Canyon Zip Line in Baños, Ecuador!
Something so amazing about travel, is the ability to completely enjoy the moment. Often, with vacations or long weekends, the planning and lead up to the actual event is so long that what you have been looking forward to seems to just fly by. You're often a few days into it and dreading the return home. Travel is different, the time frame is longer and the planning is usually made no more than a few days in advance. This gives you the ability to fully enjoy each day and moment because you don't know what you actually have to look forward to.
The first day in Banos, Ecuador, was stunning. I was still looking back on that with a smile when our second day broke and I thought, "there is no way we could beat yesterday, could we?" We would certainly try.
Olli, myself and Taylor, ready to zip!
One of the things we had noticed constantly the day before when we were looking to rent out buggies, was the abundance of zip line tours. I had never done a zip line before, and Taylor and Olli had done a couple in the past and we all agreed with the beautiful scenery, there could be no better place. Wandering around, we assessed a few places and were in limbo between a tour with 8 zip lines but all relatively short, or a tour with 2 long zip lines and a climbing adventure in between. Costing relatively the same, we selected the more extreme 2 zip line tour and came to realize that our "tour" was in fact just Taylor, Olli and I! We arranged to meet back at the tour office in a couple hours, went to the local market in the center of town for some cheap, local Ecuadorian food, changed back at the hostel into our closest "zipline attire" and booted it back to the tour office.
My realization that the zipline is head first!
A short 15 minute drive, we arrived at a parking lot, stepped out and followed our guide up to a lookout notifying us this was called the Canopy San Martin zipline. We each put on our harness, and made the final short trek to a stack of cinder blocks painted white, situated quite literally next to the street. We stopped and stepped around inside the 3 walled cube without a roof and noticed a large cable coming out of the backside. Well, I guess this was the starting point? Having a serious fear of heights, and seeing how open and accessible this zipline was, I was starting to have my doubts. One of the guides linked up, threw on a handle, rambled something in Spanish to his colleague, and made his way across the canyon like he was stepping into a bus on his commute to work. I will admit, his confidence put me a little more at ease.
First to go, was the Finnish Ice Man, Olli Hekkala. Nothing phases this guy and he linked up and shot off like it was out of a cannon. He made it across, and I didnt want to be the last person waiting to go, so I jumped at the opportunity to go second. Face down, GoPro camera in hand, I faced my fears head on...literally!
GoPro Video of my 1st ever zipline in Banos, Ecuador!
Wow. Incredible! If the video does not do it justice, let me tell you, that as soon as you clear the vegetation below you, you pick up some serious speed and naturally, somehow, you just relax, its out of your control what happens now, just enjoy it. And I did.
You reach speeds of about 90mph travelling a distance of about 800 meters picking up speed all the way until you enter the canyon. You will see the thick rock wall approaching so fast as you continue to gather speed, when all of a sudden your line catches onto the brake line and with a sharp but smooth jolt, you are pulled back and slow to a stop. Your heart certainly doesn't though. My hands and legs were shaking as you are perched above the rocks and river below and the guide who went first, harnessed you off the zipline and you walk off the ledge to see Taylor approach.
I have conquered my fears! Right? Not quite... After walking the unstable metallic suspension bridge to a small landing, we are linked up to another cable, yet this one follows the rock directly up. As I peer my head skywards, my muscles start to go jelly again. The next zip line is up there.
Delight before the ascent
Without hesitation, to get it over with, I started climbing the rebar steps sticking out of the rock holding on tighter than a child to their fathers leg. I will not shy away from my admittance for my fear of heights, and I would not shy away from climbing this thing either. Mainly because I had no other option! Step, climb, unlink one carabiner, link back in. Repeat. Dont look down.
Conquering my fears in Banos, Ecuador
After probably an 80-100 meter climb up rock that swerves in and out, we all reached the top and the prospect of doing another zip line across the canyon seemed like a cinch! This time, it was Taylors turn to go first, and with some different style equipment, he linked up head first, and shot off. This zipline was shorter, but no less exciting. Travellers Tip: When the guide asks if its too tight on your nether region, dont be tough. At the end when the zip line is over, you hang there in a tight harness by your goods for a good 20 seconds.
Video of the 2nd zip line after the climb of my life
What an incredible day. After Day 1 in Banos, Ecuador, I thought that things couldn't get any better, and I am not one to pit one day against each other, but this as well was up there with the best days of my life. After the zip lines and the climbing, we headed back to Banos to get in some exercise with only the natural energy that adrenaline can give you.