Zip-line of Zip-lines: La Bestia in Puerto Rico
By Will McGough
Humans have always been fascinated by the freedom that flight offers, and perhaps even more attracted to the idea of unlimited boundaries. I think the concept is romanticized because of what the achievement would ultimately symbolize, overcoming the forces that consistently hold us down.
Although we can’t click our heels and blast off into the sky for a joyride (yet), adventure travel companies are helping to get us closer – we can now get an idea of how it would feel if we could. Recently, I strapped into a zip-line called The Beast at Toro Verde Nature Adventure Park in Puerto Rico, and it’s the closest I’ve come to feeling like Superman since I donned the pajamas as a five-year old.
Zip-lining may not sound as sexy as some other adventure activities, but it’s affordable, accessible, and unique in that you experience horizontal velocity almost entirely. It is zip-lining – not skydiving – that offers us the closest glimpse of what it feels like to fly. Think about it: To skydive means to fall, not to fly.
The Beast is one of the longest zip-lines in the world at just under a mile (4745 feet), the river and jungle floor a significant 853 feet below. As if those statistics in themselves weren’t enough to entice me to give it a try, the position of the rider further distinguishes The Beast from the others. Unlike traditional zip-lining where you’re in the seated position and hooked at the waist, The Beast sends you off in the flying position, parallel to the ground. It grabs you in two places – one near your neck and the other under your thighs – allowing you to do your best Superman impersonation at 60 mph.
Although the guides recommend keeping your arms at your side to increase speed, I found it hard to resist putting them out in front, if only for a few seconds. When my head was down, all I could see was the canyon floor and the flowing water – not the ropes or even my legs – and all at once something happened, my mind went blank and I forgot about the harness, that I was on a ride. I have experienced feelings of being weightless during skydiving and other amusement park rides, but never with such forward velocity and never with the mechanisms of safety so out of sight (think about how having your feet on the floor of a roller coaster detracts from the illusion of flight).
As I was being strapped into The Beast and looking out across the beautiful canyon, I remember very clearly the guide asking me where my camera was, if I planned to take a video. Suspended and parallel to the ground, I brought both pointer figures to either side of my head, tapping them twice on my temples. Sometimes, your complete attention in the present stirs more emotions than any photo can after the fact. Holding a camera in your hands as you soar might give you a memento to walk away with, but it certainly won’t further the experience in the moment.
Just a thought – happy flying.
About Will McGough: On the Edge columnist
Will McGough is a writer focused on all types of travel, from swimming with pigs to parties in ice hotels. He is inspired by the spectrum of ways in which people live their lives in the different parts of the world. He enjoys the idea of waking up every day to new opportunities, new landscapes, and the new feelings that the former inevitably evoke. He doesn’t discriminate: Massages, wine tasting, sailing, skydiving, and bed-and-breakfasts are all equally inviting.
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