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Leap of faith: Bungee jumping on Zambezi River

By Jayne Rose Gacheri | May 9th 2021
View on the bridge with Bunjee Jumping installation. The bridge spans the Zambezi River, the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe.[Getty Images]

The spectacular Kingdom at Victoria Falls hotel. It was while here that our host floated the idea of bungee jumping. No one was willing to take the plunge. I said, “count me in”, surprising even myself.

Sunday 5.30am: My wake-up call jerks me out of a bad dream – is this a premonition of something bad to happen? At breakfast, we are given more insights into bungee jumping. More than five million jumps have been conducted (with only one fatality). I retire briefly to my room to think over my decision.

Donald, our tour guide calls to make sure that I have not backed out. I can tell from his voice that he probably thinks I am crazy. Later after the adventure, he confesses that though he has taken many visitors to experience bungee jumping, he has always enjoyed watching but had never dared to do it himself.

9.10am: Catherine and I meet at the hotel reception to compare notes. A while later, the tour guide and driver join us. The rest of the team has decided to take a morning nap as we go take the plunge. I am consoled that none of them will see me flinch.

9.35am: We arrive at the border post. Clearance is swift. We walk to no man’s land between the Zimbabwean and Zambia border posts. We state that we were going bungee jumping. From here, we walk for about 10 minutes along the bridge to the site. Here we are introduced to the bungee operations team. We remove our jewelry and other accessories.

In the distance, I can hear voices from a crowd of people murmuring as they watch me all harnessed and ready for the jump. It is probably a go-happy crowd – waiting for some action. 

To say I was terrified is an understatement. Reality hit me. Here I was standing on a seemingly fragile platform, 111 metres above the gorge of Victoria Falls and I was about to plunge myself towards the rumbling water of the rapids of the crocodile-infested Zambezi River. Although the instructions were not to stare down at the gorge, I made the mistake of looking down at the raging waters way below as the realisation of what I had committed myself to sunk in.

The cheerful banter from the jump attendants preparing me for the plunge in the form of supposed jokes was not helping. How dare they joke about whether I trusted a stranger with this or if I wanted to know how many people were so insane to do what I was about to do. Where was the humour that they would answer all this, when I got back, in case I did come back? Ok, if I was going to die in no man’s land, at the canyon separating Zimbabwe from Zambia. I was going to do it badass style… still, the joke did not work.

“Prove them wrong,” a voice tells me. I convince myself that if I do this, I will never be afraid of heights, falls, darkness, and all those scary things that I have packed at the back of my head for years. I obey the still voice and get to the edge of the platform. My toes grip the platform, my shoulder hunched and my body straining away from the drop. The attendants, who have by now harnessed me for the jump talk to me calmly and encouraging me on. I am half-attentive though. Where would my body be taken since I was jumping from a no man’s border? I am awoken from my stupour by the attendant’s “we are ready to go”.

Victoria Falls Town, Zimbabwe - October 26, 2013: Vic Falls Bungee directly in the middle of Victoria Falls Bridge at the border between Zimbabwe and Zambia.[Getty Images]

Before I can recover from my reverie, Hoshia, the Jump Master says, “Counting begins now”…. I look at the surging waters below and the dangerously close rocks at my side. The water’s movement sends a deafening roar through my ears. I feel a cold shiver run through my spine. I want to turn back, but amidst the encouraging shouts from the crowd, a voice deep inside me says, “Jayne Rose, you can do this!” Before my mind has a chance to give things a second thought I hear, Hoshia shout: “Bungee!” and I find myself flying.

The plunge

Suddenly, I am floating through the air…. first straight out and then plummeting down head fast. Within seconds, I am flying so fast I close my eyes in terror, then open them briefly. I can almost swear that I heard the crocodiles whisper, “bring it on”. Even if I miss the crocodiles, how can I miss the rapids or the rocks whose “teeth” lay in wait to tear me into a thousand pieces?

Suddenly I experience the first bounce pull on my weightless body. I start to swirl for what seems like an eternity. Just when I think the nightmare is over, my body tilts forward again. The bungee cord bounces around several times before bringing me to abrupt stop mid-air. I could have sworn that the ankle harnesses were slipping. I close my eyes expecting to fall towards the waters below. What did I want to prove by taking up this risk? Unexpectedly I feel dizzy. I feel like I could throw up. I am scared out of my wits and I think I must have said my confessions before I felt a sense of relief and an exciting surge of adrenaline. Could I be enjoying this?

From a distance, I hear a voice – “Stretch out your hands”. I open my eyes and see Amusa, the person in charge of the recovery process. He has expertly lowered the bridge that is swaying a few metres above me, stretching out his hands towards me. I feel a touch – it is Amusa’s hand. I have been saved. Just the thought of being next to another human being is so reassuring. He quickly and expertly attaches a line to my harness, allowing for an upright position. The two of us are hoisted up onto a thin catwalk situated below the bridge where I am thoroughly checked to ensure I am stable enough to walk.

I have now fully recovered from my hair-raising experience. Would I do it again, asks Ndaba the video editor. Frankly speaking, I do not think so… once was quite enough.


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