I was really, really, really apprehensive about going zip lining. Let’s just say my fear of heights combined with a perceived lack of safety concerns in Ecuador did not exactly have me rushing to propel myself across the jungle on a steel cable. I even skipped out on zip lining on an earlier trip to Mindo — a misty, mountainous jungle town set in what's known as the "cloud forest" — but the second time around I had no excuse. So up I went. After we paid our $10 and got suited up (hellooo man crotch and helmet hair!), my friends and I were shuffled onto a platform along with an Ecuadorian family. As we stared down on the forest canopy, our group was given the lowdown by one of the zip line guides. The only problem was, he was giving his safety spiel in Spanish, a language my friends and I only have basic knowledge of. As he relayed what seemed like very important information my friends and I exchanged more than the occasional nervous glance. This was well beyond my ability to translate menus or stumble through giving directions; based on the Ecuadorian family's intense listening and nodding, I could tell he was advising us on what to do and what absolutely not to do. But what, exactly, the latter was — well, I could not comprehend that for the life of me.
Fortunate for us, at the end of his speech he did say one word I know: “preguntas?” (in English, that's "questions?"). Nervously, I spit out “Sí, hablas inglés?” (Yes, do you speak English?). I'm pretty sure my voice even cracked a bit. The guide and the Ecuadorian family we were about to defy death with erupted in laughter. Mercifully, the guide ended up knowing enough English to direct us on how to save ourselves from an untimely demise — or at the very least, getting stuck hanging in the middle of a line high above the forest canopy. Before I knew it, we were laughing and joking and the sassy Ecuadorian mom was proclaiming “I’m 50 and this is my first time zip lining!” Well, if she can do it, I guess I can give it a shot.
One-by-one I watched Sassy Mom, her husband and two sons, and finally my friends take turns zip lining across the forest. The zip line was so lengthy that by the time each one of them got to the other side, I couldn't even see them anymore. As the last one left standing on the platform, my nerves had built up and I was secretly happy when the guide offered to travel across with me. I attached my caliper to his and braced myself for the ride, but before taking off he asked me (in Spanglish) something about doing an “activity.” Already feeling a little embarrassed by my obvious lack of Spanish, I shrugged my shoulders and agreed. “OK, MARIPOSA!” he demanded and within a millisecond I was flying across the forest doing the “butterfly,” a move that had me spread eagle, upside-down. And screaming my head off. Perhaps crying a little bit.
Having accomplished the most action-packed zip lining pose on my first run, the rest of the 13 lines were a cinch. Sometimes I went solo, sometimes we doubled up, and sometimes the guides pulled the lines up and down to make us bounce across the forest. OK, that last part was kind of terrifying, but I did manage to relax enough to actually take in the views of the forest from above. By the end I was sad our zip lining adventure was over, and I think I may have been married off to one of Sassy Mom’s sons. Looks like it's time to brush up on my Spanish for real.
Photos by Scarlett Clementine Dawn, or at least taken with her camera.