This post is coming to you from my very own living room, where I’m drinking my very own coffee, and enjoying it as much as I can, since my other suitcase is now by the door, and I’m off to the airport again. I’ve had about 10 hours at home, and there’s a little voice in my head that keeps saying "Is this smart?" but I can hardly hear it for the rest of me that can’t believe what we did on Monday, and that we would have missed it if I’d been the sort of person who thought a 10 hour layover at home wasn’t smart. (Please note: I am not saying I’m smart to have done this, just that I am the sort of person who thinks it’s smart.)
Monday morning, we’d planned to go to this place that somebody said was fun. Monkey Jungle Zipline. The fact that we’d even decided to go was sort of a surprise in a whole bunch of ways. First, while Erin’s the sort of tourist who might do this sort of thing, Mum’s really not, and I’m definitely not. I’m more interested in people and what they’re doing than I am going to some theme park but there was something about this that captured my imagination when Erin pointed it out, and I was suddenly keen. I’ve never been to a jungle. I’ve never ziplined, and monkey’s are cool. I thought Hank would love it, and I had no idea if Mum would, but to ice the cake, 100% of the profits go to a clinic to provide health care who live around there, and the clinic’s statistics are pretty amazing. Erin and I talked to the guy and he said he would take us whenever. My Aunt Yvonne was arriving in a few days, so we emailed her to see if she wanted to go, and she did – so Monday became the only possible day to go.
Sunday night there was a terrific storm. Wind like nothing I’ve ever seen, and then the rain started and then we woke up Monday and it was still raining. There was brief talk about cancelling and going another day, but since I was leaving on Tuesday, it meant going without me, which I was trying to be big about, but would have been super disappointing. The troops rallied somewhat, and after a lot of conversation we decided to go – rain or not. The mini bus picked us up and took us up in to the mountains. By then the rain had mostly tapered off to sprinkling and misting.
When we got there, the manager did his level best not to be stunned at the Canadians showing up in the "rain and cold" we were told several times (by a couple of different people – all wearing hoodies like 24C was frosty out) that this was "Dominican Snow", which is a really funny joke under those exact circumstances. He said that first we would visit the monkeys, and we washed our hands, and he told us that they can touch us, but we can’t touch them, and that he was going to give us a little cup of fruit and nuts, and that we could let the monkeys have it, but to be careful not to make sudden moves, or drop the cup, because you can scare or hurt a monkey. Then he led us in to the massive enclosure where the monkey’s live (it’s not a cage, it’s a several kilometer fenced off piece of the jungle – the monkey’s are living very well) and within minutes, the monkey’s had seen us, and were making their way through the trees, sweeping, calling and leaping their way towards us. I stood as still as I could, terrified that I’d make a sudden move and hurt a monkey, and suddenly, we were beset. I stood perfectly still- or as still as one can stand while monkey’s walk on your cleavage.
I heard Erin say "Oh, no, oh no" and turned around to see a monkey on her head.
Hank’s monkey waved Hola! (Hank was, of course, perfectly calm)
Yvonne squealed like a little girl.
My Mum, on the other hand – was very much less delighted with the monkeys.
(I won’t repeat what she said about them. It’s less than graceful.)
When we left the monkey area (or escaped the monkey area, depending on your perspective) we were hiked along a path to the place where they get you all outfitted for the ziplining. At this point, I realized that one of the reasons it had been so unexpectedly easy to get my mum to agree to zipline, was because she didn’t know what it was. As she got kitted out in her harness, helmet, shoes and gloves, I started to wonder if she was really going to like it, but with every passing moment, she seemed more interested, not less.
They gave us a little class on braking and safety and then we hiked again, up to the first platform, and it was then that we started to grasp the idea of what we were doing. This place has 7 ziplines that total 1350m (4400ft) and are about 60m (200ft) off the ground. The instant they strap you in at the top of this line you realize your mistake. At this point Erin and I both had a brief but neurotic conversation with our guides. They explained (again) that we’re strapped in two ways, that if for some insane reason one of pieces of equipment failed, there were redundancies, that they were going first, that they check the equipment before every rider – that even if you do it wrong they’ll take care of you, that it’s safe. It doesn’t look safe, but it is very safe. Erin and I felt a little better.
Then we made the kid go first.
He whipped across the tree tops, smiling broadly the whole way, and braked expertly (although the "monkey guides" were waiting to ensure his gentle landing if he didn’t.)
Erin went, then me… then my mum and I admit that I was a little worried about her. Even the suggestion that she might not be able to do something fills her with rage though, so I didn’t say anything. I hoped she’d be able to grin and bear it. How long could thousands of feet of zipline take? (The answer is a couple of hours, but we didn’t know that then.) Imagine my surprise when my mum came whipping though the trees with a huge smile on her face.
She loved it. She loved every minute of it, and she was wicked good at it. We laughed and did the next run – a steeper one with a ton of braking and mum rocked that too. Hank zoomed, Erin screamed, I was neurotic – Yvonne was – well- Yvonne had some issues. On the first steep run she was too scared to brake, and came in so fast that I yelled "You’re coming in pretty hot there Starbuck" while the guides ran around slacking the wire to slow her down and preparing to catch her, which they did adeptly.
(A quick aside to Yvonne’s kids, who aren’t going to believe anything about this: Mum, Erin, Hank and I are all willing to send you sworn affidavits indicating t
hat the person in the picture above is indeed Yvonne, and that she did complete a zipline course, and that she was indeed sober at the time, although we decline to comment on any behaviour at the bar post zip.)
After that she braked compulsively out of sheer terror, which meant that she didn’t make it all the way across one of them and they had to send out the "Monkey Taxi" to get her. Still, it was impressive that somebody so scared finished the course at all. I thought she was going to bail about sixteen times, but on she went, the brave little soldier. It is possible, that beyond the sheer terror she experienced, the worst part was the dirt. Apparently the gears above you always stir off a little dirt and dust from the cables, but it was raining pretty good by the time we were done, and dirt+dust+water=MUD and that mud was spraying and dripping down onto us the whole time we were going. For Yvonne, our lady of perpetual creams and accessories, this was a real barrier. By the time we were done, we were all dirty-
but Yvonne was particularly out of character.
It was, without a doubt, one of the craziest things we’ve ever done – and worth it just for the moment that night that Hank said, when I pointed out that the people who had loved it the best were the oldest person and the youngest person, and Hank said that it was because he and Gramy were both courageous. It’s something they have in common, he feels. He’s right of course.
It was pretty amazing.