I really want to write about our elephant experience, but I know what my husband is really asking me to do: write about our zip-lining experience. Okay, Michael, I will. I just wish all my writing gigs paid in iced caramel beverages and massages!
First of all, know that when I was a kid, I used to climb trees like a monkey. I'd climb up on the roof of our house. Scale any ladder. Heights were not a concern at all. And then in college, I took a lighting design class (I was a theatre major), and we had to climb up to the catwalk above the stage to learn about counterbalancing the rods that the lights hang from. The strangest thing happened... my vision tightened to a tiny circle, I started sweating profusely, my ears began to ring, and I froze. My fellow students thought I was just being my normal, dramatic self, but the teacher realized I wasn't faking and had great compassion, managing to get me down by keeping her face about two inches from mine and telling me exactly what to do, "lift this foot, put it here. Breathe." From that point on, heights and I haven't been chums at all.
At the other end of the spectrum, you'll find my husband, who loves heights. When I met him (about two days before my freakout in the theatre), he was working as a stage tech at Disneyland, doing all the rigging for the Colombia Sailing Ship for Fantasmic!, which incidentally just celebrated it's 20th anniversary. Riggers climb. High above the ground. This made me very nervous. Especially because he was just so darn comfortable up there. He loves to climb, happily scaling any height. And then I went and had two boys, who both love to climb, and have no fear of falling.
When I booked the hotel in Thailand, I noticed the list of activities they could arrange for us included zip-lining. Zip-lining is where you put on a harness and attach yourself to a wire which is attached between two stationary objects (like trees), and then zip along the line from one object to another. For fun. I didn't mention the zip-lining to Michael, but of course when we checked in, our four happy attendants saw our boys and were only too happy to mention it! So we signed up to go. The three boys in the family with great enthusiasm, the lone girl very reluctantly. I decided that I wasn't going to think about it until it was time to actually do it, so I had a couple really great days without any thought of flying through the air on a wire.
The day finally came, and we were picked up at the hotel and driven an hour away up the side of Doi Lankah, one of Thailand's five tallest mountains. It was so beautiful and green, and once again nice to go on a little road trip up a winding road in the middle of nowhere. Soon enough we arrived, and they ushered us directly into the bathrooms to empty our bladders before getting in a harness.
Most of the time I think my kids are so huge, but seeing them in this equipment made me think how very little and vulnerable they are! Here's the photo of all four of us, freshly suited up:
Michael looks totally at ease, the boys are speaking out of the side of their mouths, saying, "can we just get in the air already," and I'm looking a little green. They made us wear lovely pink shower caps under our helmets. Michael checked all of the equipment and told me it was a good brand, but that did little to put my mind at ease.
They walked us through a tiny village where everyone makes their living off the tourists who come to zip-line:
And then we on the first platform, ready to zip over the first line:
In our group there were a a couple of brothers from Switzerland and a trio of friends from Kuala Lumpur and us. And of course my kids volunteered to go first. There's Nathan:
And there's my baby Ben:
Jungle Flight takes you on a circular route through the jungle, with lines of varying length and height, along with some circular staircases that go around a tree and a few abseils (rappelling for the Americans) straight down from the tree tops. For the zip-lines and abseiling, I just concentrated on the harness and hanging on for dear life (and perfecting my scream). But you know what frightened me the most? The sky bridges. They attached our harnesses to the side, but my feet did not want to walk. My legs were already like jelly from the experience of soaring in the jungle canopy. Add in the previous day's elephant riding which left me sore and bruised, and suddenly trying to walk across a jiggly, bouncing bridge was almost too much for me to handle. This is the first one, lowest to the ground.
The wildlife was amazing. Our guides kept talking about Thai monkeys (which I think is what the guides call themselves!). We saw all sorts of birds, lizards, beetles, huge spiders, enormous ants, and these amazing seed pods that would fall gracefully from the tree canopy down to the ground below, spinning as they fell.
This was one of the longer lines, and they let Nathan and Ben go together. I've never seen them willingly hold hands, but they were sure hanging on here!
This is the midway point, where we took a break. I think breaking was worse than just pushing through, as it forced me to think about what we were doing...
Here is the final platform, 40 meters (131 feet, 13 stories) off the ground:
And how did we get off this platform? They sent us straight over the edge on a rope. Here's a video of Nathan (email subscribers, click through to the site to watch it) going over the edge:
And here is one Michael took as he was falling:
They asked me if I wanted to go slow or fast. I said slow, please. They let me go slow for the first few feet, then stopped me and asked if it was slow enough. I said yes, and then they let go and I fell like a rock, screaming one final scream before they stopped me just shy of the crash mat.
At the end of the circuit there was a sign, which we of course had to stop and photograph. It's pretty fitting in our present circumstance as we leave Macau.
Happy ending indeed.