A Healthy Dose of Fear: Zip Lining in South Africa
August 16, 2017
Have you ever looked at an activity and thought, “Wow, that sounds incredibly dangerous and ill advised? Let’s do that.” 99 times out of 100 I cartoon style sprint away from anything that sounds like that because I’m a pretty big fan of being alive. But when we took a trip to South Africa several years ago I remembered to bring sneakers, my passport, and a camera but forgot to bring common sense and a healthy dose of fear.
We did a lot of incredible things in Africa – attended the World Cup, went on safari, toured Johannesburg, and stayed with the coolest family in the Southern hemisphere. We also did a lot of weird stuff in Africa – like ate a worm meant to improve fertility, hung out with John Travolta*, and convinced ourselves that vuvuzelas sound nice. I don’t know what category “zip lining down the longest fastest zip line in the world” falls under but we did it, I loved it, and if my kids ever ask if they can do it they will be grounded until they are 35 because this is one parenting moment I’ll be happy to helicopter.
I don’t know about you, but when I think about a zip line I imagine lightly sailing over a forest forging lasting friendships with friendly birds. I can’t stress to you enough how much THIS zip line was not THAT zip line. We took a Jeep up a mountain to a wooden platform and climbed 14,000,000 stairs up to the top. Then because we didn’t have enough oxygen in our brains, we signed a paper that said “You’ll probably survive this, but we can’t be sure. The world’s a crazy place and this is a stupid dangerous thing to do. So we’re good right?” Then we learned that we would need goggles to protect our eyes from the 90mph speeds we were going to be hitting while careening down a mountain cradled in what was basically a hot dog bun with a shark fin attached to a bungee cord…
Our friend Kellie went down first and I vaguely remember hearing the guide at the top saying “Sweet… she made it down alive… first one today.”
Newly engaged, Glen and I opted to take the zip line ride tandem because we
were adorable and didn’t want to leave each others’ sides thought we might as well die together. You think I am smiling in this photo? No. I’m just trying to show as many teeth as possible to help local authorities identity my body later.
The guide eventually pushed us off the ledge (I think that’s how it worked, I probably blacked out) and we started to fly. Seriously, it was like flying. I should have been terrified the whole way down because there was only a small piece of plastic between my feet keeping us balanced, but I was just exhilarated. As a largely wingless species, human beings aren’t supposed to get to have this feeling of soaring over long distances without an engine or small bag of pretzels. But we did, and didn’t even sort of die.
So yeah, looking back on the photos do I think “that seems like a completely reasonable thing to do if you have respect for your personal safety”? No. But do I encourage you to think about it if you and I are just casual acquaintances and you are visiting South Africa? You bet your bottom dollar.
With the strong conviction that this did not prepare me for sky diving and the suggestion that you don’t even ask,
*We could see him in his luxury box from our seats so we are basically best friends.
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P.P.S. One more shout out to Ekala Guest House. If you find yourself traveling to South Africa please please please stay here. Meeting this family was truly an honor and a privilege. Malcolm taught me so much about the world outside of my bubble and I’m forever grateful.