Below me was nothing but a deep, terrifying gorge …….. and then to my right, an incredibly picturesque waterfall  appeared, out of the mist and fern-clad cliffs, ( like a fairy tale world) as I whizzed by. I was flying down a zipline with my right hand in a thick glove,  clasped overhead and desperately trying to slow down my high-speed descent (developing a blister on my middle finger). But found myself loving every second and too soon I approached the wooden platform, with my legs lifted up high ready to make the landing.  

The longest zipline

My (almost 70-year-old) dad was next. His form was perfect but his face was ashen. The problem was simple: he has a major fear of heights and like most men will never admit how bad it actually is. I so wanted him to enjoy the experience, and thought that somehow I could talk the fear away with my enthusiasm. My dad is one of those men who does not show his emotions easily and I guess we sometimes think that he doesn’t therefore feel. He conquered his fear and proved that he can still do brave and adventurous things.

My mom, in her late 60s with Parkinson’s, was carried in tandem on each of the eleven zips with our kind guide, Marcello. I was very proud of her though too, because despite her physical limitations and the sometimes crippling anxiety that is caused by this disease, she was determined to join in on the fun.

My parents

The Cape Canopy Elgin Grabouw Zipline Adventure, is about a 50-minute drive from Hermanus (or one hour from Cape Town) through the town of Grabouw and into the Hottentots Holland Nature Reserve.  You start with a thorough safety briefing and are kitted up with all the gear (harness, helmet and gloves) by your two guides. Then it is almost an hour’s drive in a 4×4, right into the heart of the mountains for the start and finish of the tour. There are 11 ziplines, with the longest at 330m and the shortest at 90m. And after a couple of hours of zipline fun you end with a 1km scramble back to the starting point.

Geared up and ready to go

My sense of adventure comes from my parents and although for them it has lessened with age and ill-health, it  has always been a fundamental core of their being and one of the reasons they got together. It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience being able to share in the ziplining with them. They pushed their boundaries, impressed us all and re-adjusted everyone’s perceptions about the limitations that we put on ourselves as to what is possible.

Into the magical mist

I am most grateful to Cape Canopy tours for not discriminating against age and lack of physical ability. Too often these adventure type companies exclude those who are a bit older, weaker, slower or not as fit as others. It was a lot of extra work for the two guides, Marcello and Enrico, and we slowed the whole group down. But there were no complaints and we were only met with support and kindness. The way the guides looked after my family blew me away. Even at the end, they carried all of my mom’s extra gear to make it as easy as possible for her to walk out and helped her every step of the way.

My mom continues to fight against the indignities of her disease, and we help her where we can, but it filled my heart that she had some other champions. My mom’s description  epitomises this experience,  which for her was indeed “flying with angels.”

My mom with her angels

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