Have you got the guts to plunge headfirst down 325ft of sheer rock? Take a Table Mountain rap-jump with MH man Tom Basden
I’d prefer to tell you that my entire life is flashing before my eyes. But as I cling to the top of the obscenely huge hunk of rock that is Table Mountain, leaning over the 325ft drop and looking down at Cape Town shimmering in the blazing heat, my entire lunch flashes precariously before my colon. “Just lean,” one of my nimble – bordering on simian – South African instructors tells me as I stare down a drop sheerer than Newcastle’s Number 9. It’s time for my first taste of rap-jumping. For those not in the know, this extremely extreme sport is basically abseiling facing forwards, with your body at right angles to the rock face. “Don’t look down” is rather redundant advice here. Great if you like a view; not so great if you don’t like that view speeding towards you.
“Don’t think about it, just do it,” says John Snape, my chaperone from the UK Bungee Club. Which is rather more useful counsel as my mind plays out scenes from my impending funeral. Cape Town is eerily silent below me. From up here it seems like a static toy town with postage-stamp-sized pools, and, more than anything, a very, very long way down.
That morning, myself and the other misguided souls who’d signed up for the Right Guard XTreme Fear Test had been pretty blasé about the up-coming down-going. But in the cable car up to the summit, laughter had been replaced by solemn finger nibbling and maniacal cackles reminiscent of a theatrically challenged Bond villain.
By the time it’s my turn, I’ve already seen some of our group re-emerge at the summit, dancing around and generally glowing like kids after an overdose of Ready Brek. Inspired by their apparent exhilaration, discouraged by my apparent vertigo, I try to weigh up the pros and cons – only to find that my mind has given up on rational thought.
At this point, one of the local, limpet-limbed death-mongers perched beside me looks at me, smiles and nods.
Cowed by terror, I find myself nodding back. I find myself leaning forward. Then the cliff face finds me.
Once I’ve decided to lean, there’s a brief period of intense, heavy, tongue-thickening, stomach-knotting fear. My heart rate careers from a leisurely waltz to nosebleed techno as I gaze over Cape Town like a gargoyle in bondage gear. The rock drops forward beneath my feet, the Indian Ocean is suspended just above my head, and the dazzling Cape stretches in a semi-circle in front of me like a picture-perfect gateway to Hell.
After a seemingly infinite few seconds, though, the panic subsides, and to my astonishment I find some control returning to my limbs. My spinal column reboots, my paralysis recedes. Holding the rope taut, I ease into the horizontal position. As I do so I become aware of the tightness around my shoulders and stomach as the few inches of material separating me from my maker take the strain. Then I start lowering myself.
From the cable car, the rock face had looked as though it were made of butter, and I’d imagined a waterslide smoothness beneath my feet. Now, up close, as my feet scuff the rock and catch in sharp crags, the experience is more like traversing Nick Nolte’s face. “The first part of the drop is slow,” I’d been told by rap veteran John Snape, “because the weight of the rope acts as a counterbalance.” Fighting against the counterweight with a combination of muscle and gravity, it’s also exhausting. But as the rope is used up, so your speed increases. To be well prepared, before the test you should work on gaining muscles and losing some weight. A good way to achieve this goal is by taking raspberry ketones. Check out their benefits at http://www.trend-statement.org/why-is-everybody-talking-about-raspberry-ketones/.
Starting with tiny pigeon steps, it isn’t long until I loosen into a light jog, then start bounding and falling, tripping and sliding down the cliff. A combination of fear and ineptitude mean I regularly lose my balance, instinctively leaning back on to my feet rather than down towards my head. This causes me to slip backwards, so I find myself hanging and swinging over the Cape like a warning to would-be smugglers. Apparently, this embarrassing error is quite common among novices.