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Long fall to freedom - on a rope

By unknown | Aug 01, 2008 | COMMENTS [ 0 ]

Tebogo Monama

Tebogo Monama

I wanted to go sky-diving on my 23rd birthday but changed my mind.

Instead I opted to go bungee jumping at the new Vertical Adventure Centre in Soweto .

I wanted to be among the first people to experience the world's first tandem swing between two cooling towers at Orlando Power Park.

The swing is 100m off the ground - no mean feat for someone as scared of heights as I am. I cannot even walk on the Nelson Mandela Bridge on my own. Jumping off the towers is the same as jumping from a 33-storey building.

I decided that R350 was a small price to pay. Well, someone paid for me. So with three friends Vathiswa, Sibongile and Getrude in tow I headed for Power Park on Saturday afternoon.

Vathiswa and Sibongile said up front that they would not be jumping but would take the lift up to the top of the towers to get a bird's-eye view of the township.

Getrude and I would jump.

At the towers we were greeted by the friendly crew, who strapped me into the climbing harness.

The guy doing the strapping tried to be gentle but those things are hard. The straps hurt my pelvic bones but I felt safe.

Then the moment of truth approached. We took an open-air lift that elevated us up the tower decorated with beautiful murals.

The lift stopped three metres from the top of the tower and we had to walk up a stairway.

"Do you expect me to walk three metres up there? There is nothing covering the side of the stairs," I told the site's general manager, Chris Beasley, known as Len Cooper on the soapie Isidingo.

"If you want to swim up there it's fine," he said. "Whatever you're comfortable with!"

Then the ride began and I started to panic.

"I don't think you are going to jump," said one of the jump crew.

"I will," I assured him. "I bungeed 60m in Krugersdorp last year. This is only 40m more. It can't be that bad."

How wrong I was.

I waited for everyone to walk up the stairs before I did. The view from the rim of the towers is amazing.

I was scared to look into the inside of the towers but when I finally did it looked amazing. It would make a great venue for a concert.

"This was your idea, jump first," Getrude egged me on. She looked terrified.

The view from the towers is breathtaking. From the rim, straight in front of you, you can practically see what people are buying in the Bara Mall.

When you turn 30 degrees you see the vast Motswaledi informal settlement.

Turning 120 degrees you see the Soweto campus of the University of Johannesburg. You can also see the top of Maponya Mall almost 2km further west.

After taking in the magnificent view it was time to jump. A final safety check and it was time to rock and roll.

I froze. Parker, one of the crew, remained patient.

I looked down. I thought I was going to faint. Parker held my hand and showed me how to hold the rope. He was patient, cool but my friends were not.

"Just jump!" Sibongile said.

I looked down and saw people in bright yellow and blue uniforms playing soccer.

"Why can't we go play soccer like those people?" I asked. "It's safer and easier. That rubble down there scares me. Why don't you remove it and build a restaurant?"

"You're talking too much," Chris said. "By the time you jump we could have built the restaurant."

The rubble can't be removed because it's a heritage site. I looked at it and thought I was going to fall into it.

I was tempted to give up but I had been looking forward to this for weeks. I also looked at my friends and decided that if I quit they would never let me forget it.

Parker the calm one, tried to encourage me.

"Let's walk together to the edge. Close your eyes and keep your chin up so that you can't look down. I'll count to three and then I'll push you."

Getrude was getting impatient: "Tebogo, I have prayed the Christian way, the traditional African way and the Muslim way and you have not jumped.

"You are wasting time. Just jump and get it over with!"

I finally closed my eyes and walked to the edge. Parker counted to three and pushed me.

It was awesome. Great. I did not even scream. My body felt light and I could not feel the rope. I felt so free.

I free-fell for 40m before I swung up and down between the towers. The Orlando Dam looked great.

And suddenly it was all over.

Would I do it again? Yes, and this time I won't hesitate.

I have felt freedom.


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