Groete van Durban!
Welcome to the next instalment of my amazing road trip across South Africa. In this episode, you still find me in the vibrant coastal city of Durban – but more specifically, perched on top of one of the city’s most renowned landmarks, Moses Mabhida Soccer Stadium. Just what exactly am I doing 106 meters (348 ft) from the ground? I’m about to jump…
The reason why I am about to jump off this stadium arch is not because I’m crazy, or because this global pandemic has gotten all too much for this weary Danish vagabond, but rather it is because I am about to do The Big Rush Big Swing: a thrilling leap swinging out into a massive 220m arc soaring over the entire stadium. It has been officially named the world’s tallest swing by the Guinness Book of Records since 14 May 2011. Okay, I might be a little crazy after all! But first, let’s backtrack a little.
WHERE WE LEFT OFF IN THE PREVIOUS EPISODE
After a great chat with Nkonzo aka Dat Boy Mreppa in the Sky Car (listen to the previous episode here), we returned safely to the ground on what had become yet another glorious day in the African sun. I went into the Moses Mabhida Stadium tourism office to see if any of the other attractions would arouse my interest. And then I saw it – the brochure for The Big Rush Big Swing. My heart started pounding.
Then I heard two voices on each shoulder, an angel and little devil, trying to convince me of the pros and cons of attempting this crazy swing:
A: “Why put yourself through that? You know you’re going to hate it.”
D: “No! You know you’re going to regret it if you don’t do it!”
A: “Come on. You don’t need that. Just get in an Uber and go have lunch.”
D: “If you do it, you’ll feel good about yourself!”
A: “Feel good??”
D: “Yes! The big rush…the big adrenalin rush!”
A: “You know what would feel good? A nice cold beer and a big juicy cheeseburger!”
D: “Remember just a few days ago when you were at the bungy jump place? Didn’t you just say that you regretted that you didn’t do it?”
A: “Yeah…but you already did the world’s highest bungy jump.”
D: “Yes that’s right…but do you know what you haven’t done yet?”
D: “The world’s highest swing…”
Yes, they were having a lively conversation. And I was struggling to make a decision. But I mustered up enough courage and made the decision to get a dose of adrenaline over Durban’s skyline. I sounded calm when I got up to the top – but I wasn’t.
MY VAGABOND RULE
When I was in the tourism office an hour earlier, the tourism officers could see that I looked scared, so I told them that I needed time to think. I actually thought this must be something that happens on a daily basis, and I was sure they were making bets if I would return or not.
Let me tell you a bit about my Vagabond Rule. On day 2 of my nomadic journey back in July 2016, I made the rule to myself which stated, ‘when in doubt, just do it‘. This rule has always steered me in the direction of adventure and discovery and has provided me with countless serendipitous moments I have been lucky enough to experience. I have tried to live by my Vagabond Rule ever since, and it has never let me down. This was not the day I would break my most valued rule. So, I bought a ticket and started preparing myself for what was to come. Oh yes, did I mention that I am terrified of heights?
SWINGING IN DURBAN
“Would you like to pay extra for the video and the photos of your swing-venture?” the tourism officer asks. You bet I would. I was here alone, and I definitely needed some proof of me doing this. I mean, who wouldn’t want to see my poor, terrified face hurtling towards the ground for their own amusement? That’s why you’re here, isn’t it? 🙂
The Big Rush Big Swing is not your average swing. It allows you to take the thrilling leap from a small bridge between parts of the iconic arch of the stadium, some 80 meters above the spectator stand, swinging out into a massive 220m arc where you soar into the centre of the stadium.
This is not a bungy jump. There’s no big rubber bungee cord this time. Only a rope. One end strapped to my waist and the other strapped to the highest point of the arch.
Before I jumped, I was presented with some legal papers with a lot of fine print to sign, which would take me hours to read, and then a dotted line after the text where my shaking signature should go. When I’m nervous I tend to make jokes, so I asked them if I was effectively signing my life away, to which they responded “Yes”. Yikes.
