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The International Writers Magazine - Our 19th Year: Mexico (From Our Archives)

Mexican Zip-lining Tour
Lauren Brunck

As we zoom around the bend, kicking up dust from the dirt and gravel path, a tall edifice materializes through the foliage of the jungle. We slam on our breaks and dismount our bikes at the base of the tower. I simply stand there for a moment, staring up at the rickety-looking wooden structure, following the spiral staircase to the top with my eyes. My mom comes up behind me. As she grips my shoulders with her hands, I can feel her quiver slightly. "How exactly did I let you talk me into this?" she says with a sigh.

"Let’s go," says Beto, our tour guide. "It’s now or never." I follow him up the stairs, clipping the rope from my harness up along the railing as I go, just as he instructs. My mother, father, aunt and the newlywed couple who comprise our group follow closely behind. I spent the majority of yesterday lying on the beach while my aunt and parents were off scuba diving, but this excursion was my redemption. When people travel to places like Cancun and the Riviera Maya, they have different objectives in mind. Some are drawn to Mexico because the pristine, turquoise waters are fantastic for snorkeling and scuba diving. Others come to view the historic remnants of Mayan architecture, such as the towering pyramid of Chichen Itza, the ruins of Tulum, or the great temple of Koba.

Then there are those who intend to do absolutely nothing but laze under a cabaña all day, sipping a strawberry daiquiri and feeling the salty ocean breeze kiss their oiled skin. None of the above is a bad way to go. I myself enjoy a good daiquiri, or perhaps a mojito, but in my seven trips to Mexico I have seen and done it all. I have seen most of the ruins and I have gone on virtually every excursion offered. Lying on the beach doing absolutely nothing is quite relaxing and can be nice for a day or two, but I wanted to experience something more; something that would stick in my mind; something that I would take with me and remember forever because of the way it affected me, body and soul.

As I peer down over the railing, the tops of the trees seem more like bushes. This is the third and final zip-line of our Mayan Zip-line Chikin-Ha tour. We began our excursion with swimming in the amazing underground freshwater caves, known as cenotes. Then after biking to the first two zip-lines, we arrived here at the longest, highest zip-line of the three. The entire journey has been exhilarating but the sheer size of the tower has caused my excitement to increase exponentially.

"Here are your Mexican brakes," Beto says, passing around the now familiar wooden sticks with hooked ends on one side. As I step forward and prepare for him to hook my rig up to the line, Beto puts his arm out and motions for me to step aside. "Wait a moment," he says, taking my mother’s hand and pulling her forward. "I sense you are nervous. You’re going first before you can change your mind." Before Mom had a chance to say a word, Beto hooks her up, gives her a shove and she goes flying down the zip-line, screaming all the way. I honestly could not tell if they were screams of delight, terror, or a combination of both. As she approaches the end, she takes the hooked part of the Mexican brake and applies it to the line to slow her pace. I was so proud of her for overcoming her fear of heights and refusing to let it keep her from experiencing something so amazing. I knew she could do it.

As I wait for the thumbs-up from the man on the receiving end of the zip-line, I think back on the past hour of our journey. After selecting our bikes and helmets, we mounted up and proceeded down the jungle path to the first zip-line. When we arrived, I spotted a Mexican red-leg tarantula sunning itself atop a mound of dirt. Its large, round abdomen was furry and nearly the size of a softball and its red and black striped legs extend nearly five inches. Even for someone who is petrified of spiders, like the newlywed bride in our group, this creature was impressive. "Wow," she said, creeping up slowly behind me. "That’s amazing."
"Even in the movies they’re never that big."
"So who wants to go first?" Beto had asked, surveying the group. When no one else seemed eager to go, I volunteered. "I will," I replied, stepping forward, adjusting the strap to my helmet and gripping my brake in my right hand. I had never been on a zip-line before, but I was not the least bit apprehensive. I had been dreaming of this moment since I first learned of the Mayan zip-line tour.

But now the adventure is almost over. This is it; the final zip-line, and I am ready to go. Beto hooks my rig to the line and places the palm of his hand on the small of my back, preparing to give me a push-start. I tuck my knees into my chest and grip the rope with my left hand just as we were instructed. "Ono, dos, tres!" he shouts, as he shoves me off the platform. As I rocket down the zip-line, picking up speed as I descend to the other side, I feel completely elated. The canopy is a blur of green and gold. If I could come back as any creature on earth, I would unequivocally choose a hawk. To do this every day would be a dream come true. But in a mere matter of seconds my dreams are quashed as I realize that I am approaching the end of the line. I apply my make-shift brake to the line to slow myself down and avoid crashing into the man who is waiting to catch me and detach my rig.

Although I am disheartened that this is my last chance to soar, it has been an amazing excursion. Flying over the jungle at nearly 525 feet in the air, I bask, once more in the euphoric feeling of zipping down the line as I take flight over the trees. The air above the canopy is clean and crisp and I put my arms out like the wings of a bird and feel it all around me as I approach the end of the line and must plant my feet on the earth once more.

© Lauren Brunck August 2009

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