Flight of the Gibbon

Trip Start Sep 01, 2010
Trip End Jun 18, 2011

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Flag of Thailand  ,
Thursday, April 14, 2011

As the Songkran celebrations are continuing in Chiang Mai for another few days we decided to take a break from the madness and do an activity for the day. Now since we did our caving and abseiling adventure all those many moons ago in New Zealand we have gotten a taste for new and exciting adventures so we booked ourselves onto a really special tour: we are going to spend the day zip-lining around the Thai jungle! The adventure company is called Flight of the Gibbon and involves strapping yourself into a harness and then whizzing through the trees between 34 platforms, at over 30 meters high, for three hours. In all honesty I was a bit nervous about it because I still have a slight fear of heights but pretty soon we were being collected from our guesthouse at 6am and were being driven off into the mountains. It took about 2 hours to get there and once we arrived we met the other people in our group: a moody-arsed couple from America, a funny family from Malaysia and a Thai couple. Once we were kitted out with our harnesses and safety helmets we were driven deeper into the jungle and walked to our start point.

There was another tour group just ahead of us which had three young children in: as long as you are big enough to fit in the harness then you can have a go at zip-lining. We got to watch the people in front go first and when I saw the kids laughing and having fun whizzing through the trees I figured that it couldn't be that scary. Pretty soon it was our turn and Tom opted to go first. The first zip-line was really short and was a good introduction to see if we liked it or not, although once you have started the zip-line you are kind of stuck up in the trees until you reach platform number 8 where there is a ladder to take you back down to ground level. We had two guides for the day who clipped Tom onto the zip-line and before I knew it he was off swinging through the trees! Next it was my turn and now that the time had come I wasn’t actually nervous at all. Once I was clipped in I lifted my feet up and started to fly through the canopy. I was an amazing experience and I could tell I was going to have the time of my life during the rest of our day! Once I had safely landed on the next platform I was clipped into the safety line and we all queued up for our second go. Before too long we had done about 5 zip-lines and I absolutely loved every second of it! In order to get to our next line we had to trek through the forest and climb higher into the jungle: it took us about 10 minutes to reach the top and when we got there we were met with some ice-cold bottles of water which were a blessed relief. The reason this trip is called Flight of the Gibbon is because the zip-lines take you through the middle of some jungle which is home to wild gibbons: the tour company even has a promise that if you don’t see a gibbon during your tour they will give you a full refund. As we were resting and enjoying our drinks one of our tour guides called us all over to him to see a family of gibbons swinging between the trees! The monkeys were beautiful and there was even a baby gibbon in the family which we managed to get an excellent view of. We were so pleased to see them and felt so lucky to get so close to wild gibbons… for a second I even forgot my morbid fear of rabid monkeys and enjoyed being so close to them.

The next zip-line was a biggie! In fact it was the biggest one of the day and measured at over 850 meters (2788 feet, just over half a mile). It was so long that when I was clipped in and ready to go I still couldn’t see the end of it. The zip-line just seemed to disappear into the jungle and I had no idea of how long it actually was. It was also the highest line of the day and we were teetering in the very tops of the trees. I decided to go first out of Tom and I. Coming away on this trip must have had a massive impact on me because as I stood there, clipped into my harness and zip-line, looking out over the jungle valley below me and straining to see how long this line actually was, I didn’t feel an ounce of nerves…. I was just so excited! Then I lifted my feet and whoosh... I was off. This line was mammoth! I was spinning in circles and I could see was a blur of green going round and round. Finally I straightened out and stopping spinning, it felt like I was flying through the trees forever! I couldn’t believe how long I was going for: the views out over the valley and canopy were incredible, just mile after mile of green palm trees and the whooping of monkeys in the distance. Once I landed I quickly got my camera out to get a photo of Tom, but he was flying so fast that by the time I had taken the photo he had already landed on the platform too. I could tell by the look of his face that he had enjoyed it and we both agreed that it had been the best part of the day so far. From here we ended up doing about 10 more lines: we were getting more confident now and were even doing silly poses as we were zipping along. At one point the guide offered to take our cameras and take photos of us from the other end of the zip-line, however our camera didn’t have a wrist-strap on it so he didn’t want to take ours in case he dropped it. Instead he asked the American couple if it was okay to take photos of us on their camera and then they could email the photos to us. The American couple agreed that this was okay and we gave them our email address so they could send us any photos. I was having a great time until we came to one line and the guides began to connect us to the zip-line from the back of our harnesses rather than the front. I wondered what the hell was going on when they told us that we had to do this zip-line differently: instead of sitting down in our harnesses like we normally do, we had to jump face down and fall for a few seconds before the cable pulled tight and swung us through the trees like Spiderman. I felt like I was going to pass out. In essence we were doing a mini bungee jump, fair enough we were only going to fall for about 3 seconds but still I was absolutely terrified. Everyone did it no problems and pretty soon it was my turn. They hooked me up to the zip-line from my back and I stood at the edge of the platform, suddenly it looked very high. I had to stand with my arms spread out and just let myself fall face forward into the air. Tom was stood behind me trying to offer me support and the guide was telling me to jump, but I just couldn’t do it. I tried three or four times but I just couldn’t let myself fall face down off the edge of the platform without the support of the harness and zip-line tight around me. But there was no other way I was going to be able to get down from this tree unless I jumped, there was no ladder and the zip-line had been designed so that I couldn’t ride on it sitting upwards. So, absolutely petrified and with my head spinning, I let myself fall forward. It is one of the most terrifying things I have ever done. The cable pulled tight after letting me fall for a few meters and then I was swung through the trees and into the cargo net and the end of the line. Safely on the end platform I tried to get my breath back but my legs were like jelly. When it came time for Tom to do his free-fall he decided to do a run-and-jump but kind of regretted it when his harness pulled too tight around his legs and he was walking like a cowboy for the rest of the day. I was really proud of myself for having done it but I don’t think I would ever want to do it again and have decided that bungee jumping is definitely not for me! After this zip-line we took it easy with some nice gentle lines and a bit of abseiling to finish the day off.  All in all I have got to say that Flight of the Gibbon is one of the best things I have ever done in my whole life. It was such a liberating feeling getting to fly through the jungle feeling completely safe and comfortable, it made you feel like a tropical bird soaring through the canopy.

Once we were back down on solid earth again we enjoyed a really nice buffet lunch with our tour group and then got taken back to Chiang Mai. On the way we drove through the middle of the Songkran celebrations, which were still going strong, and we got to take some excellent photos of the water-fights from the safety of our minibus. Oh and funnily enough the couple from America never emailed us our photos despite the guide saying he had taken loads of us on their camera… even though it was over a month ago now I am still smarting about it, moody buggers!  
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