After I bravely signed the consent form, the tour operators began to attach the harnesses on me. It was all getting too real at this point. They attach the harnesses onto you on the ground because the only way to get to the jumping-off point at the top of the stadium arch is to walk up the 352 steps of the actual arch, which carries a strong risk of falling. So, the experience of thrill mixed with danger begins when you are still on the ground and haven’t even started the swing yet!
Before we embarked to the summit, I am literally sweating fear droplets (dramatic, I know), and of course, I am nervously making jokes about dying with every breath. Not only am I painfully aware that these are not funny at all. I am also clearly making the other two jumpers nervous.
Ugeetha and Luis, a young couple from Cape Town, were my jumping crew partners. We began making our way up the stairs in nervous anticipation, but all I can think of now is how unfit I am! These stairs are more terrifying than the prospect of the jump!
352 steps are the equivalent of 25 floors in a building. So, if the thought of jumping out of a window from the 25th floor doesn’t make your mouth dry, the walk up there definitely will.
We eventually made it to the top and Ugeetha and I both fervently insisted that Luis be the first lemming to take the plunge. Ugeetha and I could see the terror in his face as he was about to take his last step to the edge. He jumped, and it looked amazing, to be honest! Soon after they reeled him back in, Ugeetha jumped with excitement. Now it was my turn…
THE BIG RUSH
First, you have to climb down 4-5 meters on a vertical ladder from the viewing platform to the actual jumping platform itself. But even though I knew I was safely secured in my harness; my heart was in my throat when I looked down to the ground to see just how high we were.
After cautiously making my way to the jumping platform I realized there was no turning back. “Are you ready to jump?” the swing operator asked me. “I don’t have a choice now, do I?” I thought.
I handed over my phone to a girl shooting videos and taking pictures and left my microphone on the side as well. They asked me to say a few words to the camera, which was placed a few meters away and it’s windy up there so, it’s a bit hard to hear.
But basically, I said the same thing I had been saying for an hour leading up to this point: “I don’t know why I’m doing this. I feel this is a big mistake and bla-bla-bla.”
I then started climbing down the stairs (with them filming each nervous step) and halfway down they said: “Hey look up and smile!”. I managed to do so, but inside I was terrified!
Then I slowly made my way out to the middle of the very narrow bridge. It’s less than a meter wide and even though there’s a railing on one side and I was strapped in, I still felt I could fall down and die any second. Oops…I used the D-word again.
And then it was my turn. 3-2-1…JUMP!
If you want to get the full experience, then be sure to watch the video of my Big Swing. I promise you will not be disappointed!
HEAR ME SCREAM
Look out for my next episode about what happened after I descended the towering arch of Moses Mabhida Stadium. Because the next day turned out to be nothing like I expected – and plans were drastically changed…
Until then, take care!
I decided to fulfil a request I’ve had a few times regarding a song I used in one of my previous episodes. Here’s one of the emails about that. This one is from Andrea from Brisbane, Australia.
I’ve heard you playing a little bit of a song where they sing something like “Living the good life”.
Would you mind playing the full song at some point? I really like it and it always makes me smile. Thanks, Palle!
Keep up the good work,
Thank you for your letter, Andrea! I am glad that you like the song so much, it is one of my favourites, too. The song is called ‘Living the Good Life’ and is performed by singer-songwriter, Steve Collom. Enjoy!
I ALSO WANT TO HEAR FROM YOU
I really would like to hear from you. Where are you and what are you doing as you listen to this episode? You can either send me an email on firstname.lastname@example.org or go to my brand new website TheRadioVagabond.com.
Or you know what would be fun? Send me a voicemail on WhatsApp and I can play it on the next episode. My WhatsApp number is +4540105105. Either way, I would love to hear from you. It’s so nice to know who’s on the other end of this…
A special thank you to my sponsors, Hotels25.com, who always provide me with the best, most affordable accommodation wherever I am in the world.