Friday, September 10, 2010

Flight of the Gibbon - my latest adventure

The Flight of the Gibbon is a unique zip-line adventure through a pristine, 1500 year old rainforest in MAE KOMPONG... a 1 1/2 hour away from Chiang Mai. There are 18 special viewing platforms,  3 skybridges and 3 vertical drop stations ( which they call rappel drops ) that connect over 2 kilometers of zip-lines that takes you through different layers of the rainforest. The adventure is around 2 hours up on the treetops, lunch and a one-hour river or waterfall trek. 

The participants wear a secured full-body harness, and are suspended from a steel cable strung between the trees. The participants are then clipped onto the cable with double carabiners. The trees  are absolutely magnificent and even high in the canopy many of the trees are sufficiently large that 2 people could not hug the trunk and touch hands. Many of these giant trees are over 100 feet high and standing on the platform in the canopy was like being perched on the window ledge of a very tall building. 

I woke up at 5:00am that morning.... stared out the window of our hotel room... It was raining!! The first thing that came into my mind was... " If the rain won't stop--- I guess we have to cancel the zip line adventure!!"..... Our adventure was scheduled at 12:45pm.... we were supposed to be fetched at our lobby... By 11:00am... the tour operator called our room and told us that the Flight of the Gibbon was pushing thru.... it was not raining in MAE KOMPONG.... He gave us last minute instructions like -- we can take along our point-and-shoot cameras.... if we had to bring a backpack, they had some shelves in their office where we can put our stuff. We were asked to bring mosquito repellent ( if we wanted ), sunglasses were unnecessary, to wear hiking shoes and to bring an open mind and a smile!!!.... After the conversation with the tour operator,  Oskie and I decided not to eat lunch before our zip line adventure...

They were on  time.... the van pulled up with 5 more participants inside. A father and son from Russia, A couple from Germany, A Chinese national and Oskie and me. On our way to Mae Kompong, so many things entered my mind... I have never done a zip line tour. I didn't know what to expect. What I only know of this adventure was when I saw it on TV. It was featured on the Amazing Race Asia. -- more or less I had a vague idea what we would be doing. But even seeing it on TV-- didn't prepare me for the actual event.

Once we arrived, we went straight to the office to sign up for the adventure, met out tour guides-  Cash and Anan ( both Sky Rangers )  and we were helped with all the belting up in our harness gear and given hiking helmets. The tour leader asked us to sign a waiver for this adventure... I was a bit hesitant because of my injured foot -- I found out that we had to do a lot of trekking through the rainforest and hike up to the ziplines. Our leader, Cash suggested that I stay at the end of the line so Anan can help me walk the narrow slippery paths in the forest.

After listening to the safety procedure instructions, off we went to our first platform which was a warm up run... but it was definitely the scariest for me.. When it was my turn to go on the zipline.... i could not get myself to jump... Cash told me to bend my knees and then hold on to the strap.... I looked down and saw treetops ( --- my mistake I guess )... he said... " Let go!! JUMP " ".... My legs started to wobble.... I didn't know how to jump.... so I asked him if he could push me when I say " GO! ".... he did it.... I sailed through the air..... The ground was at least a 100 meters below me... I just kept on telling myself.... "Don't look down!! --- look forward all the time !! "..... well... to tell you the truth--- it took me at least 3 platforms before I was able to gain enough confidence on the zipline. The rest of the platforms I felt at ease.. the adrenaline rush soon took hold ---

I could not believe I was really enjoying this new adventure.. I soon found myself enjoying the rides, especially the longer and faster ones..... I was screaming and flying in the air.... I just did not care!!

Being afraid of heights, and looking down from high places make my legs turn to jelly, I was a little nervous --- but my fear was quelled when I saw the equipments and safety gears. We were at all times hooked to the safety cables.

The next several platforms were fun and with the new confidence Cash felt it necessary to jump on the cable and let me bounce through the air. I would let go of the harness and put my arms in the air!! I was enjoying it!! We had to cross 3 hanging bridges one at a time. I wasn't sure if I liked the idea of walking on the sky bridge while someone was still on the bridge.... I would let all the participants go ahead of me.  Our 2 guides took the photos for us... I felt very safe in their hands.

Out of the 18 platforms--- they have 2 zip lines that had 2 lines... so you can go with a partner....

We had to rappel down to lower platforms  ( they had 3 of those --- the first one was a practice --- it was 15 meters high... the second one was 45 meters high and the last one was 90 meters high ).... The second rappel --- Cash hooked me up from behind .... It was going to be a free fall.... again.... we had to kneel down and as we go down to let go of the line ... I felt like superman !!!!

The last one really scared me --- when I looked down... I could not see where I was going to land... I felt like it was taking forever for me to reach the ground.... when I landed... my legs felt wobbly... I had to sit on the ground for a while!!

Once all of us reached the ground... we hiked back to a kiosk to take some drinks and have a photo op with our tour guides... I can't believe I survived the Flight of the Gibbon!!!! After that long walk in the fresh air, everyone looked forward to a meal of Thai food.

The cost of the Flight of the Gibbon is roughly $70.00. It is definitely not a cheap tour. But for what is included and the thrill of the tour.... it is worth every baht.

I highly recommend the Flight of the Gibbon !!! It is definitely for the young and the young at heart ( like me !! )... What are you waiting for...... let's all go FLIGHT OF THE GIBBON!!!! If I was able to survive this adventure, I am sure you will too!!!!!


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