Saturday, November 22, 2014

Fear, and the Truth About Ziplines

PK and me getting ready to ride the zipline. Whoo hooo! Obligatory photo with Himalayan mountain background.  Photo credit: Jeff Bossler.
PK approaching the landing.
Me trying to take in the gorgeous scenery as the zipline ride is about to end.
They're inviting students? What about the old people?
I didn't travel all the way to Nepal to go on my first zipline adventure, but that's what happened. I had no interest in ziplines, and was, in fact, leery. Scared is what you'd call it. But what happened is I got sick. (More about this in a future post.) I had been down for a couple days and weakened. I'd missed a wonderful seven-mile hike in the terraced Himalayan foothills, about which I was ticked and disappointed, and still am. I didn't want to miss another thing. 
PK and me, Jeff and Bonnie Bossler, and Charla Rolph ready to take the plunge. Does it look like Charla has an attitude? She does! I love my new-found friends.
So, while our little band of travelers was in Pokhara, a pleasant city at the base of the Annapurna range of the Himalayas, and plans to ride the "world's longest, steepest, fastest" zipline were underway, I decided to go. This decision was easy, as I determined that riding a zipline requires little more than holding on and trusting the engineering.  Plus getting your hairdo ruined at speeds up to 75 mph.

But before you judge me brave, foolish, or otherwise, consider one of my companions, Bonnie Bossler, whose fear of heights is debilitating. Her husband reports, and she agrees, that she has trouble taking more than two steps up a ladder. She had NO intention of ziplining, but she came to say goodbye at the office where we paid, got weighed, and readied ourselves for the trip to where the zipline plunges across a deep valley.

While waiting, we watched a short video, during which I mentioned that it looked like all you had to do was hold tight for two minutes, the duration of the ride. Anybody could do it, even a sick person, I said with a touch of bravado. Then came the announcement that there was room for one more rider. To her husband's amazement and joy, Bonnie signed up. A few minutes later, we were en route to the zipline.

In truth, the hour-long ride up the mountain on a one-lane road with heavy two-way traffic including buses, chicken trucks, a funeral procession, stalled vehicles, impromptu traffic directors, blaring horns, meandering sacred cows, and skittish school children was more entertaining, not to mention harrowing, than the zipline itself.
Our driver pays heed to the road's edge and our hair's breadth proximity with a dump truck.
Bumper to bumper going up, and same thing coming down. How passing lanes of traffic headed in opposite directions manage without mishap is worthy of a study in human cooperation. And luck.
Once at the zipline take-off, we were greeted with views that make Nepal world famous. The Himalayas are an ever-present source of awe.

In the valley below, country/mountain life goes on as it has for centuries with herding and tasks of everyday living. I wonder what they think of crazy tourists flying overhead paying $65 each for a couple minutes of fun, intruding on their peace and privacy. I wonder if they have been compensated for the blow to their quality of life. A bungee jumping base is also located here. 

It was all worth it for Bonnie, who had confronted one of her deepest fears, and traded heartfelt "namastes" with zipline staff.

Yes! She did it! Jeff and Bonnie Bossler.

To return to this post's title, we all fear something—heights, strangers, water, the unknown. Especially the unknown. I was more afraid of missing something than of the zipline itself, so I am not to be congratulated. But a shout out to Bonnie the Brave for stepping way outside her comfort zone to ride the "world's longest, fastest, steepest" zipline. (Not the first or last zipline to claim this, by the way.) 

The truth about ziplines? I don't know about the rest of them, but this one was not scary and safety precautions seemed more than adequate. It's true that if you fit the weight requirement to be between 85 and 235 pounds, you could do it. Maybe you should. Especially if you're afraid. 

Note: This is the first in a series of posts about 18 wonder-filled days in Nepal with Catherine Wood and sponsors of the Bright Futures Foundation.  Many of those days were spent with Nepali people in their homes, schools, and a very special clinic.  Lots of stories to come.