It was the 29th May 2017 to be precise on Tuesday; I remember it was cool morning weather with the birds chirping in the nearby trees by the room on the shores of the Nile next to the famous Speke point –River Nile source. The previous day had been very busy with the visiting of the source of the Nile, where it starts its journey of 6,853Km to the Mediterranean Sea and you would guess how I was feeling stepping on the same stone John Speke stood as he discovered the current source of the river.
True to his discovery, one can witness as I did water gushing and bubbling from the location as if it were spring – a spectacle view seeing lake victoria feed this great river.
With this excitement, a colleague and myself took a five-minute drive to not so far, where Owen falls once stood but now replaced by Bujagali Dam –the main source of hydro-electric power generation in Uganda. This very idea of visiting Bujagali is the basis for my Bungee Jump experience.
The Bujagali falls adventure was never to be as we sported the Jinja Nile Resort signpost on our way and beneath the sign we had some activities listed – Bungee jumping, kayaking, rafting etc. Quickly my heart paced as I had a long-held bucket list item that I had yet to fulfill Bungee Jump and Rafting. We proceeded straight to the hotel and found besides the hotel was the famous Adrift Camp known for adventure travels and tours. Once in the camp you cannot fail to spot a tower platform for the Bungee standing high. On getting to the reception we met a bubbly lady Shillah who is an administrator at the camp, in a couple of minutes we had gone through the explanations around Bungee and Shilla capped it up that she had done two jumps previously.
Convinced that besides ticking off my bucket list in my fourth decade life just began and someone who had recently gone through the ritual was present, there was no second choice but to pay for the jump and go back to the hotel to ponder on the decision until the next day.
The Night before the Jump
My heart pumping and thinking about the decision to bungee and the many things that could go wrong, I spent the early part of the night after a light dinner reading everything scientific, expertise and general knowledge on bungee. The findings were scary from dislocated neck, whiplash injuries, eyesight problems, high blood pressure and scarier was the catastrophe that could result if the equipment failed leading to dislocated joints, head injuries. By coincidence or conspiracy of the gods I was also reading Richard Branson “ Losing my Virginity ”
Here I’m in my early forties literally on the edge of losing my virginity not knowing exactly what would happen, fear and excitement was at the edge. In the room there was a chair barely 4 Feet and it was time to practice bungee fall at a height of 145 Feet on 4 Feet Chair – call it total madness but that was the reality of the decision at hand. Under supervision of Valentine in turns we could count one, two-three, Bungee!!!! and off you jump to the ground if only to give false comfort.
By this time Valentine and I were convinced we could take on the jump hence the need to sleep early.
As we proceeded to sleep, it started to rain, this became a concern as the activities for the next had been fully paid and planned for and the single most important prayer item was that the rains subside by the morning to enable a bright morning. I love sunrise moments; with cloudy morning I would miss the marvelous glow on the Nile.
I was up by exactly six o’clock in time to watch sunrise, took a quick shower and a cup of black tea and a banana –not because there was no full breakfast but the adrenaline was already building more like the traditional morning before undergoing an African traditional initiation knife, nowhere to hide but face the enormity of the decision.
We arrived at the camp and found a couple of people already on site for different activities, a shade of different people from different nations and colours-Black, Chinese, Asian, white et al. My initial assumption was that everyone was at least on a bungee adventure but this changed so rapidly stoking even more fear. At the reception Shillar handed over a book to fill in our details including full names, country, email and telephone contacts. Careful review of the form actually confirmed my fears it was an indemnity form absolving the Adventure firm of any liability in the event of accidents and this indemnity was absolute covering personnel, equipment or myself, the responsibility squarely lay on me-suicide mission this must be!
Shillar asked us to get on the weighing scale to take our weight and this moment I blurted, “ Who is the heaviest person you have ever had here?” And she politely responded 190Kg and also inquired about the oldest person to take the jump and she mentioned 80 Years or so can’t remember and my mind went like Allan you will do it.
At the camp is an exciting restaurant by the riverbank with an excellent view of the Nile River and Bujagali dam, sitting at the terrace and thinking about what lay ahead when Valentine sounded me out to look at the top of the tower.Up the tower I see two people who seem easy, casual and working on some equipment and some ropes. I immediately advice Valentine we take a walk out of the site of the tower, call it temporary comfort from the reality that lay before me. We had not even taken a five-minute walk when Shillah called and advised that the Bungee master was ready, a mild cold chill in my spine that was the feeling.
