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Adventure center builds on progress

A  rappeller swings between Orlando Power Station towers against a portrait of Nelson Mandela  in Soweto, South Africa, on Saturday.  (Associated Press / The Spokesman-Review)
A rappeller swings between Orlando Power Station towers against a portrait of Nelson Mandela in Soweto, South Africa, on Saturday. (Associated Press / The Spokesman-Review)

Project underscores change in townships of South Africa

SOWETO, South Africa – Thrill-seekers get a unique vantage point on Soweto from two 300-foot-high cooling towers – especially when they swing by a rope suspended far above the ground.

The Orlando Towers dominate the skyline of the South African townships. The east tower is painted with colorful scenes of township life, including a giant picture of one-time Soweto resident and former President Nelson Mandela.

An adventure center that opened here Saturday has strung a high wire between the two with a rope hanging like a pendulum from the center.

Brave members of the public can ride a cage lift up the outside of the west tower, step on to a small platform and, harnessed to the central rope, jump off the edge.

Jumpers free-fall through the air for a few seconds before the rope pulls taut and leaves them breathless at the view and the thrill.

The adventure center is the brainchild of professional adrenaline junkie Bob Woods, technical director for Skyriders, a company that specializes in jobs that need to be done at great heights.

Thrill-seekers can rappel down the towers and, come September, bungee jump.

“We are not only creating a new business venture but are also opening up new doors for people in Soweto who haven’t been exposed to this type of experience,” Woods said.

Soweto, the sprawling collection of townships in the southwest of Johannesburg, was at the center of the fight against apartheid. Today it is being transformed as black South Africans reap the benefits of democracy and a growing economy.

Shopping malls are sprouting up, and the adventure center is part of a project to revamp the nearby disused Orlando power station into a retail and residential complex.

With South Africa hosting the 2010 Soccer World Cup, many hope the center will attract attention to Soweto.

“This is going to bring a lot of people to Soweto,” Woods said.


 

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