One of the first friends I made on the Big Island was Dianne. She thinks expansively about everything. So for her 65th birthday, she decided to go zip-lining and invited her family and all of us in the Women’s Circle to go with her. I was so excited – and nervous. I never thought I’d get out of my comfort zone enough to try this. But if all these other ladies of a certain age could do it, so could I. And Dianne arranged for a Kama’āina group rate (lower price for residents), so I had no excuse not to go.
The Zip Isle Zip Line, is on the Hilo side of the island, and situated within Botanical World Adventures. When I signed up, I didn’t realize that we would actually be going on seven different lines. That gave me pause. I had been ready to go down one big plunge because it would be over quickly. Then I could check that activity off my bucket list. (It was actually never on my bucket list, but I put it on so I could cross it off.) But no, this was seven smaller runs starting at 200 feet to give us confidence, and ending at 1100 feet.
The whole adventure quickly became real when our guides, Miles, Kolby, Arllen and Hayesly started giving us the safety pitch and handing out the gear. I was imagining a nice big harness, a cocoon-like swing. This was more like a pair of panties with all the important parts missing – just a waistband connected to the leg bands. We were allowed to adjust these pieces but then the guides further snugged up the waist. From a loop at the front of the waist we added the yellow webbing that would connect us to the zip cables. At that point they came around and hung a bunch of hardware on us, telling us “from now on you will not touch any of this equipment – we will be the only ones to adjust it.”
We were allowed to adjust the leg bands which naturally loosened as we walked from line to line. Constantly tugging on our leg bands, we looked like a bunch of kindergarteners picking our underpants out of our, well, you get the idea.
Once geared up and pumped up, we piled on a bus to head up the mountain. They gave us one last chance to turn back – no one took it. We were now committed. But by now I was feeling more trust in our guides and less terrified at the thought of throwing myself off a mountain hanging onto my yellow webbing. Besides, Dianne’s granddaughter was going (paired with Arllen), and if a three year old could handle it, so could I. She was the most jubilant of any of us, saying, “We’re flying,” every time they zipped. It turns out she was the youngest participant to zip on the cables at this place ever. Her mom and dad, also zipping, were so proud of her.
At the first line, our guides explained the hardware and showed us what to do. The most important was to listen to their instructions as we came in at the other end of the cable because they assisted us with every landing. They used a series of hoots to signal to each other across the stream ravine: one hoot for “the lines are clear” and another for “I’ve sent a guest across,” and so on. When you throw in our screaming and whooping, the air was thick with joyful noises.
Miles and Kolby, our primary guides, taught us how to twist the webbing to keep facing forward, but I managed to come in backwards on six of the seven lines. No matter, the view backwards was as spectacular as the view forward. Except for the last line, each zip crossed a deep ravine with a stream at the bottom. We were literally flying in the canopy of the trees, yet taking off and landing on the banks across from each other n. That meant no big towers to climb. And once I got the first zip under my belt, I began to feel confident. I owe it all to our guides, so clearly competent. I could relax knowing I was in good hands. And they were fun, too!
At one point, we even had to cross a suspension bridge. For some people, that was scarier than the zip lining. So they divided us into those that wanted to bounce on the bridge and those who didn’t. I chose the latter group because I wanted to get photos of the stream below from the vantage point of the bridge. I was okay until Dianne stepped on the bridge behind me. Between us we had it swinging sideways – not intentionally. We did a lot of yelling at each other but that didn’t seem to affect the physics of what was happening.
The latter zip runs were just plain fun. By this time the guides knew us a bit and offered to give a good push to those of us who were enjoying our adventure, including me! The guides really needed the blocks at the end of the line to slow us down. These were the longer lines and I even had time to look around, take in the beauty of the ravine, and think about what I was doing. I was so grateful that I had decided to come.
If you’ve been reading my blog, you may wonder how I have the time to do all the stuff I describe every week. It seems excessive even to me, especially when compared to my activity level in other places I’ve lived. I think it has to do with all of the climates on the Big Island – 11 of the world’s 13 climate zones. We can do everything from snow sports and star-gazing on the mountain to beach or ocean activities at sea level. We don’t need the earth to whorl around into different seasons. It’s all here now.
And so many of these activities are free or a nominal cost! Just go through the alphabet: astronomy, beachcombing and boogie boarding, coffee farm tours, diving, fruit farms, gardens, historic sites, the Ironman, java tastings, kayaking, lava, museums, nature hikes, ocean swimming, petroglyph viewing, rainforests, surfing and snorkeling, tattoos, volcano viewing, whale watching and waterfalls, the list goes on. Add in the tours and it’s all here: aloha to zip-lining.
I’m learning to not procrastinate on doing the things I want to do. I recall that back home in Wisconsin, it took me over three decades before I toured the WWII submarine that had been towed to the Manitowoc River in 1970. It commemorates the many submarines made in Manitowoc for that war. Many people discount the things they can see in their own hometown as I did with the USS Cobia, thinking “I can do that anytime.” But I’ve come to fully appreciate that I have only so much time on this earth. So I’m making the most of it, even when it means getting out of my comfort zone here in my new home.
Now my friends in the Women’s Circle are talking about going back for the night zip that Zip Isle offers during the full moon, or for the haunted zip at Halloween. Hmm, even I have to draw the line somewhere. As for Dianne, I can only imagine her celebration next year – swimming with sharks? Happy Birthday. dear friend.
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