Student explores new heights in Africa

Maggie Copeland bungee jumps off the world's highest bungee jumping bridge in South Africa

Photo Courtesy of Maggie Copeland

Maggie Copeland bungee jumps off the world's highest bungee jumping bridge in South Africa

By MAGGIE COPELAND Contributing Writer

Words cannot describe the feeling of standing on the edge of a bridge knowing you are about to free-fall to your almost certain death.

It does not matter that there are ropes tied all around my body, because at the moment my feet leave the ground I am not going to stop falling; the little thing called gravity will capture me. I look down and hear the countdown begin and every single part of my body tells me not to jump.

Then I hear it, the dreaded “5…4…3…2…1…BUNGEE!” Down I fall. My stomach is in my feet. My weight is non-existent. My mind goes absolutely blank as I fall into nothingness.

After about 10 seconds I realize I am being caught and that I am not going to die after all.

At that moment I can finally relax my clenched fists and allow myself to actually see the world around me. I soar back up into the air and all my senses come rushing back. I realize I am smiling as I bob up and down in mid-air. I did it. I just jumped off the world’s highest bungee jumping bridge near Cape Town, South Africa.

The confusion I felt standing on the top of the bridge — wanting to jump but knowing the danger — is a good way to understand the situation in South Africa today. I learned in the past four months that the southernmost country in Africa is a place of contradiction.

Though the Apartheid ended in 1994, there is still great inequality and unrest in this troubled country. The contrast of stunning Table Mountain behind the thousands of township homes surrounded by shanties is mindboggling. While I had incredible adventures abroad (bungee jumping, playing with baby lions, surfing, shark cage diving, riding elephants), I found it necessary to keep my experiences within context.

The beauty of Cape Town almost blinds one to what was done for an elite group to claim ownership of the mountain and the bay beyond it.

My hope for people who only think of South Africa as a cruel place full of racism is to realize that change cannot occur overnight. While there is racism there, there is also an amazing force of people fighting for change. I have great confidence that these people will win the battle for social and economic equality.

My bungee jump taught me that while the fear of falling might be daunting, as is change, standing still creates something far worse than fear — it causes regret of opportunities lost.

Maggie Copeland studied abroad in Cape Town, Africa. She can be reached [email protected]