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Reports

Thursday, 8 November 2001
Plettenberg Bay --> Keurboomstrand (SA)

A report about how I survived a 216 meter high crash down a bridge and moved on to another backpacker's lodge in Keurboomstrand that soon gave me the well-known disease called Abalone Fever. And I even didn't mind that, actually...
Today I woke up somewhere in the morning. Leslie and Mirjam had let me sleep in and Mirjam arranged me some toast with jams for breakfast.

Someway I got a amusing feeling in my stomach today, as I was going to do something pretty exceptional. I was going to jump of a bridge on an elastic wire and bounce up and down a few times before being lifted up again. Crazy, huh?!

The exceptional part of this event is that the jump will be from a 216 meters high bridge. Hehe.

It was arranged by Charles, one of the owner of the Overlanders Lodge in Knysna, who called the manager of the Face Adrenalin bungy jump organisation and informed him about me and my project.

The result was a 500 Rand worth bungy jump on the house! Leslie arranged that I could fit in their schedule today and with my backpack and everything packed again for my departure after coming back from the jump - we took off to the Bloukrans River bridge near a small town called Stormriver.

The Bloukrans River is located at the beginning of the Tsitsikamma Mountain range that reaches all the way towards the following big city Port Elizabeth (200km). And it is the N2 national road going over the river that resulted in one of the worlds' highest bridges over a river.

Of course a good place where somebody would start a bungy jump business, so after years of experience with smaller jumps, Face Adreneline leased the use of this bridge for bungy jump purposes and offers the world's highest jump by far.

(Actually there is one place where could have been the world's really highest jump, which is at the Victoria Falls in Victoria, Zimbabwe. But with a civil war going on there, it wouldn't be a fair thing to have tourists jump their guts out off a bridge there...)

And why would a guy who is travelling all over the world, crash himself off a bridge in South Africa? I don't know, it sounded like a lot of fun…

And fun it was. After registration (and signing that the organisation won't be responsible in case I do crash on the rocks) I was dressed into a harnass and taken for a walk over the bridge, where the jump station is located in the middle.

This is where the jump crew is a group of professionals who can really take a person to ease and with their constant talking, I didn't have to worry about not doing it. And the guys were a bit amazed, because I did not seem to be nervous or anything. One guy even said: "If you are not scared, you ain't normal," which I just had to take for grantit.

After I was strapped onto this elastic cord with both feet tight together, I was brough to the edge and after a 5-4-3-2-1-bungy! countdown I kicked myself off the bridge with my face up in the air. The first few seconds I did leave a big scream (whoaa!!!) behind, but then that was it.

I was gone and going over 100 km/hr down, until the elastic cord would pull me back up about 180 meters below the bridge and kept me bouncing for a few minutes.

It was incredible, amazing, fascinating, unbelievable! Wrapped-up: WOW! Especially how I saw the trees in the valley pass me in high speed and how I saw the little creek below me come straight towards me. And up again…

And I was twisting around, up-side-down, for a few minutes, until one of the jumpcrew members came down on a cable to disconnect me off the elastic cord and onto his cable. This was the scariest part as I was hanging down there and he might mistake the precise order of this method and first dissconnect me before having me on his cable; and then I would really go down.

And enjoying the scenery and with the feeling that all my blood was stored only in my head for the time being, we went up towards the bridge again.

The whole session took about six minutes before I stood happy and alive on the bridge again. That was great, that was awesome.

I just did the world's highest bungy jump!

At the registration office I was shown the video of my jump as a cameraman had always been around. The video was 60 Rand, so: sorry, couldn't take it with me. But the jump was for free and I was happy enough with that.

Cheering with my certificate I was driven back to the lodge by Leslie. He made the jump-shots you see at the right of this page.

After two nights at the Albergo for Backpackers in Plettenberg, it was indeed time to get moving again (yes, I do think about my audience here).

I was heading towards another backpackers lodge, as my next host Grant took me to the Abalone Beachhouse in Keurboomstrand, just around the corner in Plett and basically overlooking the same bay.

