I clipped my safety harness onto the steel cable, then the ‘runner’, with the recycled old bicycle wheel attached as a brake, and then slipped my hands into the only thing between me and friction burns, some thin woolen gloves. Then I waited for the sharped bangs on the cable to say all was clear at the other end and it was time for me to go. I stepped off the platform, leaned back and suddenly I was flying!
Now we are not adventure activity types. Yes we go walking and cycle the odd bike but everyone else on our tour seemed to be advanced skiers or extreme mountain bikers and I was left a little worried. But I shouldn’t have been. The Gibbon Experience, is an eco tourism project aimed at providing jobs for the local community, protecting large areas of jungle and stopping the once widespread poaching of endangered animals which went on in the area. This partly helped justify the large price tag in our minds but really the experience of zip lining through a canopy of trees, some over 500 metres long and 150 metres high was brilliant enough in itself. It is the closest thing to being a bird, flying tree to tree. You see the jungle from a totally new and invigorating view point. I couldn’t help but wonder how many more safety guidelines there would be if this was being offered in the west, nets to catch you in maybe? Definitely hard hats and a team of several people checking you had attached all the harnesses properly…in Laos they had a far more relaxed attitude. I’m still not sure if this made it better or more scary!
To top it off after zipping through the rainforest, you reached your bed for the night in a perfectly positioned tree house, built around the tree itself. We zip lined into the treehouse, metres above the ground and watched the clouds move through the trees in the valley below. Best of all was the shower. I know a treehouse with a toilet and shower…not quite like the one my dad built me in our backgarden! But it probably had the best view of all, as you showed all to the animals below.
After seeing some beautiful and gargantuan insects (some huge flying thing got into the tree house. It was 20 cm long!) and zipping back through the forest, across rivers and a few houses it was time to return to Huay Xai. It was completely worth the extra money and now we are a little closer to knowing what its like to have wings!
Next time hear about the Northwest corner of Laos and how much opium we (well more accurately Ryan) was offered…