I can feel the sharp wooden splints scraping my feet. “Hakuna Matata”, the man in front of me shouts in Swahili.
I’m second on the long platform, similar to the plank from cartoon pirate movies. I can feel a queasy sensation in my belly, which began whilst walking up the stairs of the swinging platform. The platform hangs 44m above the source of the River Nile.
Moments later, the first person has jumped and I am next in line. I can see my fellow volunteers waving from the viewing platform in the distance. A man with the camera looks almost like a miniature figure as he prepares his next take. I cautiously sit on the wooden carved chair as they strap the bungee cords around my feet. The one man looks at my hands, my weight scribbled in red ink on the palm. This is perhaps the only time I won’t lie about my weight, I ask for the man who weighed me to scribble the intimate numbers on my palm instead of the back of my hand. I nervously feel for the rings that have been dismissed from my middle finger. They’re left in the safety of the front desk, in case I lose anything on my descent down.
The Ugandan men put what looks like towels around the bottom of my legs, they tie the bungee cord around them tight. I nervously smile to them, as they make sure they are fitted correctly. I can feel sweat beads dripping from my forehead and a nervous persona has inhabited my body.
“Ready”, the Ugandan man asks me with a confident smirk.
I know that if I turn around now and walk down the stairs that I will lose my money. I nod half-heartedly and waddle to the edge of the platform. A brown sun-kissed arm holds mine with every awkward jump to the edge.
“Put your arms out, like a bird”, says the instructor.
I hold my arms out straight, uncontrollable nerves have taken over.
“Smile and wave to the camera, look at the view”, he sarcastically continues to say.
I plaster a fake smile on my face and wave to the camera in the distance. It feels unnatural to stand over the edge and jump off into the air. It reminds me of when I was a child and my friend would try to make me fall backwards on the trampoline. I could never do it, something in my brain would just shout no. I’m having the same unnatural feeling as I did then, my friend taunting me to fall backward.
“Three, two, one, bungee”, they scream.
My feet don’t move, I feel almost stuck to the floor as though I’m in sinking sand.
“I can’t do it”, I shakily say to them.
“Three, two, one, bungee”.
I stop again, unable to bring myself to jump off the edge. They utter those three words one last time.
“Three, two, one, bungee”.
They push me off the 44-meter platform and I fall into what feels like nothingness.
I open my eyes as I descend from the platform, I scream but my voice is absorbed by the adrenaline. A weightless feeling for a few moments as my body becomes half consumed by the River Nile. For a moment I’m plunged into the source of the river, my hair dripping wet with the cord pulling me back up towards the sky. An indescribable feeling of flight and an adrenaline boost depletes my body. Bewildering moments as I slingshot up and down until the motion is almost over.
I smile to the men in the boat waiting for me a little down the river. They start to paddle towards me as I swing upside down. I feel breathless and excited as I dangle like an object on a piece of string. The motion of the bounce has caused the bungee to start to twizzle. For a few more moments I spin in the air, as the men shout,
“Reach for the oar”, they bellow.
With an almost intoxicated feeling I try my best to grab their oar. Eventually, I do and they pull me into the rubber dingy. I sit for a second feeling unbalanced like a child on a bouncy castle. I hear cheering from the platform above. I look towards them and put my thumb up, indicating that I’m fine.
As the men paddle to the shoreline and I depart the unsteady boat, I look back to the top of the platform. High above my head I can see the next visitor leaning over the edge, I wait there for a few minutes and hear those dreaded three words again. “Three, two, one, bungee”, the next person starts to fly.