Washington DC….. Random Thoughts….. Puerto Rico…… Random Thoughts…. If it seems that my topics for writing having been VERY scattered recently, then it gives you an accurate sense of exactly how our summer holiday has been. While we are loving every moment of visitors, travels and new explorations, I am not sad to say that school begins in exactly 2 weeks. We are all ready for a sense of routine.
Until then, let the whirlwind continue.
This week I did something very out of character for me. Something that I would normally leave to the far more daring, slightly insane type of person. I agreed to hang 630 feet in the air from a cable, and even crazier, I let my kids do it. Zip Lining is the current vacation craze for the adventurous set. Attached to cables, you zip through the jungle like Tarzan. Our daring bunch chose Toro Verde park here in Puerto Rico, home to some of the highest and longest ziplines in the world. Was this really the best choice for beginners?
The rational ones out there are probably thinking something along the lines of “so why did you do it?” The answer is simple PEER PRESSURE. You know that silly and somewhat rhetorical question: “If all your friends were jumping off a bridge would you do it too?” It is now evident that my answer is “Yes, why yes I would.”
Let me set a few facts straight before I continue with this story.
1) – I don’t mind heights or beautiful vistas, but I have a healthy fear of falling. I am very happy to look at gorgeous scenery from behind the safety of a guard rail.
2) – As mentioned in my running experiences, I don’t do equipment well. I run and I swim – just me and the elements. When gadgets, gears, bats, balls, rackets come into play, I get flustered.
3) – I have an insane sense of smell. Really. I am sure that I was a bloodhound in a previous life. It is not a good quality. Think of feet, breath, armpits, fish… odors that might offend the average nose, now imagine them tenfold.
Now here is the play-by-play.
The scene: a beautiful day in the mountains of Puerto Rico.
The adventure park is about 1.5 hours from our home in San Juan. The first hour is mainly highway driving. The last 30 minutes are narrow, curvy and uphill. I know the driving is getting treacherous when my husband is holding onto the wheel with both hands. I kept telling myself that the ziplining couldn’t possibly be scarier than speeding cars coming down the hill toward us, leaving us reeling around corners on what felt like only 2 tires.
Next stop, payment. The course costs $80 per person. It lasts 2-3 hours, for 8 different lines and includes lunch. The park has a number of other adventures to include rope bridges, rappelling, etc. Our motley crew did not qualify in age or weight for a variety of the other options. For more info, check out the website: http://www.toroverdepr.com
Once we signed
our lives away the waivers, it was time to gear up.
I wish this guide would at least pretend to pay attention to what he is doing.
We each stepped into our contraption of straps and carabiners. With my stomach doing flip-flops, I kept reminding myself that it is good to do things that scare you. It makes you stronger and more confident, and only rarely does it kill you. With the straps in place, we added leather gloves, and a breaking mitt. My heart palpitations begin, because I now realize that aside from just holding on for dear life, I actually have to understand and use the equipment they just strapped onto my body. Next comes the helmet. I am not at all concerned with the fact that I need head protection. Nor do I even consider that if I fall 600 feet to my death, the helmet isn’t going to protect much. I am overwhelmed by the odor of other people’s head sweat. So, here I am. About to jump off a platform hundreds of feet in the air and my head is clouded with stink and with fear of using my equipment incorrectly. What have I gotten myself into?
I originally worried about the possibility of getting hurt. When I realized that if I fell, I would die – I actually felt a little bit better about death over paralysis. So – I put on my happy face and carried on.
I completed the first line unscathed. With my feet safely on the platform, I look back to see my little boy coming toward me. My Harry who has no fears. My darling 7-year-old who crosses busy streets without looking, talks to strangers, surfs the big waves, rides roller coasters… WAS SOBBING. He hated it. I should have taken this moment to just let him stop, as it was probably the last point in which we could have hiked back out. But no, we were convinced that after a few more zips our little Monkey would be in his element. He did the next few lines accompanied by a guide and he seemed to tolerate it.
Harry’s opinion of the adventure
Not only was I shocked that Harry didn’t like it, but I was even more surprised that Grace LOVED it. Now this is the kid who just finally got the courage to take the training wheels off her bicycle. She is timid. While she is good at so many things – being daring is NOT one of them. Yet, there she went, like Tinkerbell flying over the tree tops, arms spread wide.
The zipping moved along. Each of the 8 lines varied by height, length and speed. Names included words such as fire, hurricane, and renegade. Harry was still hating it. Sometimes we had to just clip him in and gave him a push. I was not happy with this method, but once we were far into the course, there was no turning back. Please take note that I expressly asked the park about young kids and if they were old enough, and they insisted that ages 7 and 9 were “perfect.”
With all of my worries about my little guy, I nearly forgot my own fears.
That is until I reached platform #8. The last of the lines. It was the highest (630 feet) and the longest (about 1/2 mile.) It was also the FASTEST. I didn’t think we could send the kids down. I wasn’t even sure I could send myself down. Harry offered to hike his way through the woods for hours, just to avoid this ride. The only way I can give you a sense of this one is visually.
The white spec in the right corner an inch below the tree branch is Caitlyn.
Here is a much closer shot.
We all survived it. Thankfully, a guide zipped in with both Grace and Harry. Due to their light weight, they would have gotten stuck and left dangling over the river until someone shimmied out to get them. (It happened to all of the other kids – even those well over 100 lbs.)
This is how a guide drags you back to the platform.
We returned to our starting point via a topsy-turvy truck ride.
There we enjoyed our refreshments before our treacherous drive home.
Overall, the responses of our group were positive. Critiques included that the organization of the guides could have been better out on the platforms to avoid back-ups of people. We were also desperate for drinks – so access to water would have been an appreciated addition. Everyone agreed that the experience was well-worth the cost.
With my total of 8 lines, I traveled 2683 meters in length. For my non metric friends this is 8802 feet. For my running friends it just 1.66 miles. While one-and-a-half miles is a short run, it is a very LONG distance when your life is hanging in the balance of someone else’s handiwork. To me, running 26.2 miles is far less stressful. But, as the saying goes – it didn’t kill me, so I guess I’m stronger.
We followed our zipline day with more excursions: sailing, Old San Juan, the rum factory… I would say that feet on the ground and a cocktail in hand are much more my speed.
note: Later that day Harry and I watched the sea below our balcony and he told me that he wants to go parasailing. “After today?” I questioned. “Mommy, if I fall parasailing, I will just fall in the water. If I fell ziplining, I might have broken my arm.” I can only imagine the drama had he realized what was really at stake.