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To Zipline or Not

Story ID:11487
Written by:Roger A Johnson (bio, contact, other stories)
Story type:Things to do
Location:Chapala Jalisco M
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By Roger Johnson
On a recent trip to Costa Rica I gave the tour consultant a list of things we wanted to do and ask that they set up an itinerary that included those things. One item was a zip line that is being advertised all over these days. I knew nothing about them and the only question I had in passing was, “When they zip you someplace, how do you get back?” The tour company had given us a packet of flimsy strips or coupons that were arranged in the order of the itinerary and we tore them off and used them for the event that was next so they could get paid by the tour company. I did NO research on zip lines, I just showed up when the driver dropped me off at the zip line place and dutifully tore off the coupon and gave it to the attendant. I asked how long this event would take so that I could tell my companion how long she would have to wait for me. He looked at the coupon and said, “You have the deluxe zip line package that includes seven zip lines and it will take about two hours.” He continued to tell me to go over to the outfitting shed and they would give me my gear. I passed the two hour comment on to my companion and she looked at a bit forlorn and surprised. What could I do but shrug and continue to the shed?
At the shed there were maybe a dozen folks milling around, most of whom were about to be zip lined. I should say young folks, the oldest being maybe in his 40’s and the youngest teenagers. Here I was 79 years old, with a few body issues because of my age and they were handing me a heavy wad of tangled up seat belt like harnesses, some large metal rings and a very heavy pulley contraption. “You’ve got to be kidding”, I said to myself. I was then asked if I was right or left handed and they gave me a leather glove so thick and stiff you could not bend any part of it and it was only half there. We were then loaded on a farm wagon modified with seats and a big old farm tractor started pulling us up the mountain. The wagon tract crossed two small streams and was rutted and had bad wash from the last rain. It took 15 minutes or so to get to our first destination.
We dismounted from the farm wagon and three ‘crew’ members started helping everyone to get into the tangled harnesses. There were two main locations for the harnesses. One was stepped into and was around your butt and straps were joined to a waist strap. The other was around your shoulders and chest and the two sets of harnesses were joined in front of your belly button. The place where they joined had a metal clip and was fastened to the pulley devise in the center of three holes. The top and the bottom harness each had a cable that also connected to the pulley devise in two other holes. It appears to me that if there was any kind of equipment failure the person on the zip line had three safety catches (bad choice of words) to keep you from falling. Next they took that heavy leather glove and strapped it to your hand so that in the palm of your hand was the very thickest leather and it could not be moved or flexed or squeezed. In the center of the glove was a slot the size of your pointer finger and that was to let the cable pass through your glove in route to the other side. Confused? Not one person had their hand up to go first. Here’s the deal. The beautiful pictures that you see on television or in brochures are there and they truly are outstanding views, but look before they hook you up on the cable because hooked up you are on your back and can see very little of the beautiful scenery. The tears also might interfere with the view. Remember the cables that came up from your belly button? Well, you lay back and the support for your whole body to the zip line comes from the belly button area. Now they tell you to put your left hand around the three cable from your belly button and just never let go. I think that is to keep it out of the way. They take your right hand and reach over and behind your head and set the leather glove on the cable. Here are those instructions:
Don’t squeeze or pull on the cable, just let your glove rest there and it will keep you from turning or spinning as you zip across the trees. Watch the crew member on the end of the zip line ride and if he has his hand raised, put down hard and steady because you are the brake to slow you down. It’s in your hand. Yep, the leather glove. If he is waving his hand just relax and do not pull down anymore because you are arriving at a good speed
Finally, you stick your feet out in front of you and cross your feet at the ankles, but then spread the knees slightly. Ready? Right!
That’s it. A crew member holds you at your pulley unit until you have done all they directed and then they let go. Of the seven different zip lines on this course, they are different lengths. There were two longer than a football field. The first trip was a little scary. By the end of the second trip I was feeling very good about the whole thing and doing better than a lot of the others. By the third zip line I was beginning to pick up on a change in the whine of the pulley/cable action so that I could distinguish changes in speed and the speed itself. It became a very cool experience and thrill far more than a look at the scenery. On the fourth and sixth zip lines I had an even more interesting experience. On four I could sense I was coming in very fast and I pulled down very hard. The crew must have suspected this because they had a brake devise ready for me and I hit it pretty hard with absolutely no negative results to me. Some of the other zippers asked if I was okay and I was. I think this occurred for a couple of reasons. I weighed just under 100 kilos which is heavier than the other folks were and I did not spread my knees and came in faster because of those reasons. When I got on number six, the crew guy sending me off said to me, “This one is a little fast also, be ready”. It was and I needed the extra break again but not quite so quick a stop because I braked a little earlier. After the seventh zip line the old tractor and its farm wagon were there to pick us up, not in the original drop off point but close to it.
Zip lining is not for the weak for sure but if you can mow the lawn, you can probably do it. It is a blast.