“I remember when he was hanging off your dress and now he is hanging off a zip line on a bike,” exclaimed my aunt to my mother. I basically went from shy to sky!
One of my biggest fears, if not my biggest fear, are heights. I seem to have this unfounded sensation that I am going to be dragged off and fall into the abyss. I think it all started when I went up a lighthouse as a child, I grabbed screaming to the rail as a cat hanging on a pair of curtains. And I have successfully avoided any type of height that I can’t jump down safely for years.
Then, and I don’t know when exactly, a click happened in my brain and I started to face my fears. I just throw myself in head first (and sometimes literally). From public speaking to hospitals (yes, I hated the smell of hospitals) and even heights. And you know what, it all got easier.
I am not going to lie at first it was a nightmare but with each white-knuckle experience I guess I grew stronger.
So just last week I pushed my limits even further. Now, I have been on a zip-line a few times, all part of my facing heights therapy. However, I have normally been a) hanging by my arms or body and most importantly b) passive. By passive I mean that I have been hanging in one way or another and gravity is just doing its thing.
“It’s a bike like any other bike,” said my guide as I looked at the bike connected to a zip-line. “It’s the only f***ing bike I’ve seen that flies,” I replied. The only bike that I have seen fly was carrying ET in the front basket. I climbed abroad. And it was then I realised that gravity wasn’t going to help me, I had to pedal.
“Now, safety is our keyword, but feel free to take your hands from the handlebars and open them to the side,” smiled the guide. Err, no.
Against my better judgment I started to pedal. Now, the one advantage of hanging on a bike on a zip-line half way up a mountain is that the view down over Dubrovnik helped to take my mind off the situation I was in. “Just keep a steady pace,” shouted the guide behind me. And at this point I must say a huge “thank you” to all the staff for their professionalism and support.
I had a dilemma. Should I pedal as fast as possible to get to the other side, or go slow and steady to keep my balance?
I am not going to lie, the first steps, or rather pedals, were a little unnerving. However, as I have already said, from experience comes confidence. And then it became easy, in fact extremely enjoyable. Then around halfway the thought occurred to me “Who the hell thought of this idea?” I mean you have to be slightly crazy (in a positive way) to go this far outside of the box.
“At the end of every day we have a beer-storming session, and think of new ideas,” smiled my guide. Yes, brainstorming with beer. And it clearly works, alcohol and creativity.
As far as I can see, and I spent a long time researching, the is the first such bike zip-line in Europe, and one of the first in the world. “Of course, you do realise that other people are going to copy you,” I said. Adding “Imitation is the biggest form of flattery.” Just knowing that the first bike zip-line in Europe is in Dubrovnik is testament to the imagination and innovative thinking of this latest attraction.
And it hasn’t been overlooked by the world’s media, already the zip-line has been featured by National Geographic, and that’s high praise indeed. I got to the other side in one piece. And soon discovered that my high-rise journey was only half finished. The bike was flipped around and I had to pedal back from where I had come. It wasn’t really a hot day, but I was sweating, was it from the pedalling or stress or the adrenalin surging through my veins?
I had conquered the mountain and my fears. Or as Napoleon Bonaparte famously said “He who fears being conquered is sure of defeat.”
Read more Englishman in Dubrovnik…well, if you really want to
About the author
Mark Thomas (aka Englez u Dubrovniku) is the editor of The Dubrovnik Times. He was born and educated in the UK and moved to live in Dubrovnik in 1998. He works across a whole range of media, from a daily radio show to TV and in print. Thomas is fluent in Croatian and this column is available in Croatia on the website – Dubrovnik Vjesnik