And before you might sigh and wonder why I suddenly stay at so many backpackers places, please know I don't have many private invitations on this route coastal route - and being with backpackers does give me the feeling of having a little holiday myself…

And the Abalone Beachhouse really struck me. Oh my God! With the beach starting where the garden ends, the sights from the patio were an enjoyment for my eyes. The veranda was dotted with swinging chairs and hammocks.

It was Grant and Elbi who run this beachhouse and who had invited me over after Elbi showed Grant my website. After becoming more and more interested, he said: "Now this guy, I want to meet!"

He invited me because he meets a lot of backpackers, but none of them came up with this striking idea to travel around the world. He found it simply unbelievable.

I was the only person staying at the Albergo lodge in Plett, but here I was suddenly in an group of roughly twenty international young travelers.

Grant showed me around and offered me the last bed in the house, as everything was full. I was introduced with the Honesty Bar, a method that makes life more relaxed, even for the traveler, where you can get your own drinks whenever you want, but you just have to write it down in a little booklet, below your name.

And this already gave the place a feeling of being at home someway. And that feeling was also extended as it just looks like we all lived in this big house. The living room didn't see like backpackers lodge's meetings place, but just like any person's living room.

I met up with three Germans (from Bayern, together with the German Patrick who I met before in Knysna!), two Danish girls from Copenhagen, one Irish guy from Dublin, two Canadians ("We have lived everywhere in Canada"), a lovely lady from London, England, and two Americans ("San Diego!!!") and so on...

With the weather being shitty at the moment, everybody was in the house. Wandering around, listening to music or reading books.

This place has a special atmosphere and even as I knew nobody, I just fitted easily in and before I knew I was sharing my experiences with some other travelers and finding out bits and bits more about South Africa. And suddenly we all felt we knew each other much more!

But the weather didn't take Grant off his idea of feeding us delicious ribs of the braai (bbq) as he was conquering in the strong wind on the veranda.

I did need to take a small nap as the adrenaline rush of this afternoon had made me quite tired, but around 7pm all the pans were served on a buffet and Elbi and the maid Esther had made the vegetables to go along with the ribs.

Well, talking about how to make twenty people feel comfortable with food. This was certainly a king's meal and I am not exactly staying at a 5-star hotel. This was just a backpacker's hostel where the people who run it, know exactly what to do with their guests (or sometimes just sit back as the group entertained itself the rest of the night). (With the current drop of the Sout African Rand one night at this place would cost you US$ 5 only...)

As the music (Louis Armstrong, Shirley Bassey, Eric Clapton, Counting Crows, Oh Brother Where Are Thou-soundtrack) was played, the Internet fully used on a little laptop on a table and people were just lazing around, I was made enthusiastic by most of the guys about the beauty of this place. I would see something that I wouldn't see today as the weather isn't that good. But if it would be a sunny day tomorrow, I would be really amazed and got already hooked up on the Abalone Fever

The night ended with Grant, Elbi and me at the cozy bar, joined by the very entertaining Canadian Erin Collins and his friend Jeff as they both just started a trip from Cape Town, South Africa, to Moscow, Russia - to be done within a year.

Before we knew (maybe it can be blame to the beers too) we were in serious conversations, the ones you might not share with strangers instantaneously but do share when you feel all good about it.

Grant has been a sales person all his life, then ran restaurants and found out that he still had to work for his living. And he and Elbi weren't really pleased with that feeling, because it could also be totally different.

They decided to start a backpackers lodge several years ago. It just had to have the perfect location to become one of the hot spots in the South African backpackers clique: at the beach!

And suddenly they live a life where they accommodate travelers from all over the world, entertaining them when necessary, but enjoying every second of the guests, the weather and the view. It still is working for a living, but it would never feel like this for Grant and Elbi.

I am doing something quite similar as they do, I also have to do my things in order to be able to travel around, but it never concerns financial commitments and never gives me the feeling of working for life. And I just hope I can stretch that technique for the rest of my life. Maybe I'll start a beachhouse too!

I started to love this place right now. And I know that the atmosphere would be totally different if there were only five guests. You understand that I enjoyed every second of being with this group of people who almost all share the same age.

What about tomorrow? I didn't want to think about tomorrow yet.

Good night Keurboomstrand!

Ramon.


PS: No matter where you go, there you are…



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