Most people scream when they jump. But I failed to even gasp for air.
Water, rushing water: the only sound I remember clearly. The river was eager and inviting; keen to welcome another victim. It had met thousands before.
My feet were tied tightly together with thick cord, as I stumbled towards the edge. Looking down, I saw nothing. Nothing but space to fall into. An all-consuming nausea rose through me.
This wasn’t my idea. My friend had convinced me with unfaltering enthusiasm and a shot of the local gin. As the alcohol playfully warmed my body and mind, I’d looked out over the cliff: a sea of fluffy green trees stretched for miles, the river and sky both bright blue. Everything felt dream-like, surreal.
It was then I realised that this would be ‘one of those moments’; a tale I’d recall to friends with disbelief; a memory I’d draw strength from when filled with self-doubt. The girl afraid of heights who jumped off the edge.
A booming voice brought me back to reality: Isaac. His affability and dry sense of humour had vanished. He now spoke only with intimidating authority:
“Three, two, one, bungee!”
Two excruciating seconds. Then I jumped.
Silence… suddenly broken by an unfamiliar internal voice narrating a stream of consciousness:
“So, this is it. I’m plummeting 150 feet, head-first towards a furious river. I hope I don’t die. This feels horrific. Why does my stomach feel like it’s been removed? Oh God. WHY ISN’T THIS ENDING?”
I felt a strong tug at my ankles as the rope finally tensed: “Thank goodness. I’ll never take standing up for granted again. Wow, The Nile is beautiful. HANG ON I’M GOING UP AGAIN. I’m going to die. MAKE THIS STOP.”
My body remained rigid as the rope and my mind swung back and forth.
Eventually, I found myself back on dry land. Scorched, cantaloupe-shaded dry land: Uganda.
A broken heart and a renewed passport had led me here seven days prior. I’d never been one of those “real” travellers, and I wanted to change this; to see somewhere tremendous, to do something extreme.
I chose Africa, and Jinja – a small town nestling on the raging rapids of the White Nile.
The jump, and the 21 days I spent in the country, changed me. I found the courage to trust myself, to take risks, to explore the world – not just to dream about it. From magical folklore in Iceland to bright lights and epic DJs in Ibiza. From military patriotism in San Diego to colourful cuisine in Seoul… I started breathing this bizarre and beautiful world at every opportunity. Travelling forced me to look outside my own self-obsessed perspective and to discover different ones.
In Uganda, I found a country that is so much more than the poverty and corruption the media broadcasts. This is a land rich with generous communities, thriving potential and the sweetest of sweet potatoes.
And even extreme sports, if you search hard enough.
I visited Uganda in August 2009.