Kent Johnson, Bungee Jumping

Source: Kent Johnson / Kent Johnson

When was the last time you did something for the first time? The best memories of your travels rarely come in the form of  a souvenir. It’s the things you do that stick with you forever. They give you stories to share—and make your boys regret that they didn’t come with you.

Bungee jumping has been on my bucket list for quite some time, so I decided to check it off in South Africa. Johannesburg is like a second home to me. I love the city, the friends I’ve made, and the warm reception I receive whenever I’m there. I elected to take the big leap during my third visit to the city because I was looking for something that would make that trek just as memorable as my previous visits. Somehow, in my mind, that meant plunging to the earth from an insane height with nothing but a supersized rubber band to keep me from being the recipient of slow singing and flower bringing.

So I headed to Orlando Towers in Soweto, a township in Johannesburg. The former coal-fired power station was repurposed into an extreme sports site, with rock climbing, indoor skydiving, and of course, bungee jumping. Situated 328 feet above ground, its offers one of the highest jumps in the country. As soon as I arrived, my driver went into a diatribe about how ridiculously dangerous this adventure could become (you know, death, broken limbs, etc.). He’d seen people chicken out at various points before the jump and was sure I’d come to my senses and do the same. I had to prove him, and most importantly, the voices in my head, wrong.

I walked into the main office and the jump crew went to work weighing me to properly calibrate the bungee for my jump. I felt safe the entire time, and honestly, everything before the jump feels like a blur. As the key checklist items were met, my mind kept replaying images of my death—you know, the kind that makes the back of your neck itch with a chill of intense dread. Still, I signed my life away, and the jump team braced my body for possible impact with padding and protective gear, which begged the question, “What am I going to hit, or what’s going to hit me, that requires all of this protection?”

 I felt safe the entire time, and honestly, everything before the jump feels like a blur. As the key checklist items were met, my mind kept replaying images of my death—you know, the kind that makes the back of your neck itch with a chill of intense dread.

For those who hesitate during moments like this, the key—at least for me—is to decide it’s already done. Just keep pushing forward until the experience is complete, because the moment you stop to think about what you’re doing, the fact that you’re voluntarily throwing yourself from 300-plus feet just to plunge to the earth, your brain may catch up with your foolishness and make the decision for you.

I was accompanied by a team of five on what looked like an elevator you’d find in a mine shaft, aligned to the structure of the left tower. The ride felt like it took forever, and the 328-foot drop became more and more real with each passing moment.

At the top, I slowly walked along the suspension bridge connecting the two towers. The wind bounced the bridge back and forth as I headed to the jumping point and, in that moment, I felt about three times heavier. Crew members periodically asked whether I was okay, and I wondered if this was their way of giving people an out. At that point, the credit card swipe had cleared and I was not getting my money back, so it wouldn’t be a loss to them—but it would hit my ego and pockets to turn back. I planned to walk away with my manhood  intact, so I kept walking.

Once they latched the cord to my snug-fitted body armor, things began to speed up. That blur suddenly became 4K clear as I walked to the edge of the bridge that contained no barrier. As the wind picked up, someone yelled, “Don’t hold on to anything,” which is incredibly hard to do when you’re staring straight down at the ground hundreds of feet beneath you. My feet kissed the edge of the platform, and the team wasted no time counting down.  

“Three, two, one.”

I cleared my mental cache of doubt and let myself fall into the open abyss. I dove right into the darkest corner of Pandora’s box, the one that holds that weirdly addictive mix of adrenaline and bliss, only to have that first bounce from the bungee responding to my body weight pull me back into reality. As if I’d separated from my body, I heard my scream shift from terror to chaotic laughter as my brain realized this was in fact, something I’d done for fun and today wasn’t my last day on earth. That twisted emotion forced me to acknowledge that I couldn’t wait to do it again, and as the bounces lost their intensity and the crew slowly lowered me to the ground, I began to plot on my next trip to that crazy box.

Kent Johnson is the cofounder of Black & Abroad, a brand focused on international luxury and adventure travel for the Black community. Learn more about the brand at WeAreBlackAndAbroad.com and on Instagram at @blackandabroad. His experience was sponsored by the Joburg Tourism Board and the Orlando Towers Vertical Adventure Centre.