I lived to tell the tale

The view on the way to our starting platform.

I’m dying!

Or that’s what I yelled at the top of my lungs as I dangled 60m above a very menacing forest while two guides and my boyfriend tried, without laughing, to talk me onto the ledge I was convinced I was plummeting off of.

Assurances that no one has ever fallen (or died) under Lucky’s (our lead guide) watchful eye did nothing to convince me otherwise.

You see, for three years my boyfriend and I kept meaning to set aside a weekend and go on the canopy tour in the Magaliesburg.

However, every time we made a plan something would crop up and we just never got around to it.

Then over the Christmas holidays he suggested we set a date, take a break in the Drakensberg and do the canopy tour there.

Being a good journalist, I checked out not only what the company running the tour had to say about it, but also the comments on Tripadvisor about the experience.

Glowing recommendations – that’s all I found.

Lovely reviews in which everyone was delighted with the adventure, the scenery and the sheer fun of flying through the trees while the birdies chirped encouragement from said trees.

Please note: This is a generic video of other people enjoying themselves and not one taken the day I did the tour.

To be fair, there was (a small) mention of the 500m walk to get out of the forest at the end but, according to everyone, it was a doable walk and well worth the effort.

With all this positivity surrounding us we set off in late September to get our swing on.

It was a 30km drive from our accommodation to the venue and the first 20km was sunny and bright.

That last 10km stretch, however, saw the weather turn.

A blustering wind began to whip us about, the sky got dark and foreboding and the rain of doom began to fall.

It was time to call the whole thing off.

Until the following day that is.

 

But that turn in the weather really should have been all the warning I needed that things weren’t going to be all singing birds and floating about in the trees.

Vusi waiting for us to swing across the forest.

Did I get the message though? Hell no and up we go.

The briefing was great, the views on the drive to the starting point fabulous, there was a short and pretty walk and then it was time to springs from the first platform.

Now to start with the harness was so tight I couldn’t feel my legs, let alone move them but I was told sternly that this was necessary so I did my best to just put one foot in front of the other while they clipped me onto the lines.

It was then that I started to wonder if I was really cut out for all this but off I went and, doing what I thought they wanted from me and holding onto the cable, I wasn’t moving…

Turns out if you hold on with a death grip you simply dangle rather than fly and I had to (quickly) learn to just let go.

Finally making it to the platform I was convinced that death was imminent!

IT WAS SCARY!

Vusi, the chap checking our safety, makes it look effortless.

I’ve done some frightening things before with never a nerve or tremble, but this was the worst!

Now let me clarify – the space between the platforms when I was actually flying from tree to tree, post death grip, was wonderful.

Nothing scary about the flying at all.

It was the landing on those horrid, narrow platforms that got me shaking because try as I might I missed the first 11 (there are only 12 of them) and battled to get my balance to get onto the platform.

At the end of each wonderful flight I found myself dangling aimlessly centimeters from the platform but unable to actually get onto the darn thing.

Athletic I am not and coming in to land with my feet slightly elevated above my head and people crowding the space I was supposed to land on really didn’t make for an easy landing and scared the S*** out of me!

The more I declared I was going to die, the more the two guides had to hold their laughter and cajole me onto the platform while my boyfriend kept reminding me that I wasn’t in any real danger of dying – he may even have advised me to stop exaggerating.

The nerve!

But in the end I did live to tell the tale – my certificate says so.

My boyfriend loved every moment of it, and me?

Not so much.

But I’m glad I gave it a go because I can at least tick it off the bucket list.

For my next trick however, I’m aiming for a little something closer to the ground with no athletic ability needed.

Come 2019 I’ll be flying through the steep streets of Madeira in a wicker toboggan from Monte to Funchal.

If you aren’t familiar with this little ride here is a quick explanation: “Originally a fast means of transport down to Funchal for people living in Monte, these toboggan sledges appeared around 1850.

“Still in use today, they attract thousands of tourists every year who want to make this exciting experience of sliding at high speed on narrow, winding streets down to Funchal.

“These two-seater wicker sledges glide on wooden runners, pushed and steered by two men traditionally dressed in white cotton clothes and a straw hat, using their rubber-soled boots as brakes.

“The downhill journey to Livramento, a little below Monte, Funchal takes about 10 minutes on a total course of 2 km, reaching at times a speed of 48 km/hour. ” (www.madeira-web.com)

It looks like just as much fun with but without the tricky landings.

Let’s just hope I don’t crash because I’m not sure that my medical aid covers accidents which occur while tobogganing down a very steep hill, on a public road with two athletic (and perhaps a little crazy) men steering.

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  AUTHOR
Samantha Keogh
Editor

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