When you’re poised on a platform 37 metres above the Ottawa River, dangling from a cable in something resembling an adult-sized baby swing, you may ask yourself, “Well…how did I get here?”
In my case, I’d eagerly signed up for one of the inaugural flights of Interzip Rogers, which opened in late June and bills itself rather grandly as the world’s first interprovincial zip line.
This wasn’t my first rodeo; I’ve whizzed along cables at several aerial parks. However, all my previous “zips” had been mainly above land. This time, my trip along one of two parallel 366-metre (1,200 foot) wires would pass over water. Dark, fast-moving water.
I was thinking about that water as I walked into the Interzip Rogers office at the Zibi development in Gatineau, near the zip line’s endpoint. There, I exchanged my purse, phone, and glasses for a heavy harness and orange helmet.
Soon, I was walking across the Chaudière Bridge with four other riders. To the west, the river rumbled through Chaudière Falls. East of the bridge, the zip line dangled over a less turbulent stretch of water.
Did I mention that the water was dark? And moving fast?
A five-minute walk brought us to a red wooden tower on Ontario’s Chaudière Island. At its base, staffers helped us put on our harnesses and gave us instructions for riding (sit in the harness as you would in a deck chair, tuck in your feet for takeoff and landing, and hang onto the trapeze-like bar above your head).
Briefing finished, we climbed the tower’s 100-plus steps and reached a landing below the takeoff platform to await our turn. A few minutes later, I heard a metallic snap, followed by a whining hum. Moments later, two riders slid down the twin cables above me.
Someone called me and another rider to the platform. (Two riders cross at the same time; you can request to cross with a friend.)
Two staffers rechecked straps and hardware, clipped my harness into a “trolley” (basically, a giant pulley) on the cable and turned me to face the distant landing platform.
Don’t push off, one of them advised me. A huge clip above me would open (that was the snap I’d heard earlier) and gravity would do the rest. I nodded.
He held out his hand and counted down on his fingers, like a director in a TV studio.
Three. Two. One.
Suddenly, the platform was gone. My feet dangled briefly above rubble from a nearby construction site, and then I was zipping over water. Involuntarily, I yelped like a startled cat.
Within moments, I embraced it all — the windy coolness of the grey day, the whistle of air, even that dark, fast-moving water. Although the highest speed on the line (so far) has been 51 km/h, I didn’t come close to that, even with my legs stuck straight out to improve my aerodynamics. As a result, it was easy to focus on the exceptional views of the falls, the Portage Bridge, and Parliament — and to pretend I was one of the seagulls wheeling below.
Within 40 seconds, I was hurtling toward the landing platform. A sharp tug from the overhead brake yanked me to a swinging stop. A bit more fussing with clips and straps, and I was back on terra firma.
As I walked up the path back to the zip line office, I glanced at the river one last time. On it flowed, oblivious to my now-vanquished fears. Same as it ever was.