! Although it's only a 50 m jump, this is still a great opportunity if you are closer to Krugersdorp than Soweto. Other activities available at Kings Kloof Bridge are foofy-sliding and bridge swinging.
Alternatively, there is a 65 m jump off the Gouritz Bridge, in Gouritz, Western Cape. When jumping here, you will be staring down at the swirling cold waters of the Gouritz River. There is also an option to do bridge swinging.
• Rap Jumping, or known as Forward Abseiling, is when you can run down the side of a building facing forward.
• Power Swinging is where once you have jumped, you free-fall for however many metres before the pendulum of the rope attachment will swing you up and out again.
• Abseling, or rappelling, is a controlled descent down something such as a rock face or building.
• SCAD (Suspended Catch Air Device) jumping is where you are high off the ground, the staff member unclips the device holding you, resulting in you free-falling (in a sitting position) into a net which is used to catch you.