A Thrilling Tale of a First Time Bungee Jumper on River Nile

Chimp corp, Paul Ampurire tries Bungee jumping for the first time.

Whenever there’s mention of activities that are characterized by adrenaline rush, more about certain things come to mind. Among them; motor racing, sky diving, ballooning and water rafting. The list is endless. But on the same list comes bungee jumping.

Not a very popular activity in less developed countries like Uganda. In fact, the majority have only come to know about its existence either by watching movies, music videos, watching travel documentaries or photos on the internet.

I was among this category of people until a week ago when I along with a group of journalists had an excursion to Jinja. Given that the day’s agenda hadn’t well been stipulated, I very could have second guessed about doing bungee jumping later.

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Dressed casually in a checkered thick shirt, khaki trousers and a pair of moccasins I arrived together with the team at ‘The Haven’, a small camp site after a 4 hour bus drive from Kampala. The camp is situated on the banks of the iconic River Nile, a mass stream of water that flows north from Lake Victoria cutting across 4 countries (Uganda, South Sudan, Sudan and Egypt) and pours into the Mediterranean Sea. It is the longest river on the continent and one of the many wonders of Uganda.

From there, we had a 3 hour white water rafting excursion on the Nile, paddling 12kms through rapid water spots in what was one of the most adventurous moments I have lived to witness. First time I was doing this.

After numerous gulps of water, daring dives, scary maneuvers in rapid falls and most remarkably, spectacular view, we completed our course. Our captain ‘Roberto’ had done a good job orienting us into the basics of rafting.

The liters of water I had unwillingly swallowed hadn’t stopped the hunger from setting in. we did have a heavy lunch. Potatoes, rice, chapatti, cabbage, beef and fruits (watermelon and pineapple) for desert were served. Guess what! Our team leader would then announce the next task for us to conquer. And it was bungee jumping. I didn’t know how to let this sink in.

Countless times I have read tweets where men of good stature and muscular physique have sworn never to make an attempt at bungee jumping. I also remember a news reporter who gave up on the challenge at last minute while filming a travel story whose subject was bungee jumping. All these plus other scenes n I had watched on TV before were weighing down on during the lunch break.

“Guys, it is important that you eat enough. This could be your last meal,” one of our colleagues joked. Not a funny joke when all I need is positive energy. Lunch was done and next we seated in the bus heading to Jinja Nile Resort, at the source of the Nile where the bungee jumping happens.

Upon arrival, it was about 4pm and not many people were there. There, is a rather lively bar with a great balcony that overlooks the Nile. Music is playing, some few people are seated enjoying drinks and barbeque which was being prepared in the compound.

Not so far from the bar is an erected metallic crane that hangs 44 meters above the Nile waters.

Procedure is that you register at the bar reception after which you stand on a weighing scale, and someone writes your weight on the back of your palm with a marker. Mine was 64.5 kilograms. Then I proceeded to the crane through wooden stares. Upon the crane, I find Paul and Pamela my workmates. From their look, I can tell they are scared and yet to choose whether they have the gut to do this. “No backing down guys. We have to do this!” I say to them pretending like I had myself made up my mind. Truth is, I hadn’t. But this wasn’t true.

Bungee jumping is by far he most frightening, yet wonderful experience.

Bungee jumping is by far he most frightening, yet wonderful experience.

The walk way leading to the circular roofed structure at the extreme end of the crane was queued up with our team mates. While you stand there, you get a scenic view of the banks of the Nile, what with many tents appeared to be a camp for tourists. And to the left, a green vegetation cover, partly with trees.

Amid this meditation on how this freaky adventure would feel, one by one others were taking their turns. Dressing on crisscrossed belts in the pelvis area and between the legs. Then proceeding to a seat where one of the men tied both your legs at ankle level with a thick strap. Later, the strap would be adjoined to a thick elastic cord.

One would then hop to the edge of the horizontal board. The guide standing behind would then advise the jumper to keep their eyes open, take a deep breath and wave at the group cheering below at the bar. What followed was counting down before giving you a light push and down you descended.

“I really feel like throwing up right now,” one of the ladies said to me as she tossed about on the crane. Each time she tried to withdraw, I kept encouraging her. One of the major motivational forces not just for me but the entire team was a 10 year old boy who had come with his dad.

His dad had finished his turn and the youngster was soon to surprise us all. His temperament was one that no single adult seemed to exhibit. Earlier in the day, he had braved the rafting challenge and finished it.

Then came one discouraging moment. One of the guys on our team had pulled out at the last minute. “I can’t do this,” he pleaded. The guides begged for reaffirmation and he insisted he was no longer going to jump. So he was untied and he made his way down to recover from the shock. This had taken many of us aback.

Random chats continued as I drew closer and finally got into the seat. My mind only focused on what that 3 minute or so moment would turn out like. Was I going to enjoy it or was I descending onto ‘death’? Unfortunately while you watched others do it, jumping and swinging was all your eyes could see. Not their psychological reaction. So satisfying your curiosity was only by trying it too.

I suddenly heard Isaac Mwanja, the lead guide say “Stand up and hop”. This was it!

A mixed feeling of impatience and fear of what awaited me engulfed me. I hopped towards the edge and slowly moved my feet to align my toe tips with the board edges. “Don’t stare down at the water. Look straight towards the river bank,” Mwanja told me. “Raise your arms. Wave to your friends. Say something to the ladies.”

As I had been told, so I did. I remember shouting “Let’s do this” while staring at the girls queueing up on the crane. The confidence with which I said the words however was much more than what my flesh had. Then I turned my face to the bank. He started counting down and in one sudden moment, I felt him push my back.

The crane hungs 44 metres above the water surface.

The crane hungs 44 metres above the water surface.

I have never felt very frightened and lost sense of myself like I did as I dived, head first towards the water surface. Arms still spread, eyes closed hands in tight fists and breathing hard. Then I suddenly felt a pull in my sides, jerking me up. I could hear people screaming “Open your eyes”.

I had begun swinging sideways on the rope fastened between my feet. I opened my eyes and I could see a flash of light and flipped view of the trees. After several swings, I finally stayed still hanging about ten meters above the water with my arms facing down.

Below me on the waters, I was now gazing at a boat slowly approaching with two men inside it. Slowly by slowly, I was released downwards until a man in the boat raised a paddle on which I held with my hand and finally descended into the boat. This is the point when I began to feel some degree of relief. Like somebody waking you from an extremely terrifying dream.

The two men then lowered me into the boat, with my back first as I took a deep sigh followed by heavy breaths. My heart pulse was at multiple beats. “Oh, my God. Thank you,” I told them. “How was it?” one asked and I gave him a very honest reply; “I can’t find words to explain it.”

Next thing I knew I was making my way up to the bar, hesitant to believe that I had finally prevailed over this once nightmare. What followed was feasting on barbeque, drinks and watching the sunset.


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