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Surfers in Jeffreys Bay, South Africa

Gliding down the Garden Route

By Jenny McLarney

Last updated: 15th November 2011

Staring down into the Blourkrans Gorge from the highest bungee jump bridge in the WORLD was without a doubt the scariest moment of my life. Sky diving, zip lining through the African forest, shark diving and black water tubing have NOTHING on this extreme sense of panic and breath-taking anxiety that hits you as you edge your way along the metal grate towards the sheer 216 metre drop.

Jenny sitting with her face in her hands preparing herself to bungee jump

Every atom in your body is screaming at you ‘This is definitely the worst idea you’ve ever had, back away, back away…Why on earth are you throwing yourself off a FRIGGIN BIG BRIDGE?’ I mean at least when I threw myself out of a plane Randy was with me every second of the way; here it is me, myself and the biggest thrill I have ever experienced. The five second free fall is stricken with complete disbelief at what is happening then the endless swaying that swings you from one side of the bridge to the next is wrapped in the acute fear you’re going to slip through the harness that hugs your feet. Trees, river, trees, ocean, trees….then possibly the best words I’ve ever heard: ‘HEEEEEY CRAZY LADY HOWS IT GOING?’ My South African  saviour climbs down towards me, talks about England (weirdly his mother was born in the same hospital as me) and tells me to take in the view. An action that caused me to scream, ‘Oh My God I’m in a F***ING RAVINE’ before I really did relax and take in what stunning scenery I was precariously dangling in.   I have to say a large part of the experience is being able to say you had the guts to do it, because that tested me to the extremes.

Jenny on a zipline

Currently I’m in Jeffreys Bay near to Port Elizabeth. My last few nights in Cape Town were brilliant, especially hiking up Table Mountain. Word of warning to all those attemping this four hour boulder climbing experience: don’t do it in dunlops and hot pants. a) About half way through the hike, it gets cold, really cold and the wind whips every part of you b) Proper ankle support is advised because when heading back down you are practically bouncing from boulder to boulder. Yes when they say hike, they do mean hike…my Duke of Edinburgh coach would be shaking her head right now if she knew, apologies Linda. Although it is incredibly hard work the sense of achievement and the moutain top view makes it utterly worth it. Also a celebratory bottle of wine at the top never goes amiss…just watch out if the cable car is out of action, you will have to stumble back down.

Two people standing on a peak during a hike

After this ankle twisting experience I then took a rather lengthy twelve hour bus ride to Storms River and did the second oldest canopy tour in the world at Tsitsikamma.  The Garden Route is stunning and Storms River is no exception, as you leave the surfing villages behind, you suddenly break into dense rainforest-covered mountains with jaw dropping ravines centred round twisting rivers. The canopy tour was a great way to experience this rainforest, and boy do you learn a lot about trees. Zip lining through them at high speed with two wacky African men was pretty funny, especially with their little tricks of suddenly falling off the platforms only to be held up by their supporting rope.  Another favourite was screaming at you to break, their hands making all types of shapes and signals as you career towards them before they safely break for you…what jokers.

Jenny with a fellow traveller and adrenaline experience operator

Another joker is Tate, Tate was our guide through the black water tubing.  Now when I say some South African men can be EXTREMELY forward, Tate is a perfect example of this. There is no messing with these guys, they get straight to the point of marriage. And I was apparently the target of these somewhat awkward affections throughout the day. But this did mean I got paddled everywhere when there was no current… So I may now be engaged but my arms are not too sore…every cloud.  The tubing itself was great fun: shifting over fast moving rapids and mini waterfalls in a rubber ring (that was a similar thickness to the inflatable ones we use in swimming pools) was certainly exhilerating. Floundering about when you beach on an unexpected rock, only to cause a traffic jam of Dutch men shouting ‘Bloody English, what are you doing!?!’ was entertaining. Especially as we joined forces and formed a line of flailing limbs that went crashing through the river. Just watch out for the guides and the other tourists that just LOVE to tip you out of you ring at every opportune moment, I can certainly see why the wet suits were necessary.

After an adrenalined filled week I am now preparing myself for the wildlife sancturary that will be taking me under their wing for the next four days. I have to say I am sad that I am already half way through my South African adventure but it’s shaping up to be an experience of a life time, and just think it all started when a very clever mother retreived the Sevenoaks Chronicle from the recycling…what a lucky lady I am.

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