August222012

Happiest Day of my life

We woke up early after a great night’s sleep. The only downside to staying in a lodge deep in the woods is that it gets quite cold at night. I somehow managed to keep warm with my three blankets, sweatshirt, hat, and thermal leggings. After getting ready we headed over to the porch to get some tea and breakfast. We called and scheduled our jump for 10:00am. We drove the half hour to Bloukrans Bridge, the home to the World’s Highest Bungy Jump of 216 meters. The bridge is situated between mountains, river, and ocean. Next to the Bungy shop, there is a bar snuggled next to the path you take to walk out to the jumping spot. I can only imagine how many people pop back a few shots before they take the leap. We paid for our jump and went to the harness station. We were greeted by an amusing group of guides who were going to take care of us through this adventure. They distracted us from what we were about to do by asking “So, if you survive, what else are you going to be doing today?”. We were each labeled on our hands with our jumper number, weight, and time. I was J7/67/10:00. As we walked out to the bridge, the group suddenly became quiet as we realized what we actually got ourselves into. To get to the center under the bridge, we had to walk through a metal mesh cage over the gorge. To be honest, that may have been the scariest part of the whole thing. Once we got to the center, they had pump up music blasting and we just nervously danced our fears away. The guys decided what order we were to go in and I was lucky number 2. I had absolutely no time to even think about what was going to happen. They ushered me over to sit down in order to have my legs strapped together. Like a dumb dumb, I forgot to wear my big running shoes. Instead I wore my dinky little Toms and they told me to take them off since I was now going to be doing this barefoot. I didn’t even realize it was time when the guy told me to stand up and shuffle my way out to the footprints. I took a deep breath, they put my arms around them, and we went to the edge. I put my toes over the edge, they told me to look up at the camera, screamed 5,4,3,2,1, BUNGY and I supermaned off the bridge. Remember in the Looney Tunes, when someone runs off a cliff and they just stop in midair and look down in fear? That’s what it was like. As soon as I was air born, I felt like I was just hovering. It was the only moment in the entire event that I thought, “What the hell am I doing?”. By that point there was obviously no turning back, the only way to go was down. My stomach didn’t drop, I didn’t panic, nothing. It was absolute silence. Calm. Surreal. It was completely incredible. The thing I really like about this specific bungy is that you don’t get jerked back once your rope is done stretching. It’s very gradual and a smooth pendulum swing. Finally, you come to a stop, hanging upside down, from a rope, 216 meters under a bridge. It’s at this point that I feel like my feet are going to slide out of the harness and I’m going to fall to my death. Before I can get too scared, I hear “Oh hello there beautiful! How was your flight?”. A man comes down, brings me into a seated position and brings me back to the center of the bridge. We chit chat on the way up and I’m greeted by a group of guys ready to pull us onto the platform. They inform me that my jump was flawless (I pretend they don’t say that to everyone when they are done) and I tell them how much I love it and ask if I can go again for free. They politely turn me down and I wait on the bridge for the rest of the group to finish. One of the most amusing things was watching the people who were terrified of heights that decided to do this. They paced back and forth, singing to themselves like a lunatic till it was their turn. Once they came back from their jump though, they were all smiles. BUNGY JUMP

Next we headed on over to the Elephant Sanctuary. We were brought right into a tour with three elephants. They were the most beautiful animals in the whole wide world. Their trainers introduced them to us: Marula, Thandi (love), and Jabu (happy). We were allowed to approach them one by one to interact. I met Jabu and for the first time in my life, I pet an elephant. She was wonderful and so sweet. I could have stayed there for hours but we were only allowed a few minutes and then my turn was up. We snapped some pictures and then I was asked if I’d like to walk with the elephant. Obviously the answer was yes. I walked on over to Thandi, put me hand behind me, she latched onto my hand with her trunk, and we were on our way. At this moment I was high on life. My Baba had always had a love for elephants and ever since I was little, every time I see one, I think of her. I can only imagine how much she was smiling at me as I took a stroll with Thandi. It was such a cool feeling. The last stop was to feel the three girls before we left. We each took a few pieces of food and put it on their trunks. It was harder than it looked. They were hungry and if you hesitated at all, the other two would barge in to try to steal the food for their friend. I know I get cranky when I’m hungry and I didn’t feel like testing elephants to see if they get the same way. The guide informed me that they accept volunteers to work with the elephants so I obviously told him that when I come back to SA, I will do my best to spend some quality time with them.

Our next stop was to Monkey Land. After bungy and elephants, I was not very interested in visiting monkeys but my friend really wanted to go to the restaurant there for some reason so I gave in. We walked into the gate and the guards told us “Be careful, those little bastards steal everything”. I’m so used to  zoos where the animals are contained in neat little glass enclosures. Monkey land IS NOT A ZOO. You walk in and there are literally hundred of monkeys just jumping around the trees you walk by. A large man in front of us screamed as one little bugger jumped on his shoulder, took his glasses and dashed off again. I had no idea monkeys were kleptomaniacs but I guess we learn something new every day. They were adorable but as I looked up to me left, I saw a wide eyed monkey staring me down, holding a child’s toy pistol. He looked like he meant business and I hurried along down the path. We reached the restaurant without being attacked but when the gentleman opened the door for us, a monkey shot into the building (where they are not supposed to be), stole a little girl’s sandwich and bracelet, and ran off out the door. She was about 4 and she was not pleased at this occurrence. It may have been one of the funniest moments of my entire trip. We were warned about muggers in Cape Town but no one told us about the greedy monkeys. We drank our hot chocolates quickly and left. I felt a little uneasy in that place to be honest. I kept thinking about Planet of the Apes and was convinced the cute, cuddly monkeys were planning a take over.

We stopped on the way home at a little farm shop and got fresh cheese and bread to tide us over until dinner. We got back to the lodge with a few hours of daylight left so I decided to hike to the waterfall behind Wild Spirit. It was a short hike with little yellow wooden arrows everywhere directing you where to go next. It was so nice and different from the mountains back in Cape Town. We came across a little babbling brook and thought we found the ‘waterfall’ they told us about. We decided to keep going and then saw a nice little waterfall but it was still a disappointment. Then we continued on and finally came up to a 5 story high waterfall off a mountain. Like everything else on this trip, it was beautiful, calming, and we just sat and stared at it for at least an hour.

That night we had some tea, obviously, and sat to talk with our friends from Seattle, Turkey, Amsterdam, and Sweden. As we sat there, a little old man came up and ask us if we had ever been part of a drum circle before. Drum circles aren’t all that popular in Frankfort, Illinois so I said no. He invited us over to the fire and he had brought about 20 African drums. He slowly taught us 4 different beats and once we got them down, he informed us “It’s time to jam”. As we took off and fed off of each other, one of the guys who works at the lodge came out and started fire dancing to our beat. So, to reiterate, I was at a backpackers lodge, in a drum circle, watching a man fire dance. If that is not an African experience, I don’t know what is. As we sat there, the girls from Alabama were being obnoxious as ever. One guy turned to me and said “Gosh I hate Americans. So where are you from again?” I ignored him and kept banging on the drum. 

Page 1 of 1