This call evoked memories of a visit to the Namugongo Martyrs Shrine, coincidentally; it was also during this period that thousands of pilgrims visit Uganda in remembrance of several martyrs who paid the ultimate price of practicing Christianity. One of the Martyrs St Charles Lwanga requested his executioners if he could organize the firewood for his burning by self. This wish was granted as in most African settings a dying man’s last wish is always fulfilled.
To ensure slow and maximum pain they started burning his feet and the executioner mocked him to call upon his God to come to help of which St Charles responded “You foolish man, I feel like you are pouring cold water on my feet and I’m dying for my faith and religion you better change your way”. This was the last of executions in Uganda and St Charles Lwanga clearly saw it.
This piece is very important because as I take my journey up the platform, my mind is raving and thinking about St Charles thoughts and immediately prayer on my lips. Unlike St Charles I was on a path of adventure with all the risks known the previous night including horror stories and myth in some instances. Climbing up the tower slowly with a beaming face but beneath a number of questions on the what ifs………………
One of the men at the tower called out my name and asked who was going first of which I nodded with confidence. This was a deal already struck with Valentine considering I was the architect of the jump. He introduced himself as the Bungee Master, Isaac and also introduced the partner-Kenneth. Isaac looked straight into my face as if to relax me up, held my hand only to realize he was reading my weight, which was marked boldly on my right hand. In a short while he invited me to the platform at the edge where there was small seat, a replica to the one used in African traditional setup for crowning kings. This was very symbolic as if to say “ Here son get your last wish of being a hero/King”.
The division of labor by the between Isaac and Kenneth was so meticulous, while on the seat with in an engaging conversation my legs were tied together by Kenneth and like a wall oiled machine the handover was seamless with Kenneth having the harness fixed and the ropes put in place in less than five minutes.Unknown to me actually they are two in number for a reason as one works on his assignment the other one is taking care of Valentine whose adrenaline was also taking tall with endless movements and stare on what was going on.
Isaac: Are you fearful?
Took a deep breath as I looked below the river, now standing 144 Feet above River Nile.
Isaac: Safety is our business, it will be well and fear is normal. Move to the front look at the beauty; see those people cheering at you and wave at them.
Indeed the view was immaculate, beautiful and one as I see the wavy Nile, the beautiful land and the surrounding amazing as if to reassure me that whatever happens I have seen how beautiful the surrounding is.
Life sounded so paradoxical, at the camp just signed a form indemnifying the establishment of anything in the event of a catastrophe and here is the Bungee Master telling me Safety is his business, was startled to say the least.
One last moment as I leap forward, I check like St Charles if all is ok and even touch the harnesses and ropes call it a moment of expertise and one, which I did not have. The Bungee Master in his characteristic style asks I move forward to a platform that looks like a trap door, I wave to team on the ground and by the riverbanks, who cheered me on and was wondering aloud if I was being cheered to suicide and one last moment I wave to Valentine now tearing.
The Bungee Master gives me the flow of the instruction and what to do, three, two, one, bungee and thereafter you have to jump flying outward as if swimming. I look at the surrounding with adrenaline pumping and ask for one step backward and have a deep breath, at this moment the reality is sinking in.
It is my moment and I move to the platform hold the roof, listen to the Bungee Master counting and I take a flight that is both exhilarating and nerve raking, nostalgic great feeling of fulfillment. The Movement, the adrenaline and the beauty of seeing everything and touching the Nile, the acceleration downwards and acceleration upwards was a real feeling and dare say “ loosing virginity was real”. On the surface of the Nile after the swings I find the safe hands of sailors with a boat for transport to the shores to witness my Valentine take the jump, the pictures speak all and no amount of writing can define the feeling.
On this day apart from Valentine and myself no one else took the jump, had we insisted on seeing someone go first I would have missed the opportunity.
Here are a few lessons I picked from this experience
- Focus on the goal, this paths has been travelled before
- Each field has its own experts and they may look naïve and casual but they know their job
- Decisions points have to be owned by the doer, you ought to filter the noise –do fair research and don’t be stuck in analysis-every field has its own specialties.
This is not to say bungee has no risks but it tests your nerves and the level to which the adrenaline can drive you.
Prior to the jump, my barber and I had a discussion and he wondered loudly why one would pay for his own suicide and he suggested instead the bungee jumpers should be paid for the plunge.
I understand the fee for the jump is not small, if only to have you drive your adrenaline to the edge…………see you on my next piece on Rafting over the White Nile.
* Big thank you to the professional team at Adrift Adventures-Shilla, Kenneth and Isaac