Though a straight line appears to be the shortest distance between 2 points, life has a way of confounding geography. Often it is the dalliances and the detours that define us. There are no maps to guide our most important searches; we must rely on hope, chance, intuition and a willingness to be surprised.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Incredible Zimbabwe (3) - Victoria Falls

Our third and last big stop in Zimbabwe was the world famous Victoria Falls on the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe. However, just before that, we spent one night in Bulawayo to visit the Matopos Rhino Park. We were lucky enough to get a very close encounter with the elusive white rhino. This was the only one of the established big seven wild animals in Africa that we hadn't already seen. It was a fantastic encounter, and the behaviour and character of both the mother and baby rhinos was amazing to see.

Victoria Falls is renowned as the biggest waterfall in the world and one of the world's seven natural wonders. However, our visit to Vic Falls wasn't primarily about getting back to nature but was more about taking advantage of Victoria Falls position as one of the best adventure sights in Africa.

On the night we arrived, I lay awake in my tent at the campsite listening to the distant roaring sound of the falls (which i had yet to see). Though it wasn't the background noise that was keeping me awake. I had signed up to do the third largest bungy jump in the world the next day and was more than a little pre-occupied with the idea.

Went into town the next morning to send a few amusing 'farewell, I'm bungying' emails and then a group of about ten of us took the long walk down to the bridge.

And then there was a 90 minute wait after signing up when i had plenty of opportunity to see others jumping off - take about pressure...

The Victoria Falls bungy is a 111m (350ft) jump off the Zimbabwe-Zambia bridge. A jump which takes you to within touching distance of the Zambezi river. The third highest bungy in the world, you get a full seven seconds of falling at speeds of up to 140kmph.

I've always always turned down chances to bungy in the past. When I toured New Zealand years ago I refused point blank, particularly when everyone else on the tour were doing the Pipeline, the - then - highest bungy in the world at a mere 102m.
But there's something about just being in Zimbabwe that makes the truly terrifying just a little less daunting. Actually I was really pumped for the jump itself. I knew that the only way I could be sure of doing the jump was to just follow every instruction without thinking about what I was doing! I managed a quick smile at the camera as the countdown ran from five to one. Managed a good dive (!), headfirst with arms outstretched. The first second was fine (!) and then the g-forces kicked in... after a few seconds of which the bungy started to slow me down.

The bungy pulled me back up towards the bridge to a height of about 60m at which point I effectively had another fall, bigger than most bungy jumps. I then had plenty of time to admire the largest waterfall in the world as I dangled upside down, 50m about the Zambezi River.

It's hard to get a good impression of the bungy from still shots but Alex tried his best as seen in the following pics! You can also see a pic of someone doing the jump on youtube - awesome!

Was it a thrill? Yeah - even bigger than parachuting. In fact, I can't imagine what other adrenaline activity could match it.
Would I do it again? No! Jumping off a bridge just feels like something you only need to do once...

As if bungy jumping wasn't exhilirating enough, the next day a big group of us headed back to the Zambezi Gorge for 'adrenaline day'. Flying fox (RIGHT), abseil and rappelling were great fun but the highlight was the gorge swing (LEFT). This was very similar to a bungy jump in some ways. Stepping off a cliff and dropping 60m at up to 80mph before being swumg back and forth across a gorge was just a little less terrifying than the bungy.

Got a huge buzz from this but unfortunately also strained my back slightly. I didn't feel the full effects of this until the next morning when I woke up in pain and had to cancel my rafting trip.

On the third day in Vic Falls I was delighted to get a break from jumping off things. I crossed over to Zambia (twenty-first country visited on the Bigtrip and my passport now has just two free pages left for Botswana, Namibia and South Africa) and did a microlight flight over the Victoria Falls. I got a CD made of the photos and will put an update on sometime soon.

Next stop Botswana.

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